Sunset Boulevard (1950)

In Hollywood of the 50’s, the obscure screenplay writer Joe Gillis is not able to sell his work to the studios, is full of debts and is thinking in returning to his hometown to work in an office. While trying to escape from his creditors, he has a flat tire and parks his car in a decadent mansion in Sunset Boulevard. He meets the owner and former silent-movie star Norma Desmond, who lives alone wit her butler and driver Max von Mayerling. Norma is demented and believes she will return to the cinema industry, and is protected and isolated from the world by Max, who was his director and husband in the past and still loves her. Norma proposes Joe to move to the mansion and help her in writing a screenplay for her comeback to the cinema, and the small-time writer becomes her lover and gigolo.

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When Joe falls in love for the young aspirant writer Betty Schaefer, Norma becomes jealous and completely insane and her madness leads to a tragic end.

As a practical joke, during the scene where William Holden and Nancy Olson kiss for the first time, Billy Wilder let them carry on for minutes without yelling cut (he’d already gotten the shot he needed on the first take). Eventually it wasn’t Wilder who shouted “Cut!” but Holden’s wife, Ardis (actress Brenda Marshall), who happened to be on set that day.

The movie’s line “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up” was voted as the #7 movie quote by the American Film Institute. (It is also one of the most frequently misquoted movie lines, usually given as, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”) The other line, “I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.” was voted #24, out of 100.

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In the book “On Sunset Boulevard: The Life and Times of Billy Wilder“, Ed Sikov relates a story about Wilder’s explanation of the true meaning of the strange dead chimp scene from the start of the film. Sikov says that during the mid-1990s, both Wilder and former First Lady Nancy Reagan were at a party for an opening of one of the productions of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on the film, when, with Reagan nearby, an older woman approached Wilder with a question about what the chimp scene meant. Wilder’s typically outrageous answer, probably intended to shock the former First Lady as much as to inform the woman of the true meaning of the scene, was, “Don’t you understand? Before Joe Gillis came along, Norma Desmond was fucking the monkey.”

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A true Hollywood horror story

15 March 2008 | by preppy-3 (United States) – See all my reviews

Hack screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) accidentally falls in with faded screen legend Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). She lives in a crumbling old mansion with her butler Max (Erich von Stroheim). She refuses to believe that she’s no longer remembered and will never make another movie. She gets Gillis to stay with her and rewrite “Salome” which she thinks will be her comeback. Gillis has no other choice and things slowly get out of hand.

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A VERY cynical view of Hollywood–especially for 1950. It shows what Hollywood does to people like Norma–it makes them stars, tells them that they’re great and dump them coldly when they’re no longer needed. It also takes swipes at directors, agents, screenwriters, even entire studios! It has a tight quick script, is appropriately filmed in gloomy black and white and is masterfully directed by Billy Wilder. Everybody thought this was a bad idea when it was being made. It was believed to be too cold and vicious for the public. Also Holden was warned it would ruin his career by playing a younger man kept by an older woman. But it turned out great and is now rightfully considered a classic.

The acting is almost all good. I never thought Nancy Olson was that good. Her character is too pure and sweet to be believable. Everybody else is right on target though. Holden is just great in his role. You see the pity, anger and helplessness on his face when he realizes Norma is falling in love with him–and he’s trapped. von Stroheim was equally good as Max who encourages Norma’s delusions.

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Swanson however is just magnificent! She has a very showy role and could have overplayed it–but she doesn’t. She’s mad for sure–but you only see it peeking through every once in a while. When she loses it completely at the end it’s frightening. If she had played it like that all through the movie it never would have worked. How she lost the Oscar that year to Judy Holliday for “Born Yesterday” is beyond me. This is a must see and a true Hollywood classic but VERY cold and cynical. A 10 all the way.

“I am big–it’s the pictures that got small”. “All right Mr. deMille–I’m ready for my closeup”

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The Hollywood Myth FOREVER Shattered !!!

10/10
Author: Donald J. Lamb from Philadelphia, PA
22 April 1999

Until 1950, American films were strictly entertainment, some deeper than others. Studio executives were very protective of image and star-making. In essence, everything seemed perfect. Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, and D.M. Marshman, Jr. created a stunning work of art that splits the Hollywood sign in two and exposed a dream factory for what it really is: a struggle to both gain and keep notoriety in the limelight. “Norma Desmond” and “Joe Gillis” are at opposite ends of this warped Hollywood mindset, with Gillis, played by that most cynical of actors, William Holden trying to pay the rent and Norma (Gloria Swanson) living a lie as a silent queen whose star burned “10,000 midnights ago”. How a picture with such a snide look at the industry could come out in 1950 is simply mind-boggling, considering some of the light fodder that came out of Hollywood at the time.

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It has inspired many modern day disciples such as Altman’s THE PLAYER, and Sonnenfeld’s GET SHORTY, both of which took their vicious, hilarious parodies to the jugular of the movie capital of the world. SUNSET BLVD is the father of all socially oriented pictures regarding the movies and is by far the best.

The images of this beautiful black and white powerhouse are fascinating and unforgettable: the dead writer floating in a pool, eyes wide open, looking right at us at the beginning; the eerie pipe organ that plays by the breeze in the middle of one of the most deep and dustiest sets ever; the funeral ceremony of the dead monkey in Norma’s courtyard (“That must have been one important chimp. The grandson of King Kong perhaps.” says Holden in a delightfully crisp and wise voice-over.)

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Holden pulls his car into a driveway off of the boulevard that will change his life forever. He is the emblem of the struggle to get notoriety. He has only a few B Movies to his credit. Swanson as Norma Desmond is the symbol of lost fame and has become the talk of legend. What is ironic about her character is that she may be playing herself in an odd way. She WAS an actual silent star whose career went down the tubes after the talkies came about. Her madness combined with Holden’s last drop of naiveté combine to give us one of the most electrifying “give and take” between actors I’ve ever witnessed.

Both lead parts were passed over by several actors. Holden was eventually forced into it as a contract player. How could you pass on such a script? Even “wax figures” (as Holden calls them) Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner, and Anna Q. Nilsson come to Norma’s to play bridge, of course being Hollywood outcasts themselves, after the invention of sound in film. Some of the dialogue takes a swing at actual movies and people (GONE WITH THE WIND, Zanuck, Menjou).

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This must have brought the house down in Hollywood screening rooms throughout the town. Louis B. Mayer even condemned Billy Wilder for “ruining the industry”. The film is sad and darkly humorous depicting the antics of Norma, who is quite insane, and Holden who is going along with what Norma is giving him, but has plans of his own. Another wax figure still alive and kicking in 1950 appears as himself in an important role. Cecil B. Demille, who once directed Norma/Gloria back in the silent heyday, tries to set her straight, telling her pictures have “changed”. They had indeed, especially after this searing comment on celebrity status. I wonder if they knew what they were creating while making this gem.

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Scenes are shot right on the lot of Paramount Studios (even the front gate), and Norma’s mansion is an unforgettable piece of history and gloom with a floor that “Valentino once danced on.” There is so much to discuss, but little to enlighten you on how great SUNSET BLVD is without you seeing it. Just two years later, films began to crop up with the same tainted view of Hollywood, most with varying degrees of deception. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, one of the all-time entertainments quietly had a nasty taste in its mouth regarding celebrity and the invention of sound movies. Watch these films closely and see the skeletons of the modern Hollywood bash films.

RATING: 10 of 10

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They Don’t Make ‘Em Like This Anymore

10/10
Author: belikemichael.com from NYC
2 July 2004

This is such a great film on so many levels I can’t really settle on where to begin. It is so beautifully shot (in that stark black/white that only nitrate negative could achieve), has a witty, clever and extremely well-written script, features some of the best acting in film’s history, acrobatically balances the main plot/subplots with expert precision, contains some of the best characters on celluloid, has many true-to-life parallels (Swanson’s career/real life cameos/DeMille’s involvement/etc) and is peppered with such great dialogue/narration that today’s film writers should take note. If that weren’t enough, there’s even a cameo by silent film great Buster Keaton (among others).

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One of the most appealing aspects of this film is how, in the story, an aging, forgotten star is trying to recapture a bygone era (the silent film era). What’s interesting is that now, so many years later, we’re looking back at her looking back. To present day viewers, Gloria Swanson of the 1950’s is a long forgotten lost gem and to experience her own longing for the 1920’s is especially captivating (and a little chilling, I might add). I don’t think this film could have had that same effect when it debuted and maybe this added dimension holds so much more appeal for today’s audiences. We all know that nothing lasts forever, but we don’t often consider the abandoned participants; much like the veterans of a past war.

In response to the famous Swanson line (while watching one of her silent films): “…we didn’t need dialogue; we had faces”, I’d like to also add that they “didn’t need movies; they had films.”

They truly don’t make them like this anymore. 10/10

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The street known as Sunset Boulevard has been associated with Hollywood film production since 1911, when the town’s first film studio opened there. The film workers lived modestly in the growing neighborhood, but during the 1920s profits and salaries rose to unprecedented levels. With the advent of the star system, luxurious homes noted for their often incongruous grandeur were built in the area.

As a young man living in Berlin in the 1920s, Billy Wilder was interested in American culture, with much of his interest fueled by the country’s films. In the late 1940s, many of the grand Hollywood houses remained, and Wilder, then a Los Angeles resident, found them to be a part of his everyday world. Many former stars from the silent era still lived in them, although most were no longer involved in the film business. Wilder wondered how they spent their time now that “the parade had passed them by” and began imagining the story of a star who had lost her celebrity and box-office appeal.

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The character of Norma Desmond mirrors aspects of the twilight years of several real-life faded silent film stars, such as the reclusive existence of Mary Pickford and the mental disorders of Mae Murray and Clara Bow. It is usually regarded as a fictional composite inspired by several different people, not just a thinly disguised portrait of one in particular. Nevertheless some commentators have tried to identify specific models. One asserts that Norma Talmadge is “the obvious if unacknowledged source of Norma Desmond, the grotesque, predatory silent movie queen” of the film.  The most common analysis of the character’s name is that it is a combination of the names of silent film actress Mabel Normand and director William Desmond Taylor, a close friend of Normand’s who was murdered in 1922 in a never-solved case sensationalized by the press.

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Wilder and Brackett began working on a script in 1948, but the result did not completely satisfy them. In August 1948, D.M. Marshman Jr., formerly a writer for Life, was hired to help develop the storyline after Wilder and Brackett were impressed by a critique he provided of their film The Emperor Waltz (1948).

In an effort to keep the full details of the story from Paramount Pictures and avoid the restrictive censorship of the Breen Code, they submitted the script a few pages at a time. The Breen Office insisted certain lines be rewritten, such as Gillis’s “I’m up that creek and I need a job,” which became “I’m over a barrel. I need a job.” Paramount executives thought Wilder was adapting a story called A Can of Beans (which did not exist) and allowed him relative freedom to proceed as he saw fit. Only the first third of the script was written when filming began in early May 1949, and Wilder was unsure how the film would end.

