Back to the Future (1985)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Cinematography Dean Cundey

Back to the Future is a 1985 American science fiction adventure comedy film  directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. It stars Michael J. Fox as teenager Marty McFly, who is sent back in time to 1955, where he meets his future parents in high school and accidentally becomes his mother’s romantic interest. Christopher Lloyd portrays the eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown, Marty’s friend who helps him repair the damage to history by advising Marty how to cause his parents to fall in love. Marty and Doc must also find a way to return Marty to 1985.

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Zemeckis and Gale wrote the script after Gale mused upon whether he would have befriended his father if they had attended school together. Various film studios rejected the script until the financial success of Zemeckis’ Romancing the Stone. Zemeckis approached Steven Spielberg, who agreed to produce the project at Amblin Entertainment, with Universal Pictures as distributor. The first choice for the role of Marty McFly was Michael J. Fox. However, he was busy filming his television series Family Ties and the show’s producers would not allow him to star in the film. Consequently, Eric Stoltz was cast in the role. During filming, Stoltz and the filmmakers decided that the role was miscast, and Fox was again approached for the part. Now with more flexibility in his schedule and the blessing of his show’s producers, Fox managed to work out a timetable in which he could give enough time and commitment to both.

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Teenager Marty McFly is an aspiring musician dating girlfriend Jennifer Parker in Hill Valley, California. His father George is bullied by his supervisor, Biff Tannen, while his mother Lorraine is an overweight, depressed alcoholic. While dissatisfied with Marty’s relationship with Jennifer, Lorraine recalls how she met George when her father hit him with a car.

On October 26, 1985, Marty meets his scientist friend, Dr. Emmett Brown, at a shopping mall parking lot. Doc unveils a time machine built from a modified DeLorean and powered by plutonium stolen from Libyan terrorists. Doc demonstrates the navigation system with the example date of November 5, 1955: the day he conceived the machine. A moment later, the Libyans arrive and kill him. Marty escapes in the DeLorean, but inadvertently activates the time machine, and arrives in 1955 without the required plutonium needed to return.

There, Marty encounters the teenage George, who is bullied by classmate Biff. After Marty saves George from an oncoming car and is knocked unconscious, he awakens to find himself tended by an infatuated Lorraine. Marty leaves and tracks down Doc’s younger self to help him return to 1985.

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With no plutonium, Doc explains that the only power source capable of generating the necessary 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to power the time machine is a bolt of lightning. Marty shows Doc a flyer from the future that recounts a lightning strike at the town’s courthouse the coming Saturday night. Doc instructs Marty to not leave his house or interact with anyone, as he could inadvertently change the course of history and alter the future; because of this, Doc refuses to heed warnings from Marty about his death in 1985. Marty realizes that he has prevented his parents from meeting and Doc warns Marty that he will be erased from existence if he does not find a way to introduce George to Lorraine. Doc formulates a plan to harness the power of the lightning while Marty sets about introducing his parents, but he antagonizes Biff and his gang in the process.

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When Lorraine asks Marty to the upcoming school dance, Marty plans to have George “rescue” Lorraine from Marty’s inappropriate advances. The plan goes awry when a drunken Biff attempts to force himself on Lorraine. George arrives to rescue her from Marty, but finds Biff instead. George knocks out Biff and Lorraine follows George to the dance floor, where they kiss and fall in love while Marty plays music with the band. Satisfied that he has secured his future existence, Marty leaves to meet Doc.

As the storm arrives, Marty returns to the clock tower and the lightning strikes on cue, sending Marty back to October 1985. He finds that Doc is not dead, as he had listened to Marty’s warnings and worn a bullet-proof vest. Doc takes Marty home, then departs to 2015.

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Marty awakens the next morning to find his family changed: George is a self-confident, successful author, Lorraine is physically fit and happy, his brother David is a successful businessman, his sister Linda works in a boutique and has many “boyfriends” and Biff is now an obsequious auto valet. As Marty reunites with Jennifer, the DeLorean appears with Doc, dressed in a futuristic outfit, insisting they accompany him to 2015 to fix a problem with their future children. The trio get inside the DeLorean and disappear into the future.

Writer and producer Bob Gale conceived the idea after he visited his parents in St. Louis, Missouri after the release of Used Cars. Searching their basement, Gale found his father’s high school yearbook and discovered he was president of his graduating class. Gale thought about the president of his own graduating class, who was someone he had nothing to do with. 

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Gale wondered whether he would have been friends with his father if they went to high school together. When he returned to California, he told Robert Zemeckis his new concept.  Zemeckis subsequently thought of a mother claiming she never kissed a boy at school when, in fact, she was highly promiscuous.  The two took the project to Columbia Pictures, and made a development deal for a script in September 1980.