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The script contains many references to Hollywood and screenwriters, with Joe Gillis making most of the cynical comments. He sums up his film-writing career with the remark: “The last one I wrote was about Okies in the dust bowl. You’d never know, because when it reached the screen, the whole thing played on a torpedo boat.” In another exchange, Betty comments to Gillis: “I’d always heard that you had some talent.” He replies: “That was last year. This year I’m trying to make a living.”

The fusion of writer-director Billy Wilder’s biting humor and the classic elements of film noir make for a strange kind of comedy, as well as a strange kind of film noir. There are no belly laughs here, but there are certainly strangled giggles: at the pet chimp’s midnight funeral, at Joe’s discomfited acquiescence to the role of gigolo; at Norma’s Mack Sennett-style “entertainments” for her uneasy lover; and at the ritualized solemnity of Norma’s “waxworks” card parties, which feature such former luminaries as Buster Keaton as Norma’s has-been cronies.

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Several of Desmond’s lines, such as, “All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up,” and “I am big, it’s the pictures that got small!” are often quoted. Much of the film’s wit is delivered through Norma Desmond’s deadpan comments, which are often followed by sarcastic retorts from Gillis. Desmond appears to not hear some of these comments, as she is absorbed by her own thoughts and in denial, and so some of Gillis’s lines are heard only by the audience, with Wilder blurring the line between the events and Gillis’s narration. Gillis’s response to Desmond’s cry that “the pictures got small” is a muttered reply, “I knew something was wrong with them”. Wilder often varies the structure, with Desmond taking Gillis’s comments seriously and replying in kind. For example, when the two discuss the overwrought script Desmond has been working on, Gillis observes, “They’ll love it in Pomona.””They’ll love it everyplace,” replies Desmond firmly.

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Film writer Richard Corliss describes Sunset Boulevard as “the definitive Hollywood horror movie”, noting that almost everything in the script is “ghoulish”. He remarks that the story is narrated by a dead man whom Norma Desmond first mistakes for an undertaker, while most of the film takes place “in an old, dark house that only opens its doors to the living dead”. He compares Von Stroheim’s character Max with the concealed Erik, the eponymous central character in The Phantom of the Opera, and Norma Desmond with Dracula, noting that, as she seduces Joe Gillis, the camera tactfully withdraws with “the traditional directorial attitude taken towards Dracula’s jugular seductions”. He writes that the narrative contains an excess of “cheap sarcasm”, but ultimately congratulates the writers for attributing this dialogue to Joe Gillis, who was in any case presented as little more than a hack writer.

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The film refers to real films such as Gone with the Wind and real people such as Darryl F. Zanuck, D. W. Griffith, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, John Gilbert, Tyrone Power, Alan Ladd, William Demarest, Adolphe Menjou, Rod La Rocque, Vilma Bánky, Mabel Normand, Bebe Daniels, Marie Prevost, Betty Hutton, Pearl White, Wallace Reid and Barbara Stanwyck along with the Black Dahlia murder case. Norma Desmond declares admiration for Greta Garbo

 

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The French Connection (1971)

The French Connection is a 1971 American dramatic action thriller film directed by William Friedkin and produced by Philip D’Antoni. It stars Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, and Roy Scheider. The film was adapted and fictionalized by Ernest Tidyman from the 1969 non-fiction book by Robin Moore. It tells the story of New York Police Department detectives, “Popeye” Doyle and Buddy “Cloudy” Russo, whose real-life counterparts were Narcotics Detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso. Don Ellis scored the film.

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Slow, but worth it.

19 September 2002 | by (Bastian Balthazar Bux) (Iowa City, IA) – See all my reviews

The French Connection is number seventy on the AFI’s list of top 100 movies, right before Forrest Gump. But why is it known as such a great film? Why did it win Best Picture at the 1971 Academy Awards? Why was it so important?

The French Connection was made in 1971, starring a then 41-year-old Gene Hackman in the lead, and directed by William Friedkin, who started his directing career with `Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ in 1955. The film follows an aging but truculent `bad-boy’ police officer Popeye Doyle and his slightly kinder partner (Roy Schneider) in their journey to bust a drug-smuggling ring of French origin. The movie itself is basically one big chase scene, following Popeye on his cat and mouse game of catch the crook.

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The film has been classified as both an action and drama movie. Both are right, in their own way. The film at its core is a tense, slow-moving thriller, dramatic in its musical score and over-acted brutality. Scenes are left to their own devices, moving forth indeterminately, in a very drama-characteristic fashion. However, there’s plenty of chasing and violence to satisfy an `action’ classification. This action, however, is played so that it’s less about the adrenaline rush (so common in today’s big-budget action flicks), and more about that tense underlying heartbeat. The style of the film then, is a very paced and dingy chase scene. By today’s post-Matrix standards, the film is slow. But in its own way, it’s subterrainiously charged.

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The camera is mastered by cinematographer Owen Roizman, whose previous film, Stop, is essentially unheard of, and who went on to make The Exorcist with Friedkin two years later. Shots are varied. There are handheld shots of the streets, coupled with static medium wide, along with crane shots, along with close-ups and wide shots.

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And even though the shots are extremely eclectic, one common theme shines through-realism. Every shot composed is just a little bit shaky, a little bit unclean. There’s no truly innovative lighting used, simply that yellow coarse light that everything is eternally bathed in. It succeeds in making the movie that much more tangible to the eye. The mood created within is one of belief. You can believe the movie, because it’s shot in such a rugged manner. The car scenes, filmed at night, use the same technique; red and white car lights with a subtlety lit car. It is clear that the film Taxi Driver, made 5 years later, contained car shots obviously influenced by the ones in The French Connection. Furthermore, actors’ faces are lit without any superfluous shine or luster-they are simply real human faces, and are not hyped up. This influenced cinema in the way that it brings the mood and story above the actors’ egos.

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The editing, done by Gerald Greenberg, is, in the same manner, very real. Characteristic of films made pre-computer based editing, shots are held for longer periods of time, and not as many cuts are used. The editing is almost unnoticeable, because it seems to pass by so soft, especially during dialog. However, conversely, it cuts much more often (but never frantically) during action sequences, like the bar roust or the car chase under the train tracks. But still, drama is tensed out by holding shots long during action sequences, and it works. But this never comes to fault. The few times when quick cuts are needed, they are used, such as the train crash. In general though, the editing satisfies the mood of the film.

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It is said that silence is golden, and in The French Connection, it seems to be just as valuable. While the tense, stringy score (by Don Ellis) is important to the film in some aspects, its not used very often, and instead, director Friedkin employs simple background noise. For instance, most of the scenes in the movie simply work with dialog and city noise. This all goes back to the pre-established mood: realism. The music is used only when it wont get in the way of the framework of the film. So therefore, background noise suffices wonderfully for most action and dialog scenes. Some of the music is setting-based as well, and so, comes from the movie’s plot itself, and doesn’t break the reality theme. Modern audiences might be surprised by the lack of `action-music’, but car chases and fight scenes sans pumping bass are surprisingly welcome, and help the film, as well as add an aire of classiness.

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Director William Friedkin is a director who knows what he wants out of a film. For The Exorcist, it is told he violently slapped an actor who wouldn’t cry, and, with The French Connection, he establishes his premise, and lets the story tell itself. It is a different style of filmmaking. The French Connection is important to modern cinema not only because it taught modern directors the art of silence and visual suspense, but because it artfully embodies its theme. Its story, rough characters, locales, color, and pace all bleed a very dark, yet very familiar reality; one that has shaped nearly every cop movie since its making. While the film is at times hard to follow, simply because the story is left to its own devices so much (there are 15 minute periods of no dialog), but in the end, it succeeds admirably. While not the best film ever made,

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32 years and still relevant

10/10
Author: wrfarley from nyc, USA
6 February 2003

I first saw The French Connection in the summer of ’72 (after it won the Oscar), so it’s reputation was fairly well sealed by then. I had seen fair number of 1971 films, including The Hospital, Nicholas and Alexandria, A Clockwork Orange, Shaft, Le Boucher, Dirty Harry. The French Connection was something different though. It seemed to leap off the screen. It gave me a feeling I no longer have when I leave a movie, which is when I stepped out into the street I felt I was still in the movie.

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Of course, the chase was spectacular, but what I most remember and still enjoy about the movie is the energy. Gene Hackman acted Popeye with his entire body: running, stamping his feet, fighting, pointing, running some more: the porkpie hat was not a meaningless appendage; it was part of him, whether he employed it for drug recovery or slamming it into the concrete. It’s a cinematic performance that ranks with Chaplin and Keaton. Then there’s the intoxicating mood of grey, dreary winter in New York 1970-71 that puts you into the show. And the editing. Note the cool shot of Doyle spinning out of the phone booth on Broome St. cutting right into the drone of the Brooklyn Bridge at daybreak; or the shots jammed together as Doyle yells at Pierre Nicoli on the departing train, cut to: the motorman’s hand cut to: to the suspicious transit cop, cut to: to the closing train doors, etc. And no music to smooth it over! Whenever I see this film it looks like it’s still happening.

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The ultimate cop movie.

10/10
Author: Boba_Fett1138 from Groningen, The Netherlands
5 February 2005

My favorite movie of all time “A Clockwork Orange” lost at the best picture Acadamy Award ceremony against this movie. However looking at this movie I can’t say that it’s undeserved, for “The French Connection” truly is one of the best movies from at least the seventies and maybe of all time. It most certainly is the best cop movie ever made, in my opinion!

The movie has a perfect gritty and realistic kind of atmosphere and an unmistakably seventies feeling. I love it! The seventies truly were the golden age of film making and they simply don’t make movies like this anymore.

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The characters are perfectly realistic and director William Friedkin and the actors most certainly don’t attempt to portray them as being heroic or ‘good cops’. Gene Hackman really in a way is an anti-hero and he seems to be born to play ‘Popeye’ Doyle, who by now truly has grown into a classic movie character. Roy Scheider also is really great as his partner ‘Cloudy’ Russo, even though his character at times disappears too long out of the story. A shame because he and Hackman were a perfect screen duo. Both got an Oscar nomination but only Hackman got to take the statue home with him. The movie also won Oscar’s for best director, best film editing, best picture and best writing, screenplay based on material from another medium and got nominated for three more.

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The movie might have a slow pace by today’s standards but the wonderful story and acting really make up for this, “The French Connection” has stand the test of time well. The slow pace even makes the famous car chase scene even more energetic and thrilling enough to make your adrenaline run.

Truly in my opinion, the ultimate cop movie!

10/10
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Armored Car Robbery (1950)

Directed by Richard Fleischer

Cinematography by

Guy Roe

Armored Car Robbery is a 1950 American film noir directed by Richard Fleischer, and starring Charles McGraw. The movie was filmed on location in Los Angeles, California.

Armored Car Robbery is a heist movie, a subgenre of crime-based films. It tells the story of a well-planned robbery of cash from an armored car when it stops at a sports stadium. The heist goes awry and a tough Los Angeles cop sets off in hot pursuit of the culprits.

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What a marvelous and underrated little gem!!

16 November 2007 | by planktonrules (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

Wow, was I ever impressed by this little film. While ARMORED CAR ROBBERY is not an especially sexy title and the film possesses no real star power, it is a wonderfully effective and superbly written little B-movie directed by a young Richard Fleischer. So far in his career Fleischer had directed some shorts and a couple undistinguished films and it was several years before he gained fame with THE NARROW MARGIN (also a wonderful B-film starring Charles McGraw), THE VIKINGS and SOYLENT GREEN. So, since he was an unknown, they gave him mostly unknowns for the film. The biggest name in it was Charles McGraw–a great heavy and supporting actor who’d been around but still hadn’t made a name for himself. Additionally, William Talman plays the leader of the bad guys and while you most likely won’t recognize his name, he is the man who played Hamilton Burger on the “Perry Mason” TV show.

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While McGraw was as wonderful as I’d expected since I’d seen him in quite a few great Film Noir movies, I was particularly impressed by Talman. As Ham Burger, he was a bland and one-note character–the jerk who ALWAYS lost to Perry Mason. But here, he was a very cold, calculating and scary man because he was so believable and amoral. It’s a darn shame that this role didn’t result in better roles–he really showed he could act.

The film is naturally about an armored car robbery and it was rather straight-forward in its plotting. However, because the dialog and the rest of the writing was so true to life, it really jumped out at me. While it did have a few great Noir-like lines (spoken mostly by the great McGraw), it emphasized reality over style and seemed like a very honest crime drama more than anything else. While it lacked the tension of THE NARROW MARGIN, it made up for it with quality at every level–resulting in a marvelous and generally unrecognized little gem. Watch this film–it’s dandy.

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Another Fleischer Film Noir Gem

9/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
23 December 2005

Wow, this was a neat little film, far better than I had hoped. I don’t tape many shows on TV, but this was one I’m sure glad I did, especially since it is not available on VHS or DVD.

I say “little” film because it’s only 67 minutes long. Richard Fleischer, who directed THE NARROW MARGIN (1952), another short and fast-moving crime story, directed this movie, too, and you can see some similarities. The major similarity is how fast-paced these films are. Another is the presence of one of the best ‘B’ tough guys ever: Charles McGraw.

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Because of that, and it’s so interesting to view, it’s one I plan on viewing a number of times. McGraw, as the cop, and William Talman, as the leader of the gang, are fun to watch.

It’s a heist tale and most of the film is about the gang trying to escape after the robbery and what happens to each one. In that regards, it reminds me a bit of another great film: THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, which also came out at this time. This isn’t up to that level, but it’s good and highly recommended viewing if you see it listed on TCM, where I saw it

Solid little cops-n-robbers flick

8/10
Author: BrianG from California
13 April 2000

Director Richard Fleischer was responsible for two of the best of the low-budget ’50s cops-n-robbers flicks, both notable for starring Charles McGraw, one of the great movie bad guys, as a tough detective. One, “The Narrow Margin,” is quite well known; this is the other one, and while not as well known, it certainly should be. The story is about a vicious gang of robbers, headed by a murderous psychopath (William Talman, who seemed to have a corner on that market in the ’50s), pulls off an armored car robbery that goes awry. Detective McGraw is out to track down the gang. The film is a textbook example of the best of the B movie–swiftly paced, tightly edited, with a good story and a cast of veteran character actors that work together like a well-oiled machine. Some clever plot twists and startling (for the time) violence make this one a keeper. Very highly recommended.

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Murder, My Sweet (1944)

Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Cinematography Harry J. Wild

Murder, My Sweet (released as Farewell, My Lovely in the United Kingdom) is a 1944 American film noir, directed by Edward Dmytryk and starring Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, and Anne Shirley.  The film is based on Raymond Chandler‘s 1940 novel Farewell, My Lovely. A second film adaptation of the novel was made in 1975 and released under Chandler’s title.

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Brilliant Filming of Raymond Chandler

25 April 2004 | by felixoscar (New York, USA) – See all my reviews

One of the early film noir masterpieces! As a major fan of Chandler novels, some of the lousy filmings (e.g. Marlowe, The Long Goodbye)are of a more recent vintage. But they had hit the jackpot with this one.

I do not see how those reviewing this film could fail to appreciate it – they are reviewing a film through a post-2000 prism. Set in 1944, censorship was the rule, even the novel had to be careful. Edward Dymtryk, his cast and crew, with a low budget (which helped create the necessary mood!) have done a sensational job transferring the book to the screen.

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And gambling on crooner Dick Powell is akin today to putting Sean Penn in a musical — to me he met the challenge brilliantly (although I still hear Robert Mitchum when I read Chandler). Wonderful supporting roles, as with the 1941 daddy of them all, The Maltese Falcon. Best of all, Claire Trevor, her voice, her manner, her style. Bravo lady!

Easily 10 of 10.

The Screen’s Best Marlowe

10/10
Author: Arriflex1 from Beyond The Cosmos
22 July 2004

“I caught the blackjack right behind my ear. A black pool opened up at my feet. I dived in; it had no bottom.”- Phillip Marlowe in MURDER, MY SWEET.

There are plenty of bottomless pools in MURDER, MY SWEET, Edward Dmytryk’s outstanding noir. Tapping into a direct line to the dark places of the human psyche, the film raises the curtain on one shadowy scene after another. It leads the viewer on a convoluted trip through a very gloomy and treacherous labyrinth where oily con men, pesky cops, scheming ladies, and at least one gargantuan lovesick Romeo put the down-at-heels private investigator through the wringer.

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Moose Malloy’s vanished girlfriend (and a tidy retainer) occupies Marlowe at first. Then, when an expensive jade necklace needs retrieving (with another fat fee offered), Marlowe bites again. But suddenly those too deep pools begin to appear.

John Paxton’s screenplay has the cast of characters thinking out loud a lot, which helps occasionally. But just as in Raymond Chandler’s other overly schematic crime story, THE BIG SLEEP, strict attention must be paid. Yet even if you become confused, you can still revel in Harry J. Wilde’s sterling cinematography. (As mentioned in another review, Wilde, along with a slew of other people, including Orson Welles, shot additional scenes for THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS for which he and the others received no credit. As Welles himself intones rather solemnly at that film’s conclusion: “Stanley Cortez was the photographer”).

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The really big draw in MURDER is Dick Powell, not just delivering a career-changing performance (and being the first actor to play Marlowe) but also giving the best interpretation of Marlowe on film- and that includes Bogart’s fine outing in Hawks’ THE BIG SLEEP(1946), Robert Mitchum’s two disappointing films, and Elliot Gould’s daring 1973 performance in Altman’s THE LONG GOODBYE. Powell projects the detective’s weary cynicism and dogged determination without any hint of showy mannerism or overplayed toughness. His presence is completely natural and convincing, far from any Hollywood ham acting.

In addition, MURDER, MY SWEET presents the polished villainy of Otto Kruger, slithering around Powell with his characteristic reptilian menace; Anne Shirley as a spunky good girl who brightens the gloom somewhat; and, on the femme fatale side, the high voltage glare of Claire Trevor, laminated in heavy make-up like a pricey, megawatt doxy. Literally towering over everything is Mike Mazurki’s Moose (far more effective than Jack O’Halloran’s catatonic trance in Mitchum’s FAREWELL, MY LOVELY). Mazurki’s silent entrance into Marlowe’s office at the beginning sets the uneasy mood where huge, powerful forces stir and then emerge from the darkness.

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Film Noir 101

Author: subzero6006
4 April 2004

This is the movie that hooked me on “Film Noir.” I first saw this on the late show while suffering a killer flu. Even through local TV editing and enough medicine to tranquilize a circus tent, it had me sitting at attention from start to finish. It wasn’t until several years later that I got to see it uncut on cable that I got the full effect. Having grown up with Bogart’s hard-boiled private eye archetype, Dick Powell was a complete revelation to me. If you double-bill this with Bogart’s “Big Sleep,” you see at once that Powell truly IS Phillip Marlowe (even Raymond Chandler thought so), and Bogart is much better suited to portray Hammet’s colder, meaner Sam Spade. Powell gives Marlowe a vulnerable cynicism as well as a touch of the “everyman,” that Bogart wouldn’t be able to pull off until later in his career. Powell’s background in romantic musicals gives him access to a far deeper emotional range, needed to play the complex and conflicted Marlowe; his cynicism, his humour, his loyalty to his code…it’s all there. Powell manages to give extra resonance to some of Chandler’s throw-away similes! No wonder he claimed this as his favorite role!

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The direction by Edward Dmytryk and cinematography by Harry Wild are perfect, giving the film a tight, economical yet alluring vintage “feel”. Working on a tight budget, they manage to infuse it with all the seedy, chaotic topography that would serve as the touchstones for every film of this type from “Night of the Hunter” to “Blade Runner.” While this isn’t the first Noir film, it may well be the best.

The Definitive Chandler

9/10
Author: telegonus from brighton, ma
10 May 2002

This 1944 adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely, had its title changed so that audiences wouldn’t mistake it for a musical! One might think that this would mean that the movie was off to a bad start, especially since the chief reason for the title change was that the actor who was cast in the hard-boiled lead, Dick Powell, was best known as a singer. As things turned out, the film was a huge hit and Powell changed his screen image forever, from crooner to tough guy, and enjoyed an upturn in his career as a result. Producer Adrian Scott, director Edward Dmytryk and screenwriter John Paxton also saw their fortunes rise, but in their case the success was short-lived, as they all suffered during the Hollywood blacklist. As to the movie itself, it has become for many the definitive film noir. Produced on a tight budget on the RKO lot, it was made at the right place, the right time, at the right studio, and with the right people.

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This is a movie for night owls, maybe the ultimate night owl movie, since there’s scarcely any daylight in it, and when there is, the action moves sensibly indoors almost immediately, as if to avoid the glare of the sun. Night-time L.A. has never looked more seductive than here, with every bar, office, nightclub and bungalow seemingly shrouded in mystery, as if harboring secrets it’s loath to reveal. Harry Wild’s photography is brilliant, and while he and director Dmytryk often go for flashy, arty effects, they’re always appropriate, and seem at all times the way detective Philip Marlow, who narrates the story, would want it to be told, as he’s a rather glib fellow with an offbeat sense of humor. The dialogue, much of it lifted from Chandler’s novel, is excellent and at times quite funny, though some of the author’s best lines (such as his description of Moose Malloy as at at one point being “about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food”) are absent.