Zemeckis and Gale said that they had set the story in 1955 because a 17-year-old traveling to meet his parents at the same age arithmetically required the script to travel to that decade. The era also marked the rise of teenagers as an important cultural element, the birth of rock n’ roll, and suburb expansion, which would flavor the story.  In an early script, the time machine was designed as a refrigerator, and its user needed to use the power of an atomic explosion at the Nevada Test Site to return home. Zemeckis was “concerned that kids would accidentally lock themselves in refrigerators”, and found that it would be more convenient if the time machine were mobile.

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The DeLorean DMC-12 was chosen because its design made the gag about the family of farmers mistaking it for a flying saucer believable. Zemeckis and Gale found it difficult to create a believable friendship between Marty and Brown before they created the giant guitar amplifier, and only resolved his Oedipal relationship with his mother when they wrote the line “It’s like I’m kissing my brother.” Biff Tannen was named after studio executive Ned Tanen, who behaved aggressively toward Zemeckis and Gale during a script meeting for I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

The first draft of Back to the Future was finished in February 1981 and presented to Columbia, who put the film in turnaround. “They thought it was a really nice, cute, warm film, but not sexual enough,” Gale said. “They suggested that we take it to Disney, but we decided to see if any other of the major studios wanted a piece of us.” Every major film studio rejected the script for the next four years, while Back to the Future went through two more drafts. During the early 1980s, popular teen comedies (such as Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Porky’s) were risqué and adult-aimed, so the script was commonly rejected for being too light.Gale and Zemeckis finally decided to pitch Back to the Future to Disney. “They told us that a mother falling in love with her son was not appropriate for a family film under the Disney banner,” Gale said.

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The two were tempted to ally themselves with Steven Spielberg, who produced Used Cars and I Wanna Hold Your Hand, which were both box office bombs. Zemeckis and Gale initially had shown the screenplay to Spielberg, who had “loved” it.[Spielberg, however, was absent from the project during development because Zemeckis felt if he produced another flop under him, he would never be able to make another film. Gale said “we were afraid that we would get the reputation that we were two guys who could only get a job because we were pals with Steven Spielberg.” Zemeckis chose to direct Romancing the Stone instead, which was a box office success. Now a high-profile director, Zemeckis reapproached Spielberg with the concept. Agreeing to produce Back to the Future, Spielberg set the project up at his production company, Amblin Entertainment, with Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall joining Spielberg as executive producers on the film.

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The script remained under Columbia’s shelf until legal issues forced them to withdraw. The studio was set to begin shooting a comedic send-up of Double Indemnity entitled Big Trouble. Columbia’s legal department determined that the film’s plot was too similar to Double Indemnity and they needed the permission of Universal Pictures, owners of the earlier film, if the film was ever to begin shooting. With Big Trouble already set to go, desperate Columbia executives phoned Universal’s Frank Price to get the necessary paperwork. Price was a former Columbia executive who had been quite fond of the script for Back to the Future during his tenure there. As a result, Universal agreed to trade the Double Indemnity license in exchange for the rights to Back to the Future. Thus, the film finally had a home at Universal.

Executive Sidney Sheinberg made some suggestions to the script, changing Marty’s mother’s name from Meg to Lorraine (the name of his wife, actress Lorraine Gary), to change Brown’s name from Professor Brown to Doc Brown and replace his pet chimpanzee with a dog. Sheinberg also wanted the title changed to Spaceman from Pluto, convinced no successful film ever had “future” in the title.

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He suggested Marty introduce himself as “Darth Vader from the planet Pluto” while dressed as an alien forcing his dad to ask out his mom (rather than “the planet Vulcan“), and that the farmer’s son’s comic book be titled Spaceman from Pluto rather than Space Zombies from Pluto. Appalled by the new title that Sheinberg wanted to impose, Zemeckis asked Spielberg for help. Spielberg subsequently dictated a memo back to Sheinberg, wherein Spielberg convinced him they thought his title was just a joke, thus embarrassing him into dropping the idea. In addition, the original climax was deemed too expensive by Universal executives and was simplified by keeping the plot within Hill Valley and incorporating the clocktower sequence. Spielberg later used the omitted refrigerator and Nevada nuclear site elements in his film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

On review aggregator Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100, the film received an average score of 86/100, which indicates “universal acclaim”, based on 12 reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 96% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on 77 reviews, certifying it “Fresh”, with an average rating of 8.7 out of 10 and the consensus: “Inventive, funny, and breathlessly constructed, Back to the Future is a rousing time-travel adventure with an unforgettable spirit.”

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Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt Back to the Future had similar themes to the films of Frank Capra, especially It’s a Wonderful Life. Ebert commented “[Producer] Steven Spielberg is emulating the great authentic past of Classical Hollywood cinema, who specialized in matching the right director (Robert Zemeckis) with the right project.” He gave the film 3 1/2 out of 4 stars. Janet Maslin of The New York Times believed the film had a balanced storyline: “It’s a cinematic inventing of humor and whimsical tall tales for a long time to come.” Christopher Null, who first saw the film as a teenager, called it “a quintessential 1980s flick that combines science fiction, action, comedy, and romance all into a perfect little package that kids and adults will both devour.” Dave Kehr of Chicago Reader felt Gale and Zemeckis wrote a script that perfectly balanced science fiction, seriousness and humor. Variety praised the performances, arguing Fox and Lloyd imbued Marty and Doc Brown’s friendship with a quality reminiscent of King Arthur and Merlin. BBC News lauded the intricacies of the “outstandingly executed” script, remarking that “nobody says anything that doesn’t become important to the plot later.” Back to the Future appeared on Gene Siskel‘s top ten film list of 1985.