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The plot, concerning the attempt of the aforementioned, hulking giant, Moose Malloy, to find his old girl-friend, having just served a stretch in prison, is convoluted and hard to follow. But the tale matters less than the telling, and the way it’s told is what makes the movie so effective. Chandler was not a great one for plots, as one reads his books primarily for the writing, not the stories, and Dmytryk and his associates wisely follow this aesthetic, emphasizing odd bits of business, visual and verbal, often taking the movie in strange directions, making what one normally thinks of secondary aspects of a film the main event. There’s a confidence in this approach, every step of the way, as the men behind the cameras knew just what they were doing. My only serious complaint has to do with the way the character of quack psychologist Jules Amthor is written (“I’m a quack”), which ought to have been more subtle, especially with such a sterling actor as Otto Kruger playing the role.

Murder, My Sweet is not without its flaws, but it wholly succeeds where it counts: maki

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ng nocturnal L.A. and its inhabitants both larger than life and dream-like. The confrontation at the beach-house near the end has a dream logic to it, with Malloy, whom we had almost forgotten about, turning up, rounding out the story with a kind of poetic justice, or rather injustice, that is devastatingly effective. Dick Powell is as far as I’m concerned the best Marlow of all, as he nicely turns his musical comedy slickness into a smart-alecky private eye. That Powell is always “on”, in a way that, say, the more sincere Bogart or Ladd wouldn’t be, works in the movie’s favor, and while I wouldn’t say that he sings his lines exactly he delivers them with a singer’s precision and sense of timing. Claire Trevor’s femme fatale is as good as anything Stanwyck ever did. I like the affected, upper class accent she uses, especially early on. Anne Shirley is okay as her stepdaughter. Mike Mazurki’s Moose, who sets the story in motion, is a forbidding figure, turning up when one least expects him, his presence can be felt even when when he isn’t there, as he spurs Marlow, and the film, on, like an ugly god.

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“I Don’t Know Which Side Anybody’s On!”

Author: Michael Coy (michael.coy@virgin.net) from London, England
30 December 2001

Private dick Phil Marlowe is hired by a “paltry, foppish man” to accompany him on a midnight assignation. What follows is a glorious piece of Chandleriana, a ganglion of a plot involving a jade necklace, a jailbird who carries a torch for a showgirl, a “big-league blonde” with a rich old husband and an eye for private eyes, and more narrative twists and turns than a Restoration comedy on acid.

Will Moose be reunited with Velma? Who’s the brunette in the gulch? What is Anthor’s precise relationship with Marriott? How many more times can Marlowe get slugged from behind without having his skull disintegrate?

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Golden tenor Dick Powell may not be the obvious choice to play Marlowe, but in fact he turns in THE definitive performance. Chandler once defined the ideal hero in one of his essays as a special man, but at the same time a man of the people. Not amazingly bright, subject to bouts of confusion and wrong-headed wilfulness, but for all that a tough, decent, dry-humoured guy who just happens to be as sexy as hell. Powell delivers.

Watch out for a remarkable dream sequence after Marlowe is forcibly injected with heroin (yes, heroin). Expressionist cinema was never as evocative as here!

All in all, the film is an example of a genre captured at its apex – “like lighting a stick of dynamite, and telling it not to go off”!

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The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Cinematography Gordon Willis
The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York is portrayed while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on his crime syndicate stretching from Lake Tahoe, Nevada to pre-revolution 1958 Cuba.
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The Godfather Part II is a 1974 American crime drama film produced and directed by Francis Ford Coppola from a screenplay co-written with Mario Puzo, starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Partially based on Puzo’s 1969 novel The Godfather, the film is both sequel and prequel to The Godfather, presenting parallel dramas: one picks up the 1958 story of Michael Corleone (Pacino), the new Don of the Corleone crime family, protecting the family business in the aftermath of an attempt on his life; the prequel covers the journey of his father, Vito Corleone (De Niro), from his Sicilian childhood to the founding of his family enterprise in New York City.

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Whether considered separately or with its predecessor as one work, The Godfather Part II is widely regarded as one of the greatest films in world cinema. Many critics compare it favorably with the original – although it is rarely ranked higher on lists of “greatest” films. Michael Sragow‘s conclusion in his 2002 essay, selected for the National Film Registry web site, is that “[a]lthough “The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part II” depict an American family’s moral defeat, as a mammoth, pioneering work of art it remains a national creative triumph.”

After a careful restoration of the first two movies, The Godfather movies were released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on September 23, 2008, under the title The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration. The work was done by Robert A. Harris of Film Preserve. The Blu-ray Disc box set (four discs) includes high-definition extra features on the restoration and film. They are included on Disc 5 of the DVD box set (five discs).

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12 September 2004 | by OriginalMovieBuff21 (United States) – See all my reviews

After seeing The Godfather and improving it as one of my favorite films, I wanted to get more into The Godfather so I rented this. Words can’t describe how great this sequel was. The acting once again was amazing and the story and how the movie went on just never got me bored. Everything in this movie was clearly beautiful. The ending by far was my favorite when there all sitting at the table talking. There were so many great scenes like Vito when he was younger, Fredo at the lake, and many many more. You have to see this movie because it’s just brilliant filmaking. It’s not better than it’s first film but still an extremely worth sequel.

10/10

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Robert De Niro and Francis Ford Coppola in The Godfather: Part II (1974)

To call it a sequel is a travesty

10/10
Author: taimur74
9 May 2001

This movie is way to be good to be labelled a sequel to The Godfather . Rather it is more of a companion piece to the original and the two perfectly compliment each other . IT is both a sequel and prequel showing the rise of the young vito and moral decline of Micheal . Both characters are brought to life with uncanny ability by Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino . To say that these two are good actors is like saying that a nuclear bomb makes a loud noise and in this movie they prove why they are at the top of their respective crafts .

Al Pacino is the standout in the ensemble cast and its amazing how his eyes have changed from the first part . They are now cold , ruthless and unemotional and betray the price which Micheal Corleone has paid for power .

Watch this movie and learn why it is the greatest gangster film of all time.

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Breathtaking in its scope and tragic grandeur…

10/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
10 March 2001
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Coppola’s masterpiece is rivaled only by “The Godfather, Part II” in which the 1940s setting of the first movie is extended backwards and forwards to reveal the corrupting effect of power…The film, breathtaking in its scope and tragic grandeur, shows two parallel stories extending two different time periods: the early career of young Vito Corleone seen first around the turn of the 20th century in Sicily, and then in 1917, building his criminal underworld in the Italian ghettos of New York City, post World War I, plus that of his son, Michael (Al Pacino) desperately trying to keep his family together…

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Al Pacino’s performance is quiet and solemn… He is cold and ruthless, with a whole contrast from the idealistic innocent war hero we initially met at the beginning of the first film… Here he’s a calculating and frightening force, seeking to expand casinos into Pre-Revolutionary Cuba and consolidating an empire surrounded by perfidy and treason, maintaining total confidence in his ability to control the situation whether testifying before enraging Senators or trying to outface his worst enemies…

The film’s haunting final shot of a lonely, isolated paranoid Michael in his empty compound, is an unforgettable movie scene, a tragic portrait of a lonely and fully damned person, emotionally empty and finished, far from a waspish wife, more distant from a faithful lawyer…

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De Niro’s rise, from an orphan child by a family feud back in Italy to a hood in New York and his position as a respected Don, provides a welcome break from Pacino’s relentless attitude… Since the people he kills seem to deserve it, Vito comes off better than Michael does, and it was wise of Coppola to shuffle the two stories together despite lengthy flashbacks and the disturbance of continuity…

The entire cast contributes greatly to the success of the film: Lee Strasberg, a fascinating mixture of lust and ruthlessness; G. D. Spradlin, absolutely right as the sinister and corrupt Nevada Senator; Michael V. Gazzo, unforgettable as the troubled gray-haired informer; Gastone Moschin, excellent as the blackmailer in white suit; John Cazale, marvelously timid as the vague, confused, and hesitant Fredo; Diane Keaton, clearly irrational as the long-suffering wife Kay; Talia Shire, too extravagant as the lousy mother; Troy Donahue too ambitious as the fortune-hunting suitor; and Robert Duvall excels as the confidant, and retainer to the all-powerful Corleone family…

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Coppola’s motion picture is not just a mere supply with new characters and events from the original, it’s a far more complex and intimate movie than its predecessor… It is not really a sequel… It’s just more… It cleverly shifts in time between two distinct narratives with extreme realistic violence and criminal mentality of gangsters…

Great ensemble acting, great story, greatest sequel ever made.

10/10
Author: (ballen8@hotmail.com) from Derbyshire, UK
1 February 2000

The Godfather Part 2 is the finest sequel ever made and is arguably a finer film than the original Godfather. The film is divided into two main parts – the story of a young Vito Corleone (flawlessly acted by Robert De Niro and a worthy Oscar winner) and the rise to power of Michael as the head of the family. Francis Coppola recollaborated with many of the crew members of the first film and again achieves a quite superb period piece thanks to the cinematography of Gordon Willis and set design of Dean Tavoularis.

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The acting performances are outstanding, hence three supporting oscar nominations for acting guru Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth), Michael Gazzo (Frank Pentangeli) and Robert De Niro (young Vito Corleone). Duvall, Keaton, Cazale and Shire all provided first rate performances but it is the performance of Al Pacino which steals the show, expertly portraying Michael as a cool, calculating, suspicious Don Corleone. The film expands upon the original movie and brings us into the family’s activities in Nevada, Florida and Havana. Arguably the finest movie of the 70s, a cinematic masterpiece with the greatest ensemble acting you will probably see.

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Excellent, but could be in the dictionary under “sprawl”

9/10
Author: Brandt Sponseller from New York City
10 May 2005

Series note: It is almost unthinkable to watch this film without having seen The Godfather (1972) first. This is a direct continuation of that story.

The good news is that The Godfather Part II has many amazing qualities, including fantastic performances from a superb cast, sublime, unprecedented visuals that no one else has been able to capture since, and very engaging stories. The bad news is that this should have easily been a 10, but overall, it is so sprawling and unfocused that I can’t possibly give it more than a 9, which it only earns because the assets transcend what’s basically a mess overall. Because it should have been a 10, and most other reviews will tell you about the positive points at length, I may pick on more things in my review than you would think I would for a 9, but rest assured that even with the flaws, The Godfather Part II is still essential viewing.

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Director/co-writer Francis Ford Coppola cleverly begins the film with parallels to The Godfather. We see Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) “in the role” of his father, Vito (Marlon Brando), from the first film, accepting prostrating guests while a party is going on outside. Like the first film, the party consumes a lot of time while we get to know some of the principal characters. Perhaps during this segment, perhaps a bit after, we realize that maybe the beginning wasn’t so clever after all, because the structure of The Godfather Part II parallels The Godfather from a broad perspective, as if Coppola and co-writer Mario Puzo used the first film as something of a template to create this one.

After the party is over, there is an attempted hit on Michael, and we quickly learn that not everything is rosy in the Corleone’s mafia world. Michael believes that someone on the “inside” was involved with the hit. This launches a complicated sequence of events that has Michael, who is now living in Nevada, traveling to Miami, Cuba, New York, and so on. He accuses different people of involvement in the attempted hit depending on whom he is talking to. This may have all been part of a grand scheme to set up the responsible parties, but one of the flaws of the film is that Coppola doesn’t convey Michael’s underlying thoughts about this very well, not even later, and not through his actions. Rather than feeling like a clever set-up, it starts to feel like slightly muddled writing.

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During the middle section of the film, which goes on for hours, we also have a hint of a problem that plagued The Godfather–a bloated cast. There are bit too many characters who aren’t well enough presented or explained. You may need to keep a scorecard.

Coppola and Puzo also treat us to many extended “flashback” segments, and I mean way back, to Vito as a boy and young man, played by Robert De Niro. For my money, these were the best scenes of the film, although maybe that’s a bit of my bias creeping in, as I’m a huge De Niro fan.

But let’s talk about the main plague of the film–sprawl. This is maybe first evident in the flashbacks. As good as they are, they go on far too long, and happen far too frequently, to sustain the momentum of either the Michael story or the Vito-as-a-youngster story. It begins to feel like we’re toggling back and forth between two films, which is the track that should have been taken. The prequel, at least, would have been a solid 10.

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There’s also a lot of sprawl in the Michael Corleone segments. Coppola appears to have been suffering from what I’d now call “J.K. Rowling Syndrome”. That happens when an artist becomes successful enough that they can fire or ignore their editor(s). Instead of taking good advice about where to trim fat, the artist decides to just leave much of it in, and they now have the clout to override any dissenting and more sensible opinions. The Michael Corleone story has a lot of fat, including much of the Cuba material (for example, sitting around the table with the President, laboriously passing around a solid gold telephone), the Senate hearings (which go on far too long to make and provide the dramatic points), and so on.

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The film begins to feel more like a couple seasons of a television show that Coppola tried to cram into a 3 and a half hour film, or worse, a collection of deleted scenes. The scenes, except for the fat that needed to be trimmed, are excellent in isolation. But by the time the climax rolls around, the whole has more of an arbitrary feeling–this is especially clear in the dénouement, which seems to just end.

I’ve barely left myself room to talk about the good points. The first one, which most people mention, is the acting. There isn’t a bad performance in the film, but Pacino, De Niro, and some relatively minor characters, like those played by Diane Keaton, Talia Shire and John Cazale, really stand out.

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The second outstanding point, similar to the first film, is the beautiful visuals. Although all of the cinematography and production design is great, what really impressed me were some of the darkly lit scenes. Characters and features of sets emerge from pitch-blackness, and everything is rich, deep shades of burgundy, brown, and orange. Amazingly, nothing gets lost in these scenes. It must be incredibly difficult to achieve without making the shots too dark, because I can’t remember another film since that has been able to capture the same look. The flashback scenes are also in similar, but lighter, colors, creating an appropriate sepia-tone feel.

Although the broad perspective problems are unfortunate, a closer focus on most segments of the film provides exemplary artistry. Given that, and the film’s importance culturally, The Godfather Part II is a must-see.

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A Masterpiece

10/10
Author: JoshtheGiant from United States
15 October 2005

The Godfather Part Two is possibly the best film ever made, every part of this film is amazing, it is even better than the original, I was very surprised by this. The story is amazing, everything makes perfect sense. The Oscar winning screenplay is amazing, the dialogue is some of the most original, and realistic ever putt on screen, the characters are flawless, and it’s in every way perfectly written. The acting is just as fantastic, I can’t believe Al Pacino lost the Oscar, and for once Robert De Niro was even better, he was truly amazing, and interestingly he fails to say a single word in English. The direction is also amazing, Francis Ford Coppola even does a better job than he did in The Godfather, and Apocalypse Now. The visual effects are so much better than the amazing one’s in the original Godfather. One of the best films ever, a must see. Flawless.

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The Godfather Part II was shot between October 1, 1973 and June 19, 1974, and was the last major American motion picture to have release prints made with Technicolor‘s dye imbibition process until the late 1990s. The scenes that took place in Cuba were shot in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Charles Bluhdorn, whose Gulf+Western conglomerate owned Paramount, felt strongly about developing the Dominican Republic as a movie-making site.

The Lake Tahoe house and grounds portrayed in the film are Fleur du Lac, the summer estate of Henry J. Kaiser on the California side of the lake. The only structures used in the movie that still remain are the complex of old native stone boathouses with their wrought iron gates. Although Fleur du Lac is private property and no one is allowed ashore there, the boathouses and multimillion-dollar condominiums may be viewed from the lake.

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Francis Ford Coppola originally wanted fellow director Elia Kazan to play Hyman Roth, but Kazan passed on the opportunity. On the DVD commentary track, Coppola detailed how he visited Kazan with the request, and remembered that Kazan was bare-chested. As an homage, in Roth’s first scene, he is bare-chested when Michael Corleone visits him.

Unlike with the first film, Coppola was given near-complete control over production. In his commentary, he said this resulted in a shoot that ran very smoothly despite multiple locations and two narratives running parallel within one film

Comrade X (1940)

Comrade X is a 1940 American comedy spy film directed by King Vidor and starring Clark Gable, Hedy Lamarr, and Oskar Homolka.

American reporter falls for Communist in 1940 Russia

4 July 2006 | by Jimm Budd (Mexico) – See all my reviews

The film fascinates because it was made in 1940, just when WWII was getting started. Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia had just divided Poland between them and neither Nazis nor Communists much admired by most Americans. Our hero, played by Clark Gable, is forced by the Soviets to share his hotel room with a Nazi journalist. The Nazi is a caricature, as are the Soviets, who are shown ordering assassinations a¿of anyone they dislike. At one point the Gable character creates a diversion by shouting out that Germany has just invaded Russia. He is, of course, shouting a year too soon, but the reaction is interesting. The plot itself is foolish, but the glimpse into the past, with references to the Brooklyn Dodgers murdering the Reds (of Cincinatti) makes the movie great fun.

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Rivalries in a Communist “Utopia”

8/10
Author: theowinthrop from United States
13 August 2006

Ernst Lubtisch’s classic comic statement about Communist Russia, NINOTCHKA, came out in 1939. Whether it “influenced” the production (also by MGM) of COMRADE X or not I could not say. Certainly there are similarities between the comedies. Lubitsch set his comedy in Paris, where a Communist trade mission is living it up, being corrupted by an émigré Russian noble (Melvin Douglas) so he can try to retrieve jewelry that the trade mission is using as collateral. The Russian government does not trust the three men sent, so they send a fiercer ideologue (Greta Garbo in the title role) who starts straightening out the mission, until she falls for Douglas’s charm. In the end she is lured back (with her three associates) to the west and away from the Soviet paradise.

NINOTCHKA had Felix Bressart and Sig Ruman in the cast as two of the members of the trade mission. Comments on this thread point out that in the 1930s “accents” were fairly interchangeable in Hollywood, so that the Swedish Garbo (and later the Austrian Lamarr) became Russian. So did German Ruman and German – Jewish Bressart (who would also play a Hungarian in THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER).

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Unlike NINOTCHKA, COMRADE X is set inside that nightmare land, Stalinist Russia. Somebody is sending out unofficial (but thoroughly correct) news stories showing the crimes being committed in Russian by the government against the people (i.e. the purges), as well as the idiotic projects and waste mismanagement illustrative of how poorly the government is as effective government. This is being resented by the Presidium, who is represented by Oscar Homlolka (Commissar Vasiliev). Please note that Homolka’s make-up makes him look a tremendous bit like one Joseph Stalin. At a public funeral covered by the press court, someone tries to shoot Vasiliev (who does all he can to hide the assassination plot). Mac Thompson (Clark Gable), the American reporter, manages to snap a photo of an odd site – a bearded man who a moment before the shooting opened up the lid of the coffin and popped out. This bearded gentlemen turns out to be one Michael Bastakoff (Vladimir Sokoloff), a rival of Vasiliev for power. He is made to look a tremendous bit like one Leon Trotsky.

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Get the message from Hollywood here? Vasiliev’s agents have been trying to pin down the news leaks, and has narrowed it to two figures: Thompson, and one Emil Von Hofer (Sig Ruman) who is the news representative from Nazi Germany. Ruman manages to demonstrate it ain’t him, so (despite Gable’s breezy denials) Vasiliev believes it is the American.

Gable has a close friend in Moscow, one Ygor Yahupitz (Felix Bressart) who is his sometimes valet. Ygor’s daughter is Galubcha (Hedy Lamarr) who is a streetcar operator. Ygor wants Gable to try to smuggle Galubcha out of the Soviet Union into the U.S. And the film shows (among other things, including overcoming Galubcha’s fierce belief in the Communist ideal) Gable eventually saving both the girl and her father.

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The comedy is quite amusing, even if it lacks the style and grace of the Lubitsch touch of the first film. But it certainly comments on the atmosphere within Russia in a way that NINOTCHKA failed to do so. The centering of the comedy in Moscow, the suggestiveness of a Stalin – Trotsky rivalry clone, and the heavy control over information is certainly more realistic than Douglas’ being elegant and eloquent about the beauties of Paris.

One more thing to keep in mind is a scandal which is on target with this film, and which (in 1940) finally began to raise eyebrows. In the early 1930s the New York Times had a reporter named Walter Duranty in Moscow. He turned out to be a fantastically well informed reporter in the Soviet Union, and came out with interviews and articles that were tremendously informative. In fact, he would win the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Moscow. But as time passed, Duranty’s methods and sources were heavily questioned. He also tended to take an official line about the Purge Trials (i.e., that Bukhanin, Radek, Zinoviev, Tuchochevsky, and the other hundreds and thousands of victims were all actual traitors against the Stalinist regime). After the signing of the non-aggression pact with Germany in 1939, the Times became very suspicious of Duranty, and replaced him. The quality of the articles became very much more even handed. Duranty was later revealed to be a Stalinist agent. Interestingly enough, the Pulitzer Committee has repeatedly rejected requests to take back their award from Duranty’s heirs as his work was pure propaganda. So the issue about the control over the news from Russia was very, very real.