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Time Travel Movies Are Always Brilliant

Author: Big Movie Fan from England
4 June 2002

Time travel movies never disappoint-that is because the concept of time travel is a very interesting one which most people must have thought about at one time or another. What would happen if you went back in time and an innocuous act changed the course of history for better or worse? It’s something to think about.

I won’t reveal any plot details for this movie because it will spoil it for those who haven’t seen it. Let’s just say that Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly ends up back in 1955 where a sequence of events inadvertently orchestrated by Marty threaten his very existence. He is aided by Doc Brown played brilliantly by Christopher Lloyd who tries to get him back to 1985 without causing any damage to the fabric of time.

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The movie is great-and I feel it can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of their individual tastes in film genres. In fact, I find it hard to believe anyone could dislike a film like this. It has action, adventure, plenty of humour and some cool moments. All the actors involved in the movie play their parts great.

Anyone who watches this movie will love it.

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8/10
Author: TheNorthernMonkee from Manchester
17 October 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILERS When you build a time machine, it just has to be a Deloren really. The corrupt car manufacturer’s ultimate advert for his death trap vehicle, “Back to the Future” was your regular 1980s classic. Well written, entertaining to watch and with a killer soundtrack, it’s a film which has managed to survive the test of time. Released midway through one of the most irrelevant decades in history, this Michael J Fox driven piece is great.

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When Dr Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) creates a time machine, he’s made his greatest, and most risky invention. Shot for stealing the plutonium power source, Brown’s invention undertakes it’s first major expedition with young Marty McFly (Fox) behind the wheel. Travelling back thirty years to the 1950s, Marty finds himself in his home town of Hill Valley and in the company of his lovestruck mother (Lea Thompson) and useless father (Crispin Glover). Destroying their entire relationship, Marty manages to completely screw up his entire future. Still, with no way to get home, and a school bully on the prowl, he’s got all the time in the world to fix it.

Perhaps the one set of films that Robert Zemeckis will ever be remembered for, “Back to the Future” and it’s two sequels will forever be remembered as an entertaining piece of cinema. From the opening of the film where Fox glides around the fictional town of Hill Valley to the sound of Huey Lewis’ “Power of Love”, you can tell what decade it is, and yet you continue to watch.

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It might be harsh to really slate the 1980s as much as we do, after all, we did get entertaining films like “Ghostbusters”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Out” and “The Breakfast Club”, but for every one good film, there were so many dire productions. A bit like the current box office climate, you knew that the majority were a disappointing mess, but there would always turn up one rare beauty. “Back to the Future” is one of those.

Led by some straight forward but solid performances, the film just has something about it. The witty notion of the hypocritical mother and her secret youth, that one magnificent scene where Michael J Fox performs “Johnny B Goode” at the school prom and Marvin Berry (Harry Waters Jnr) phones his cousin Chuck, all add together to leave you with a huge grin on your face. It’s an icon for an age, and for once it makes you grateful for the decade.

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Robert Zemeckis has never really found the highs of the “Back to the Future” trilogy (1994’s “Forrest Gump” is his only other major success) since the final part was released in 1990. Ultimately though, there are worse positions to be in. A rare joy in an otherwise dire decade, this film and the continuing parts, was an entertaining piece of cinema which left you happy and content. It’s perfect afternoon viewing, and the one surprise is that it isn’t shown more often.

One of the finest Sci-Fi movies ever

8/10
Author: Philip Van der Veken from Tessenderlo, Belgium
2 August 2005

Even though I’m still convinced that the eighties are one of the worst decades in recent history when it comes to movies and music and even though I never liked Sci-Fi movies, there is one big exception to that rule. In my opinion “Back to the Future” is not only one of the best movies in the genre, it’s also in my list of all time favorite movies.

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When I saw it for the first time, I remember to be blown away by it. But than again, I was only 10 years old, not exactly an age on which you’ve already seen many really good movies to which you can compare another one. But even now, 20 years after its first release and after I’ve seen hundreds of movies, I still like it a lot.

It’s 1985 and Marty McFly is a typical teenager who doesn’t like his parents and who has some problems at school. His best friend is Doc Brown, a weird inventor of all kinds of (useless) machines. But this time he has invented something that is much more interesting. He has created a plutonium-powered time machine based on a DeLorean. But when something goes wrong, Marty is accidentally sent back to 1955, the time in which his parents still were young. Not only has he got to adapt to this entirely new environment, he also has to make sure that nothing is changed, because that might have serious consequences for the future…

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I guess the best reason why this movie works so well and feels so timeless is because they don’t use the time machine to go forward. Instead of showing us the future, which wouldn’t look exactly like it is right now, they have chosen to go back 30 years, a time period which they new very well and could recreate perfectly. If they hadn’t done this, the movie would have felt dated one day and no-one would have liked it because it was far from possible. Another good thing about this movie is the acting. Take for instance Michael J. Fox. Not everything that he has done in his career was very successful, but in this movie he shines. I truly believe that this is one of his best performances ever. The same for Christopher Lloyd. Even though his Dr. Emmett Brown looks like if he could have come out of a cartoon, his acting gives the character something likable and makes you forget about that ‘problem’.

Overall I really liked this movie a lot. It’s one of the finest examples in Sci-Fi movies and I can keep watching it time after time. That’s why I believe that this movie doesn’t deserve a rating lower than 8/10.

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Best ever. Period.

10/10
Author: Mark Hines from USA
22 April 2015

What else needs to be said? Anyone that knows anything about filmmaking knows that this is the best film ever made. Try watching certain movies over and over and see how quickly you get sick of it. This movie is different. The depth and richness of storytelling, the characters, oh my, the characters. Doc Brown is easily one of the best and most memorable on screen characters in any film ever. Biff, Griff, Buford…best on screen bully ever! Compare this movie to other epic movies, such as Star Wars – while those types of movies are great in their own right, Back to the Future is different. There is a warmth and comfort to the way that Bob Gale and Bob Zemekis crafted this screenplay. It’s pure genius. And for all of you fans that always have to mention “plot holes” or “minor flaws” – please make sure you have seen every second of the 25th Anniversary set of the trilogy that has an entire bonus disc, as well as more bonus features and two different commentaries on the main discs.

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Bob Gale is aware of every little detail about his script and talks about it in the commentaries. My true love of this film came as a result of watching all the behind the scenes material – which if you haven’t seen, you must see it if you’re a fan of this movie. It will give you a whole new level of appreciation for this film. As someone that is into filmmaking and a total nerd about directing, cameras, technical details, I can’t get enough of watching and listening to these guys talk about how everything came together just right for this masterpiece to happen. I can’t say enough about this film, its actors and all the people involved in making it. Truly something not to be rivaled and we will probably never see anything close to it ever again.

One Of The Greatest Films Ever Made. An Excellent And Unforgettable Classic.

10/10
Author: jcbutthead86 from United States
23 November 2015

Back To The Future is one greatest films ever made,an excellent and unforgettable classic that combines terrific direction,a wonderful cast,an amazing score and soundtrack,a fantastic script and great special effects. All of those elements make Back To The Future one of the best films of the 1980s that is Popcorn entertainment at it’s best.

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Set in the fictional town of Hill Valley,California,Back To The Future tells the story of teenager Marty McFly(Michael J. Fox). who is asked by his friend eccentric scientist Dr. Emmett Brown(Christopher Lloyd)to help him on experiment a time machine made out of a Delorean car. After an unfortunate incident Marty gets into the time machine and is accidentally transported back to 1955 where he not only meets Dr. Brown but also meets his parents George(Crispin Glover)and Lorraine(Lea Thompson)as teenagers. With the help of Dr. Brown Marty must find a way to get back to the year 1985.

Released in 1985,Back To The Future is a brilliant and entertaining film that was without a doubt the biggest Box Office hit of 1985 grossing over 300 million dollars world wide and is just an instant classic from the moment you watch it and is one of those movies that is the definition of what a blockbuster should be and where everything from the direction,the cast and story work to absolute perfection with no false note or missing beat.

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I don’t think director Robert Zemeckis or the cast knew what they had was something that was special,magical and timeless and can be enjoyed by people of all ages and will continue to be enjoyed by past,present and future generations. The movie is also the first feature of one of the most beloved movie trilogies of all-time and while all three Back To The Future films are classics as a whole the first is still the best. What Back To The Future does so well is that it takes the time travel movie and gives it style and creativity mixing together different movie genres Comedy,SCI-FI,Action,Romance and thrills giving viewers everything but the kitchen sink but the movie never becomes uneven or confusing making Back To The Future one of the best genre mash-up movies I have ever seen. Although there are some serious moments Back To The Future is lighthearted with non-stop fun From beginning to end,Back To The Future has an energy and flow that just never stops and keeps you glued to the screen with relentless pace and excitement that makes the film re-watchable and iconic to this very day.

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The screenplay by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale is incredible and quotable with tons memorable scenes and dialog that are funny done with perfection and fun as well with ingenious style and rapid fire delivery that is wonderful. The Comedy and laughs in BTTF are hilarious and fun with moments that are over the top and great thanks to the actions and reactions of Marty and Doc Brown and the main characters. The SCI-FI scenes in BTTF involving the Delorean are so dazzling and are done with imagination and beauty that will make your jaw drop and it doesn’t matter how many times you see BTTF you will be blown away by the Delorean sequences. There have been many classic movie duos throughout cinema and among the great duos are Marty and Doc. The scenes between Marty and Doc are truly funny with terrific back and forth banter and have some of the best scenes in the film that are unforgettable. While the two are different in personality and are separated by age the two have a friendship that feels genuine and real where you feel that Marty and Doc would have each other’s back at all costs.