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Wait for the tanks

Author: (gleywong@erols.com) from Maryland, USA
27 January 2003

In the days when actresses had genuine accents that put a lilt in their speech, Hedy Lamarr, like Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman, had refinement and intelligence, and could portray “foreigners” from any number of countries. Here, Hedy is supposed to be Russian, and with a light touch, too. She makes a charming foil to beefy Clark Gable, who plays his usual role as the macho-male with a wink in his eye covering a heart of gold. Their chemistry is not quite as magical as that in “It Happened One Night,” with Claudette Colbert (who had the softer edge and mysterious sex appeal that truly complemented Gable’s), or even his pairings with the brassy blonde with the Brooklyn accent, but there are a number of scenes in this farce that I have not seen equalled elsewhere: namely the escape scene in the Soviet tank. Before the age of graphic simulation, the prop men really had to come up with a phalanx of Soviet-style tanks — unless they used miniatures, and to see them “chase” Gable, with Hedy at the wheel, is almost on a par with a Chaplin or Keaton routine. The miming of the Soviet tank army is also hilarious.

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The Maltese Falcon (1941 )

Directed by John Huston
Cinematography Arthur Edeson
A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.
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With its low-key lighting and inventive and arresting angles, the work of Director of Photography Arthur Edeson is one of the film’s great assets. Unusual camera angles—sometimes low to the ground, revealing the ceilings of rooms (a technique also used by Orson Welles and his cinematograher Gregg Toland on Citizen Kane)—are utilized to emphasize the nature of the characters and their actions. Some of the most technically striking scenes involve Gutman, especially the scene where he explains the history of the Falcon to Spade, purposely drawing out his story so that the knockout drops he has slipped into Spade’s drink will take effect. Meta Wilde, Huston’s longtime script supervisor, remarked of this scene:

One of the Most Entertaining Films of Its Kind

21 September 2001 | by Snow Leopard (Ohio) – See all my reviews

With a fine combination of cast, characters, story, and atmosphere, this classic is one of the most entertaining films of its kind, enjoyable even after several viewings. It gets you right into the action and introduces you to a list of interesting personalities, who mesh together nicely and who are also matched well with the cast members. Beyond that, it’s also effective as a character study involving greed, trust and distrust, and conflicting ethics.

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Sam Spade is an ideal role for Bogart, giving him plenty to work with and some very good dialogue as well. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are very entertaining, providing suitable foils for Bogart, and they really take the film up a notch. The rest of the cast also works well (worth mentioning is Elisha Cook, Jr., whose character doesn’t do a lot, but who provides Bogart with some very amusing moments at his expense). The story is nicely adapted from the novel, and each scene is constructed well, with everything moving along nicely from start to finish.

If you are a fan of either film noir or mysteries, make this a must-see. There are very few films that work as well as “The Maltese Falcon”.

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Top notch mystery that kicked off the film noir genre of the 1940s

Author: back2wsoc from Chicago, Illinois
1 December 2002

“The Maltese Falcon”, scripted and directed by Hollywood first-timer John Huston (from Dashiell Hammett’s novel), would go on to become an American film classic. Humphrey Bogart chews the scenery in his star-making turn as acid-tongued private eye Sam Spade, whose association with the beautiful and aloof Brigid O’Shaughnessy (Mary Astor), neurotic Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), and morbidly obese Kasper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet, in his Oscar-nominated screen debut) over the recovery of the title object, sets in motion a movie experience that is as much crackling as it is dazzling. While much of the action and dialogue is considerably dated by modern standards, the film’s essential power to mystify and entrance remains undiminished despite its age.

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While this was the third adaptation of Hammett’s story (the first was made in 1931 and the second was “Satan Met a Lady” (1936)), this is also the best remembered and most praised, due largely in part to Bogart’s seemingly effortless portrayal of the tough but softhearted, world-weary hero. Mary Astor and Lee Patrick were, respectively, the definitive femme fatale and girl Friday, and the villianous roles of Cairo, Gutman and Wilmer (Elisha Cook Jr.) were equally remarkable. What may not be wholly obvious is the fact that these three men have homosexual tendencies (as given in the novel), but just look at what’s given: Cairo’s delicate speech and manner, Wilmer’s questionable quick tempered attitude towards Spade (could this be covering up the fact that he finds Spade attractive?) and Gutman’s clutching of Spade’s arm when Sam arrives at his hotel room. A polished film noir that gave rise to Bogart’s mounting popularity. (Sidenote: The character of Sam Spade was originally offered to George Raft, who turned it down. Raft also turned down “Casablanca” (1942), “High Sierra” (1941) and William Wyler’s “Dead End” (1937), all of which went to Bogart and helped to boost his star status. Bogart had Raft to thank for his enduring popularity.) A must-see masterpiece. ****

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The Fat Man Cometh

Author: Lechuguilla from Dallas, Texas
4 November 2007

Considered by many film historians as the very first noir film, “The Maltese Falcon” is cinematically important also for making Humphrey Bogart into a Hollywood star, and for being the debut of John Huston as film Director.

The film’s story is complex and convoluted, typical of detective films of that era, and involves a valuable statuette. The plot stalls and meanders throughout most of the film, as we encounter an assortment of strange characters and side issues. But this is not a plot-driven film. It is character-driven.

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And the main character, of course, is PI Sam Spade (Bogart). He’s not a particularly nice guy. He comes across as overconfident and egotistic. He smirks a lot. But he’s tough as nails. And he knows how to nail the bad guys. A big part of the film is Spade’s relationship to femme fatale Brigid (Mary Astor). They engage each other in a battle of wits. And there’s more than a hint of romantic involvement between the two. But Brigid is the one who propels Spade into the deceiving and double-crossing world of bad guys who yearn with greed for the priceless Maltese Falcon.

Enter Kasper Gutman, that thoroughly rotund and intimidating (in a gentlemanly sort of way) king of greed, portrayed with verve and panache by the inimitable Sydney Greenstreet. Gutman, AKA the “Fat Man”, is nothing if not erudite and self-assured. In one scene, Sam Spade makes a bold offer. Gutman responds articulately: “That’s an attitude sir that calls for the most delicate judgment on both sides, because as you know sir, in the heat of action, men are likely to forget where their best interests lie …”.

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And Peter Lorre is a hoot as Gutman’s mischievous elf, Joel Cairo, who tries, without success, to threaten Sam Spade, but only succeeds at getting on Sam’s nerves.

The film’s high contrast B&W lighting renders an effective noir look and feel, one that would be copied in films for years to come. Acting varies from very good to overly melodramatic. The script is very talky. For the most part, the film is just a series of conversations that take place in interior sets.

Stylistic and cinematically innovative, “The Maltese Falcon” has endured as a film classic. I suspect the main reason for its continued popularity is the continued popularity of Bogart. But I personally prefer the performance of Sydney Greenstreet, the enticing fat man. Yet, together they would reappear in later films, one of which would follow, in 1942, as the classic of all classics.

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A classic with good reason

10/10
Author: Surecure from Canada
21 March 2006

While there are films that are considered classic for their technical achievements and classics that resound with audiences for a feel-good emotion, The Maltese Falcon stands in that group that is a classic for every aspect of its creative makeup. With a brilliant script, talented direction and some outstanding performances, The Maltese Falcon stands up today as well as it did upon release.

When Sam Spade — played brilliantly by Humphrey Bogart — and his partner Archer are hired to tail a rich eccentric by a woman who claims her sister is being unwittingly kept separated from her by the rich eccentric, it seems like just another case. But when Archer and the eccentric are gunned down and all fingers point to Sam Spade for conflicting yet damning reasons, Spade is thrown into a whirlwind of deceptions that all point in one direction: a Maltese statue of a falcon.

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Bogart demonstrates clearly why he is one of the great classic actors of the 20th century, and indeed one of the most natural screen actors ever. His charisma, charm and intense masculine looks give him a presence that simply dominates the screen. With a host of other great talents to fill the screen, there is not a moment of wasted performance. The direction is tight and driving and the pacing never lets up. And the script demonstrates why there are less and less truly great films being released in present day: the writers and directors of the golden age of cinema knew that subtlety works ten times more effectively than the modern in-your-face all-the-time works.

The Maltese Falcon is a timeless work that deserves its place in the list of greatest films ever made.

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cant say much for it

6/10
Author: alwaysdubbin91 from upstate New York
10 December 2012
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

i wont say it was an awful movie, but i was not terribly impressed. i guess the story was kinda cool with Spade being a somewhat crooked private detective, if you give him enough money he’ll really do anything. it was a fairly fast paced movie, but that definitely does not mean it was exciting. there was a whole lot of word games, some of which became a little too confusing for me at points, you really have to be paying your full attention to keep pace with some of the conversations. as for the photography, i thought it was really pretty good. the use of light was pretty clever in a few different shots. there was also one pretty darn long take at one point, very subtle though. as the rating reflects i didn’t like the film as much as most people, but to each their own.

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3rd and most famous film version

7/10
Author: disdressed12 from Canada
30 March 2010

i enjoyed this most famous version of the story.it’s as good as the previous two.Humphrey Bogart plays the Sam Spade role and is good,there’s no question there.but the real standout to me is Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo.Lorre exudes menace from every pore.he owns the movie in my opinion.i also liked Sydney Greenstreet as Kasper Gutman.overall,this third version is comparable to the other two.i can’t say it’s any better or worse.i think the reason it’s so acclaimed is because it’s directed by John Huston and Stars Humphrey Bogart,which doesn’t automatically make it a better movie.don’t get me wrong.it’s a good film but i wonder how many people have actually watched the two previous version of this story first,and would this version bee rated as high if more people had seen the other versions first?anyway,for me, this third version of The Maltese Falcon is a 7/10

Tea and Sympathy (1956)

Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Cinematography John Alton

Tea and Sympathy (1956) is an adaptation of Robert Anderson’s 1953 stage play directed by Vincente Minnelli and produced by Pandro S. Berman for MGM in Metrocolor. The music score was by Adolph Deutsch and the cinematography by John Alton. Deborah Kerr, John Kerr (no relation) and Leif Erickson re-created their original stage roles. Also in the cast were Edward Andrews, Darryl Hickman, Norma Crane, Tom Laughlin, and Dean Jones.

Seventeen-year-old Tom Robinson Lee (John Kerr), a new senior at a boy’s prep school, finds himself at odds with the machismo culture of his class in which the other boys love sports, roughhouse, fantasize about girls, and worship their coach, Bill Reynolds (Leif Erickson). Tom prefers classical music, reads Candide, goes to the theater, and generally seems to be more at ease in the company of women.

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The other boys torment Tom for his “unmanly” qualities and call him “sister boy,” and he is treated unfeelingly by his father, Herb Lee (Edward Andrews), who believes a man should be manly and that his son should fit in with the other boys. Only Al (Darryl Hickman), his roommate, treats Tom with any decency, perceiving that being different is not the same as being unmasculine. This growing tension is observed by Laura Reynolds (Deborah Kerr), wife of the coach. The Reynoldses are also Tom’s and Al’s house master and mistress. Laura tries to build a connection with the young man, often inviting him alone to tea, and eventually falls in love with him, in part because of his many similarities to her first husband John, who was killed in World War II.