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The friendship between Marty and Doc is further cemented in Part II and III where you feel they will be friends forever whether it’s in the future or in the present. Marty and Doc are two amazing and memorable characters that will never be forgotten. The ending of Back To The Future is terrific,thrilling and filled with surprises that will leave viewers laughing and smiling. A fantastic ending.

The cast is wonderful. Michael J. Fox is excellent and funny as Marty McFly,with Fox bringing laughs and charisma to the role. Christopher Lloyd is brilliant as Dr. Emmett Doc Brown,with Lloyd being delightfully over the top and having a fantastic chemistry with Fox. Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover are wonderful as Lorraine and George McFly,Marty’s parents. Thomas F. Wilson is terrific and fun as Biff,a neighborhood bully. James Toklin is great as Mr. Strickland,a hard nosed principal. Claudia Wells(Jennifer),Mark McClure(Dave McFly),Wendie Jo Sperber(Linda McFly),Jeffrey Jay Cohan(Skinhead),Casey Siemaszko(3-D),Billy Zane(Match),George DiCenzo(Sam Baines),Francis Lee McCain(Stella Baines),Harry Waters Jr.(Marvin Berry),Donald Fullilove(Goldie Wilson),Will Hare(Pa Peabody)and Norman Alden(Lou)give good performances as well.

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The direction by Robert Zemeckis is amazing,with Zemeckis always moving the camera while giving the film with great camera angles,pace and atmosphere.

The score by Alan Silvestri is outstanding and one of best scores in movie history,with Silvestri’s score being epic,suspenseful and uplifting. Incredible score,Silvestri. There is also a great soundtrack featuring songs by Huey Lewis And The News(The Power Of Love and Back In Time).

The Special Effects by Industrial,Light and Magic is dazzling and visual stunning and will blow your mind. Great effects,ILM.

In final word,if you love Comedies,SCI-FI,Robert Zemeckis or Films in general,I highly suggest you see Back To The Future,one of the greatest films ever made and an excellent,unforgettable classic that you will watch again and again. Highly Recommended. 10/10.

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Bigger Than Life (1956)

Directed by Nicholas Ray

  Bigger Than Life is an American DeLuxe Color CinemaScope film made in 1956 directed by Nicholas Ray and starring James Mason, who also co-wrote and produced the film, about a school teacher and family man whose life spins out of control upon becoming addicted to cortisone. The film co-stars Barbara Rush as his wife and Walter Matthau as his closest friend, a fellow teacher. Though it was a box-office flop upon its initial release, many modern critics hail it as a masterpiece and brilliant indictment of contemporary attitudes towards mental illness and addiction. In 1963, Jean-Luc Godard named it one of the ten best American sound films ever made.

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Storyline: Schoolteacher and family man Ed Avery, who’s been suffering bouts of severe pain and even blackouts, is hospitalized with what’s diagnosed as a rare inflammation of the arteries. Told by doctors that he probably has only months to live, Ed agrees to an experimental treatment: doses of the hormone cortisone. Ed makes a remarkable recovery, and returns home to his wife, Lou, and their son, Richie. He must keep taking cortisone tablets regularly to prevent a recurrence of his illness. But the “miracle” cure turns into its own nightmare as Ed starts to abuse the tablets, causing him to experience increasingly wild mood swings.

Drugs And The Man

5 February 2006 | by ccrivelli2005 (Rome, Italy) – See all my reviews

Nicholas Ray was one of the greatest directors to come out of Hollywood. His movies are always about something and that something has a cinematic flair that makes the experience thought provoking and thoroughly entertaining.

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Here is Cortisone the excuse for a slap in the face of a society that was getting more complacent and more spoiled with an avalanche of “new” things coming to overwhelm our daily lives. “We’re dull, we’re all dull” tells James Mason to his wife. Barbara Rush is superb as a Donna Reed type with a monster in the house. James Mason, a few years away from Lolita, also produced this rarely seen classic and gives a performance of daring highs. Highly recommended to movie lovers everywhere.

Terrifying

29 March 2006 | by Mark Kinsler (Lancaster, Ohio USA) – See all my reviews

This is an excellent movie. I saw it once, and I never wish to see it again. I grew up in a household like this, only there was never a solution to my father’s mania, depression, and incredible anger.

About all I can say about Mr Mason’s performance, and that of Ms Rush, is that they could have been my parents, and I could have been that kid. It never got to the point where I was offered up like Isaac, but the rest of it was right, right down to the speech where the father condemns all children because they’re ignorant. I’d heard that one. His wife was helpless; they all are.

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I do not know where the screenwriters got their dialog, but I hope they didn’t learn it the way I did. As it happened, I was terrified and transfixed while watching it, only calming down after the father realized that something was wrong, and vowed to correct it, and there was a means of correcting it.

When the movie was over–I don’t know if I watched it in the theater or on TV–I had to go home, where there was still rage, and no solution to it. I would have been nine years old.

There was a time that I wanted my parents to see that movie, in the hope that they’d realize that this was how they acted, and stop it.

It never happened. They were divorced years later. My father was angry and crazy right up to the day he died three years ago. My mother, in her nursing home in Cleveland, maintains that I must be making it all up.

M Kinsler

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Best Manic Depressive portrayal

10/10
Author: HEFILM from French Polynesia
5 February 2006

A fast moving gutsy view of what happens within a family when one member becomes manic, in this case from prescription drug addiction/ abuse. A subject that only became widely talked about years and years after this groung breaking film. Pointed out as the last film director Ray made that was set in “modern” times. The end of a cycle for him and one that was personal to Ray who struggled with addictions and troubled home life.

There are two other reviewers who need a bit of a lashing. One innocently enough thinks that Barbara Rush, is Barbara Bel Geddes. Another one thinks the situation of the home craziness being kept at home is wrong and unreal of dated. Sorry Charlie, you’ve got some of your facts about the plot wrong and you’ve never seen this kind of craziness.

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I’ve personally seen this kind of Manic behavior in real life and this is one of the best, probably the best representation of it ever on the screen, including the religious mania aspects. If you find these aspects funny, they are in their horrible absurdity, very true to the way these manias attach themselves to Manic Depressive behavior. This movie mostly concentrates on the manic side of it.

Definitely worth seeing on the big screen or in widescreen. James Mason is a good as he ever was, and he was awfully good many times. This is a great movie on many levels and his performance is one of the best put on film. What restraints were forced on the movie by the era it was made in, actually make it better and more scary than a film which can show vomiting and other drug side effects. This is psychologically horrifying. This emotional craziness is grim enough on its own and makes it all about the drama of the situation rather than the hype and tabloid parts.

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The scenes with the son dealing with his own father’s behavior are especially unsettling and moving. The whole cast is good. Matthau fans will find him perhaps not getting to show all he can do here,but he’s good as the buddy character.

Pretty much everything works in this film, you can pull symbols out of it if you want, there are plenty to find, but it plays out as fascinating reality.

This films reputation is good, but it needs to be more widely seen.

Great 1950s Subversive Cinema!

Author: Skot Christopherson from San Francisco, CA
2 May 2000

This film, much like the melodramas of Douglas Sirk, has far more going on than meets the eye. James Mason’s character, after getting whacked out of Cortizone (a “Miracle Drug”) indeed becomes hysterical and abusive. But he was made ill in the first place by the strain caused his intensely driven lifestyle, where he kept two jobs to finance his family’s social and financial ascent.

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What the viewer has to watch for is what his character says during his cortizone-induced delusions. His criticisms of his wife, kid, PTA and society in general are over-the-top, but essentially valid. It’s a classic narrative device: by allowing a main character a way out of societal responsibility and place (In this case, being bombed on Cortizone), he is allowed to comment on and criticize American society directly without actually threatening the status quo. and in the case of 1950s America, that’s a monolithic status quo to criticize.

Bigger Than Life was extremely controversial upon its release, and it was not a financial success. Mason, who produced the film as well as starring in it, blamed its failure on its use of the then-novel widescreen CinemaScope format. American critics panned the film, considering it melodramatic and heavyhanded. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called it tedious, “dismal”, and “more pitiful than terrifying to watch”.

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However, the film was popular with critics at the influential magazine Cahiers du cinéma. Jean-Luc Godard called it one of the ten best American sound films. Likewise, François Truffaut praised the film, noting the “intelligent, subtle” script, the “extraordinary precision” of Mason’s performance, and the beauty of the film’s CinemaScope photography.

Modern critics have pointed out Ray’s use of widescreen cinematography to depict the interior spaces of a family drama, rather than the open vistas typically associated with the format, as well as his use of extreme close-ups in portraying the main character’s psychosis and megalomania. The film is also recognized for its multi-layered examination of the American nuclear family in the Eisenhower era.

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While the film can be read as a straightforward exposé on medical malpractice and the overuse of prescription drugs in modern American society, it has also been seen as a critique of consumerism, the male-dominated traditional family structure, and the claustrophobic conformism of suburban life. Truffaut saw Ed’s drug-influenced speech to the parents of the parent-teacher association as having fascist overtones. The film has also been interpreted as an examination of masculinity and a leftist critique of the low salaries of public school teachers in the United States.

Could have been a chiller

6/10
Author: Igenlode Wordsmith from England
10 May 2008

I finally caught up with this film at the National Film Theatre after missing it at least twice on late-night television broadcasts — and I suppose by that point I had inflated expectations. But I’m afraid I actually felt rather let down.