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The situation escalates when Tom is goaded into visiting the local prostitute Ellie (Norma Crane) to dispel suspicions about his sexuality, but things go badly. His failure to lose his virginity causes him to attempt suicide in the woman’s kitchen. His father arrives from the city to meet with the dean about Tom’s impending expulsion, having been alerted to Tom’s raffish intentions by a classmate. Assuming his son’s success, he gets one of the film’s biggest send-ups as he boasts of his son’s sexual triumph and time-honored leap into manhood until the Reynoldses inform him otherwise. Laura goes in search of Tom and finds him where he often goes to ruminate, near the golf course’s sixth tee. She tries to comfort him, counseling that he’ll have a wife and family some day, but he’s inconsolable. She starts to leave, then returns and takes his hand, they kiss, and she utters the film’s famous line, “Years from now, when you talk about this, and you will, be kind.”

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The film opens and closes ten years into the future, when the adult Tom, who is now a successful writer and married, returns to his prep school. The final scene, new to the Hollywood version, shows Tom visiting his old coach and house master to ask after Laura. Bill tells him that, last he’s heard, she’s out west somewhere but he has a note from her to him, which she enclosed in her last letter to her ex-husband. Tom opens it outside and learns that she wrote it after reading his published novel, derived from his time at the school and their relationship. After their moment of passion, she tells him, she had no choice but to leave her husband, as Tom wrote in his book, “the wife always kept her affection for the boy.”

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Reception

Bosley Crowther gave a positive review and felt the movie was faithful to the play despite obvious Motion Picture Production Code alterations. Crowther also felt the post-script (original to the movie) with “an apologetic letter from the ‘fallen woman’ ” was “preachy […] prudish and unnecessary” and recommended that cinemagoers leave after the line “Years from now, when you talk about this—and you will—be kind.”

Deborah Kerr said in regard to the screenplay that “I think Robert Anderson” has done a fine job.”

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Comparative Acting Styles

Those who had the good fortune to see Deborah Kerr onstage in the Elia Kazan production of “Tea and Sympathy,” will attest to her unforgetable performance. Kerr not only played it on Broadway but also toured with it, a treat for all attendees. Now nearly a half century later, her performance on film, which was very much influenced by her stage style, begins to show a little wear around the edges. It must be difficult to change one’s approach after having played a role so successfully night after night. In this case, her inflections, accents, phraseology, pauses, gestures and the like are essentially theatre-based, designed to play to the whole house up to the balcony. In the intimacy of film, this becomes a bit much in the long run, and results in a much more broad, deliberate and stylized Kerr than in any of her other film work. Her character tends to emerge now more as a busy-body, snooper, peeping tom than was ever intended, and certainly it did not come across that way when the film was first released. A landmark film of sorts–for a major studio to tackle a sensitive subject in a major production–“Tea and Sympathy” benefits from a sincerely written script by Robert Anderson, solid direction by Vincent Minnelli and a secure supporting cast. Visually Deborah Kerr is beautiful, and is totally committed to both the play and her role. During her lengthy film career, Kerr certainly contributed a wealth of finely crafted performances.

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The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974 )

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (aka The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) is a 1974 American thriller film directed by Joseph Sargent, produced by Edgar J. Scherick, and starring Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam and Héctor Elizondo.  Peter Stone adapted the screenplay  from the 1973 novel of the same name written by Morton Freedgood under the pen name John Godey.  As in the novel, the film centers on a group of criminals taking the passengers hostage inside a New York City Subway car for ransom. Musically, it features “one of the best and most inventive thriller scores of the 1970s”. It was remade in 1998 as a television film and was again remade in 2009 as a film.

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Setting.

Portions of the scenes in the tunnel were filmed on the local tracks of the IND Fulton Street Line at the abandoned Court Street station in Brooklyn, now the New York Transit Museum. A reconstruction of a Transit Authority control center was built on a soundstage.

The exterior NYC ‘Command Post Center’ street scenes shot above the subway train during the cash negotiation scenes, where throngs of police and spectators gathered awaiting the ransom money, were filmed at the subway exit corner of 28th and Park Avenue South in Manhattan. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority was reluctant to cooperate with the making of this movie as they feared a real hijacking could occur, but after further talks, they cooperated with the filmmakers. First, they required payment of hijack insurance as well as a payment of $250,000 for usage of the subway. Another person who was involved was Mayor John Lindsay: he green lighted the shooting of the film in New York, though some Canadian passages were done as well

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Filled with exciting moments and heart-pounding suspense.

27 October 2002 | by mhasheider (Sauk City, Wisconsin) – See all my reviews

Sharp and fast-paced thriller that follows an easy-going N.Y.C. transit cop (Walter Matthau) who’s forced to out-match the wits of four well-armed gunmen and their resilient leader (Robert Shaw) who are holding eighteen passengers on a subway train and demand one million dollars within the hour.

Made in the era of smart, stylish, and ingenius thrillers (’70s), this film didn’t fail to loose my attention at all. In addition to Matthau and Shaw, the supporting cast (Hector Elizondo, Martin Balsam, Jerry Stiller, Tony Roberts, and so forth) is are just as excellent as the two unflappable leads. This well-polished crime movie is filled with exciting moments and heart-pounding suspense. Plus, there are some quirky one-liners thrown into the story as well.

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My favorite crime drama of the ’70s. Maybe ever.

8/10
Author: Greg (GregCnAZ@aol.com) from Phoenix, AZ U.S.A
5 February 2004

With all the other plot summaries written here, I won’t go into what this film is all about. I just want to say that I don’t believe this genre has been done better, either before or since. I first saw “Pelham 1,2,3” when I was 14 at a drive-in theater in Northern CA. It holds a memorable place for me as the first R rated movie I ever saw, as well as the first time I ever heard the “F” word in a movie. But way beyond that, I was so completely sucked into the story even at my young age. Now all these years later, I still am. I own the movie and must see it periodically. I’m so glad, reading all the other user comments, to find that I’m just one of many who absolutely love this film. Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, and the rest of the cast are all brilliant. The comedy in the film is also outstanding and never out of place within the storyline. It simply serves to make the film more realistic. And last but not least, David Shire’s score is the coolest. I only wish they had put a soundtrack out for this film. When I watch this movie, the music must be cranked.

Don’t bother catching this film on TV. It’s always completely hacked up. Rent it or buy the DVD. It will remind you just how much fun movies used to be.

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Much imitated, never bettered.

8/10
Author: jckruize from North Hemis
21 October 2002

Modern tough-guy filmmakers like Quentin Tarentino acknowledge their debt to this pedal-to-the-metal thriller, directed by Joseph Sargent from John Godey’s bestseller. Walter Matthau is a hoot as the savvy NY transit cop who’s smarter than he looks, well-matched by Robert Shaw as the icy mercenary whose gang has hijacked a subway car for a one-million-dollar ransom.

This film’s been imitated so often because its makers were really at the top of their game. Owen Roizman (THE FRENCH CONNECTION) handled the gritty location photography; scripter Peter Stone contributed terse, funny dialogue; scene-stealers like Martin Balsam, Jerry Stiller, Dick O’Neill and others made their roles indelible; and David Shire’s percussive score set a standard for the genre.

The ending is classic. When you have Matthau as your star, this is how to end your movie.

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“Pelham 1-2-3 is in motion”

9/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
28 May 2007

One of my favorite films from the seventies is The Taking of Pelham One, Two Three because it’s so New York. Of course the film was shot entirely on location in The Big Apple including the interiors which helped greatly. But more than that, the characters have all the New York flavor about them with one exception.

The cat of course is led by Walter Matthau who plays a Transit Police Lieutenant. His character is a kind of combination of Archie Bunker and Detective Lennie Briscoe from Law and Order, in many ways not terribly admirable. He’s also a transit cop and at that time the Transit Police were a separate entity. They were merged into the regular NYPD during the Giuliani administration.

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There’s no real glory in the Transit Police, these guys were mostly charged with dealing with drunks and kids with loud boom boxes. If a homicide ever occurred the NYPD quickly took it over as they would in most situations. But this ongoing crisis on a train on the Lexington Avenue Local occurs on his watch and it’s career make or break case that Matthau is very aware of. And he proves fully capable during the crisis.

The crisis is four men, Robert Shaw, Earl Hindman, Hector Elizondo, and Martin Balsam mount a carefully planned assault on a subway train out of Pelham Bay station in the Bronx in mid-Manhattan and hold it and the passengers for ransom for a million dollars. The outsider to New York is Robert Shaw in one of his best roles, a former British army officer and mercenary. During the course of the robbery they kill a station supervisor played by roly poly Tom Pedi, one very quintessential New Yorker and their coldblooded villainy is established.

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In fact the whole cast is a microcosm of the ethnic strains of New York City which makes the film so enjoyable, especially to one who lived there, the first 49 years of his life. Even the mayor is portrayed as a weak, fumbling nonentity and back then our mayor was one Abraham D. Beame who was just that, probably one of the worst mayors the city ever had. Tony Roberts has a very good role as the tough as nails Deputy Mayor concerned about both his boss’s political career and resolving the crisis.

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Anachronisms

Author: Henry Willis from Los Angeles
9 September 2003

Other reviewers have said enough about this wonderful witty heist movie that surprised me every step of the way with how good it was. Two things bother me about this movie, however.

First, why did they only ask for $1,000,000? I know that things were cheaper then–I was a productive member of society, sort of, at the time–but even so, $250,000 a pop seems like too little reward for all the time and risk they invested in their plan. Even one of the passengers held hostage thought it wasn’t enough–why didn’t that occur to the merc or the wise guy?

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Second, how did the makers of this movie know that Ed Koch was going to be mayor of New York? It was 1974 and Abe Beame–who would not have made an interesting character if you had put him in platform shoes and hot pants–was Mayor of New York, yet somehow the makers of this film got someone who looks and acts more like Koch than the Mayor in Ghostbusters. Eerier than crop circles

The Godfather (1972)

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Cinematography Gordon Willis

The Godfather is a 1972 American crime drama directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Albert S. Ruddy, based on Mario Puzo‘s best-selling novel of the same name. It stars Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as the leaders of a fictional New York crime family. The story, spanning 1945 to 1955, chronicles the family under the patriarch Vito Corleone, focusing on the transformation of Michael Corleone (Pacino) from reluctant family outsider to ruthless Mafia boss.

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The world inside the underworld!