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Praised for its ‘taut’ 95-minute length and lauded as a ‘searing critique’ of 1950s American middle-class society, “Bigger than Life” certainly wasn’t supposed to be boring; and it does indeed have a tense psychotic climax near the end. It did seem to take an awfully long time to get there, though, and judging by overheard conversation on the way out, the snoring from the row behind, and the surreptitious rearrangements of limbs around me in the hot auditorium, I wasn’t the only one to feel that way…

The film came across as falling between two stools; I wasn’t certain if it was being presented as a realistic social drama or an exploitation horror/ thriller. Considered in the latter light, it would obviously carry an awful lot of tedious excess baggage, but as a social/medical exposé it seems massively overwrought, and the ending (studio-imposed?) sits ill with either. Moral issues of quality of life — is it better to lose the patient physically or mentally? — appear to be flirted with briefly and then abandoned in favour of all-out psycho thrills.

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Under a different director, the material might have made for a good horror movie. With a different treatment I can see it as a ‘social issues’ film in the old style, like “The Black Legion” or “Dead End” (both of which are also effective thrillers in their own right)… and I can just about grasp how it has been portrayed as a black-comedy satire on an American family stereotype. But despite the presence of the talented James Mason (often looking bizarrely flattened as the film attempted to contort him into an ultra-widescreen frame that I found frankly off-putting — perhaps the weird visual constructions were a deliberate attempt to set the viewers’ world on edge?) I couldn’t feel that the existing picture was really satisfactory in any of these fields, let alone in a theoretical synthesis of all of them.

I’d say that its most effective strand is probably in the treatment of the final weekend as straight-out chiller tension in the style of Kubrick’s “The Shining”, as the central character becomes increasingly irrational. (Kubrick’s version in particular, since his adaptation shares the same issue in that it’s hard to keep any audience sympathy for a character acting weirdly when you can’t see inside his head — he becomes pure monster, losing a potential dimension thereby.)

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Elsewhere, there seem to be too many elements tossed into the mix and then apparently abandoned: Ed’s taxi work, the attractive young teacher, money issues (I’m sure there’s supposed to be some sub-plot about the orange dress, but whatever that strand is boiling up to, it never appears on-screen), forging prescriptions, school and parent politics — the film keeps on throwing fresh strands in with a scattergun effect, but doesn’t tie them together. Maybe it’s realism, in that real life doesn’t match up to the neat significance of Chekhov’s first-act gun: but as drama it left me feeling pulled through a hedge backwards.

Cape Fear (1991 )

The film tells the story of a convicted rapist who, using mostly his newfound knowledge of the law and its numerous loopholes, seeks vengeance against a former public defender whom he blames for his 14-year imprisonment due to purposefully faulty defense tactics used during his trial.

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Cape Fear marks the seventh of eight collaborations between Scorsese and De Niro, the others being Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), New York, New York (1977), Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983), Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995).

The film was adapted by Wesley Strick from the original screenplay by James R. Webb, which was an adaptation from the novel The Executioners by John D. MacDonald.

It was originally developed by Steven Spielberg, who eventually decided it was too violent and traded it to Scorsese to get back Schindler’s List, which Scorsese had decided not to make. Spielberg stayed on as a producer, through his Amblin Entertainment, but chose not to be credited personally on the finished film.

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Principal Photography began on November 19, 1990. Filming took place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where the Bowden House & other locations in the area were filmed. The climactic sequence out on the swamp was filmed at John U. Lloyd State Park at Hollywood, Florida. Due to a tropical storm that hit the area where the set was at, the crew had to wait four days for the storm to stop. A 90-foot soundstage was also used to film the boat sequences with the actors in it. To create the storm, a giant fan was used to make the wind blow hard. They also make their own rain that was used. It took four weeks to capture all the special effects & the action sequences on film. After 17 weeks, filming was completed on March 17, 1991.

It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Robert De Niro, who lost to Anthony Hopkins for The Silence of the Lambs) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Juliette Lewis, who lost to Mercedes Ruehl for The Fisher King).

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Nick Nolte is taller than Robert De Niro, but for the movie, Nolte lost weight and De Niro developed muscles until De Niro appeared to be the stronger man. De Niro reportedly took his body fat down to four percent. De Niro also paid a doctor $20,000 to grind down his teeth for the role to give the character a more menacing look.

Although a remake of the original Cape Fear, Scorsese’s update is also greatly influenced by another Mitchum-starring film, The Night of the Hunter, in which a religiously fanatical criminal has tattoos on his hands reading “Love and Hate”; Cady’s body is tattooed with various biblical verses such as “vengeance is mine saith the Lord”, and he tells Sam to read the Book of Job (in which the sins of the father will be visited upon the wife and daughter) and so on. Mirroring the long journey downriver in The Night of the Hunter as Mitchum follows the children is the voyage down Cape Fear River in the houseboat in Cape Fear.