4 July 2005 | by Vishv Jeet (United States) – See all my reviews

The godfather trilogy is an exclusive set of movies that will continue to live with humanity, every generation will see them to say, “Oh that was 10 out of 10.” If you watch them you will know that the world that lives inside the underworld is same as the one we live in except that people in underworld are so smart, in fact smartness is the only thing that can keep them there. Don Vito Caroleone’s early life shown in part-II is very well done to show the Don in making, how a kid who couldn’t even tell his name went on becoming a underworld don who keep most senators, judges and lawyers in his pocket.

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Meeting of don with the so call five families are among most impressive scenes.

A saga that goes on for 9 continuous hours takes you around various walks in life of Mike (Don’s younger son who become Don later), his school days, love life, personal life, family life, business life, political life and religious life. How all of these different roles Mike plays in his life and how intertwined these are.

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I enjoyed watching these movies so much, I wish I had seen them much before then I did. Its amazing to see how the Part-III was made 18 years later the part-I was made and everything looks so continuous if watch them together.

I need not say much! The Godfather father trilogy been around for a while and everyone knows that they are great set of movies, its just the matter of when you actually get to see them.

Watch them! Kudos to Francis Ford Coppola! -Vishy

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“The Godfather” is pretty much flawless, and one of the greatest films ever made

10/10
Author: SJ_1 from United Kingdom
30 September 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Rather than concentrating on everything that is great about The Godfather, a much easier way for me to judge its quality is on what is bad about it. Almost every film has something that I don’t like about it, but I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change anything about The Godfather. There is nothing weak about it and nothing that stands out as bad. That’s why it gets ten out of ten.

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This is one of those films that made me wonder why I hadn’t seen it earlier. The acting from everyone involved is great, Marlon Brando comes across perfectly as the head of the family, and James Caan and Al Pacino are excellent as his sons. The soundtrack by Nino Rota is also very memorable, bringing back memories of the film every time I hear it. The plot has to be excellent for it to get ten out of ten, and it is, it’s far from predictable and the film is the definition of a great epic.

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The film is pretty shocking in the way every death occurs almost instantaneously, and as it spans ten years so many different things happen and every minute of it is great entertainment. It’s a well-made and entertaining film that is only the first part of a trilogy, but it stands on its own as a wonderful film in its own right. If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for? This was one acclaimed film that didn’t disappoint.

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Magnificent portrait of organized crime

10/10
Author: ks4 from EU
25 December 2002
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is by far the best movie ever to give a portrait organized crime, this movie goes deep inside and shows it all inside out..

With superb acting by especially Al Pacino as Mike Corleone and Marlon Brando as Don Vito corleone this movie shows how one of the head mafia families in New York works, it gives a detailed picture of how their business runs and what kinda chances they got to take on their business, for example their denial to step inside the narcotic business brings on alot of troubles, but also it shows what kinda sacrifices they make, every day could be their last day..

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Al Pacino shines above all in this movie, as the smart boy of the family he returns after fighting a war for his country, at that time not involved in the family business, but it doesn’t take long before the war breaks lose and he see no other ways than to step in and fight for his family.

This is definetely a “must see” masterpiece.

Another kind of “family movie”

10/10
Author: b-a-h TNT-6 from nowhere
5 March 2002
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Godfather is one of the few films in which I personally did not find any significant weakness even after many viewings. From the direction, to the acting, to the storyline, to the score, The Godfather has the word classic written all over, and it really is not much of a surprise that it is now considered by many one of the top five movies of all time.

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Perhaps when it comes to cinematic techniques The Godfather has not been as revolutionary as Citizen Kane, but its influence on motion pictures is comparable. Rarely a movie has defined or re-defined a genre as much as this one did for “gangster movies”, but its influence goes well beyond that.

The Godfather’s influence has been so big through the years that elements of it can be found in virtually every “organized crime film” nowadays; almost every comedy featuring a gangster in the last few years has spoofed something in The Godfather. The Italian-American old mobster a-la Don Vito Corleone has become one of the most established figures in the public’s imagination.

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But to say that The Godfather is simply “influential” is to diminish its true qualities, and so is to describe it simply as “a movie about gangsters”. The Mafia is certainly the main focus the story revolves around (despite the fact that the word is never mentioned), but although the movie never tries to forcedly insert separate subjects it contains an amount of psychological and social subtexts that cannot be overlooked. Considerations on how the social environments changes us, on how moral values appear different from different point of views, on how violence can destroy a human soul, and on how power can corrupt an individual are deeply blended into a story that stays practically always true to complete realism, and the result is a picture of astonishing efficacy and believability.

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As good as the direction and the story are, it would be unfair not to consider the major role that the actors’ performances had in the cinematic triumph that was The Godfather. Praised by many as the best cast to ever appear in an American movie, all the cast in The Godfather succeeds in portraying complex, three-dimensional characters without ever making a slip. The exceptional portrayals of Don Vito and Michael Corleone respectively by Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, the performances by Robert Duvall, James Caan and Diane Keaton as Tom Hagen, Santino Corleone and Kay Adams, the ruthless Virgil Sollozzo played by Al Lettieri — as well as more than a few other roles — are all perfect for the movie, and they all succeed in making us believe these are real people, not just actors.

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We are not watching a central character and a bunch of incomplete figures that revolve around him: although Michael Corleone is the character that gets the most screen time, everybody is the center of this world his own way. The movie makes it possible for the viewers to identify with different characters and to observe how their personality and story fits in, and it does it much more effectively than many bloated multiple-storyline movies that came out in the last few years.

The movie opens on the wedding of Don Vito Corleone’s daughter, Connie (Talia Shire). Don Corleone is a powerful man, and it was not without the use of violence that he achieved this position during the course of his life. The wedding scene gives a perfect setting of where and how the Don’s power extends; from the regular worker in a neighborhood, to the immensely popular singer, to the friends in politics and right to the ruthless killer, Don Corleone has links to people ready to ask him favors and to pay him back. Some are trustworthy, some are not, but thanks to his intelligence and intuit the Don can almost always distinguish the two.

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However, this is 1946, times are changing, and to many of the younger people working in the crime business, Don Corleone’s ideas are becoming obsolete. The Don believes that the new trend in the business, narcotics, is too dangerous and the families dealing with it would eventually end up self-destroying; while his family had deals in alcohol and gambling for a long time, part of the Government and law enforcement was ready to close one eye. Drugs are another thing.

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To this day, Don Corleone was able to keep things together while maintaining his economic and political power, but things will brutally change when a powerful drug dealer name Sollozzo enters the picture. The refusal of Don Corleone to cooperate with Sollozzo, and a weakness immediately spotted by the latter, will ignite a war that will cost many lives, and that will see Michael Corleone, Vito’s younger son and the one who never wanted to take part in the family business, lose his “innocence” and transform into a gangster as ruthless as the people he initially stood up against.

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I purposely decided not to spoil much about the plot because I believe that the film is perfectly enjoyed without knowing anything in advance, and — believe it or not — there are still quite a lot of people who have never seen this movie. There are multiple scenes that manage to create an incredible tension, various twists, and although like any other masterpiece The Godfather can be watched knowing the whole story beforehand and still be a phenomenal experience, I believe it is always a pleasure to see it for the first time and enjoy its multiple climaxes. Besides, to outline such complicated characters and such an emotionally intense story in a short review like this one would be inadmissible.

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There has been much speculation on how the events in The Godfather novel written by Mario Puzo, the book the film is based on, could be an exposé of true facts. Many believe that the character of Johnny Fontane , for instance, was based on Frank Sinatra’s real life, and many of the other characters were modeled after real people. I won’t go into that: frankly, I have no idea whether these voices are reliable, although the Frank Sinatra reference seems obviously quite believable.

The cinematography of The Godfather is dark and tasteful, and colors are used perfectly to give a true feel of the era it is set in. There is a fair amount of violence, though rarely gratuitous.

The Godfather certainly doesn’t need my recommendation. The film is universally considered one of the best of all time, and the performances by Pacino and Brando alone is the stuff of legends.

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The Best Of The Set: By A Mile

4 June 2015 | by garthbarnes-11921 (United States) – See all my reviews

Spoilers Ahead;

I am not a big fan of the sequels even the second is a big step down from this one. What a cast? Like an earlier reviewer said; REWATCHABLE!! Yes, I am Italian, not a Sicilian, and I have seen it hundreds of times. What a cast: Brando, Pacino, Caan, Duvall. Even the supporting cast is excellent with the film noir legend Richard Conte as Barzini. Puzo wrote such a rich, deep script. The characters suck you in and are so lifelike. Each brother is radically different from the other. Fredo, the mama’s boy, the useless one who Michael kills off in the second one.

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Sonny, the human volcano, with a temper that has to be seen to be believed. Michael, the quiet and deadly one most like Vito but colder more ruthless. Michael was always outside the family looking in; he was held in contempt by the rest as the soft college boy who didn’t want to get his hands dirty. This is the answer to the riddle of how he could kill Fredo, his own brother, later in the second one. Notice where he sits at the wedding, as far away from the family as he can get.

Events suck Michael into their world but he never is really in the family. We see his cruelty by the end of the movie as he slaughters the heads of the five families and his own sister’s husband Carlo who fingered Sonny.

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The key scene for understanding Michael is the baby’s baptism; watch the juxtaposition of the images with the words the priest is saying. As he renounces Satan he performs the very actions he is renouncing. Coppola was so good at using images to contradict words; it is really his signature. Pacino becomes the very image of Satan as he murders all those people while standing reciting the holy words of baptism renouncing the very deeds as he is performing them. What a work of art!! Only Francis Coppola could do this.

The film, to be fair to its critics, does gloss over the mafia a bit. We do not see old store owners shaken down with blow torches waved in front of their faces. I do think Puzo and Coppola do show the awful cost of the evil. Even here, Michael slowly transforms from a diffident outcast at the back of the family to a ruthless Don.

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It appears here that he is like Vito but that illusion is dispelled by his ruthlessness far exceeding Vito’s. Michael because he was an outcast simply does not feel the bonds of family as Vito did. There is a coldness about him; he is like an iceberg. The movie is three hours long but it moves very quickly. The only parts that drag are the scenes of michael’s exile in Sicily. It really is the story of the brothers and how radically different their fates are; Fredo is sent to Vegas where he becomes a weakling fop beaten up by Moe Greene, Sonny’s temper ends up killing him like you always knew it would. Michael gets sucked in; there is always great resentment in Michael for the destiny he never wanted.

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The second film shows Michael’s estrangement from the family deepening. It culminates in him killing Fredo for putting him at risk. I always think it is important to see Michael as Puzo and Coppola paint him: a loner who protects himself ruthlessly. He really could care less about the family; he is all about power and control. Vito, for all his evil, cared and loved his family very deeply. Look, Fredo almost got him killed when Sollozo’s men attacked, he fumbled and dropped his gun. Vito did not kill him; Michael was not so forgiving. It is a true masterpiece. I LOVE IT

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