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The work of Alfred Hitchcock was also influential on the style of Cape Fear. As with the 1962 film version, where director J. Lee Thompson specifically acknowledged Hitchcock’s influence, strove to use Hitchcock’s style, and had Bernard Hermann write the score, Scorsese made his version in the Hitchcock manner, especially through the use of unusual camera angles, lighting and editing techniques. Additionally, Scorsese’s version has opening credits designed by regular Hitchcock collaborator Saul Bass and the link to Hitchcock is cemented by the reuse of the original score by Bernard Herrmann, albeit reworked by Elmer Bernstein. The scene where Cady murders with the piano wire while dressed as the maid Graciella also recalls Hitchcock, specifically the psychosexual crossdressing in female clothing which forms a core theme of Hitchcock’s Psycho (although here Cady merely uses the woman’s clothing as a deceptive disguise).

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Cady’s character has educated himself while in prison regarding not just legal procedures, but also literature. In the scene where he lures Danielle to the drama theatre, he references Henry Miller’s trilogy Nexus, Sexus, and Plexus, and later gives her a copy of one of these novels, which for Cady represent his point of view that the daughter is being controlled by her parents and should liberate herself. Danielle is reading Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel and Cady is able to show his familiarity with its themes. Furthermore, during the scene in which Cady is beaten by three men hired by Kersek on Sam’s behalf to put Cady in the hospital, he quotes a 17th-century writer, and in the final scenes on the house boat, Cady frequently refers to the Ninth Circle of Hell, representing Treachery – a concept derived from Dante‘s Divine Comedy, specifically from Dante’s Inferno.

 

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The Great Un-American Classic!

30 April 2005 | by Dan1863Sickles (Troy, NY) – See all my reviews

This brutal, violent and suspenseful thriller combines a scorching performance by Robert Deniro, sumptuous location photography, and a powerful script that raises disturbing questions about religion, sex, and class distinctions in our so-called classless society.

At first glance Max Cady seems to be just another creep, a rapist and convict out to torment and humiliate a nice, upper-middle class family. “He’s an ex-con,” yuppie lawyer Sam Bowden smugly says, with fatuous self-satisfaction. But gradually it becomes apparent that things are not what they seem. The wholesome, “superior” middle class family is rotten with corruption, while the vicious, “psychotic” ex-con is a man of extraordinary courage, intelligence, and spiritual strength.

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Even his most horrible acts of violence are connected to the corrupt and self-serving behavior of his “betters.” What makes this movie work so well is that director Martin Scorsese breaks away from his usual mean streets milieu. If Max Cady had been an Italian wise guy, the movie would have made excuses for him. The outcome would have been predictable. But here the great director remains an impartial observer of criminal behavior, rather than a sentimental apologist for ethnic violence. (As in GANGS OF NEW YORK.) Max Cady is pure evil, but he speaks the truth about the evil of allowing class distinctions to flourish in a so-called “democracy.” When it came out, this movie was reviled by critics, especially by effete yuppies like Terence Rafferty at GQ and VANITY FAIR. Most of them whined about the violence, but it was painfully clear that what really disturbed them was the possibility that an ugly ex-con really could be smarter, tougher, and more virtuous than a spoiled yuppie lawyer.

Shocking!!!

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Not Scorcese’s best, but pretty good!

8/10
Author: Duncan Gowers from London, United Kingdom
12 September 2000

Martin Scorcese’s filmography as director is one of the most accomplished in modern film history. While Cape Fear can’t even hold a candle next to “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas”, it is still a fabulous remake of the 1962 noir classic and it keeps the viewer on the edge right through until the closing credits.

Robert De Niro (in yet another brilliant teaming with Scorcese behind the camera) plays Max Cady, a psychopathic rapist who was sent to jail 14 years earlier for such crimes. He leaves prison with vengeance. Not for his victims or his prosecutor, but his defence councillor, Sam J. Bowden, played by Nick Nolte. It seems Bowden did not defend Cady to the best of his ability. Cady knows this and wants some payback.

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Cady’s initial return into Bowden’s life could not have come at a worse time. Bowden has been forced to move his family to Florida after his infidelities threatened his marriage and career. His wife is distrustful and worst of all, Bowden is on the verge of beginning another affair with a female workmate. Added to that, his daughter is at the difficult age of 15.

Almost by ozmosis, Cady understands these problems in the Bowden household and acts on them. He begins terrorising Bowden and his whole family, taking it from one extreme to the next.

What makes Cape Fear such a good film is the rapidly increasing sense of claustrophobia. Scorcese makes a point of using almost only close up shots towards the end of the film. It is a great touch that makes the viewer that much more scared as the film goes on.

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Along with that, Robert De Niro is superb as Cady. Only occasionally does the role slip into parody. Mostly he is expertly evil.

Nick Nolte is good if not great, the same for Jessica Lange as Leigh Bowden. It seems as if they were void of any great lines in this film, which is unfortunate given their immense talent. Julliette Lewis is absolutely brilliant as the young daughter, Danielle. She slips effortlessly between curious sexual awakenings, rebellious teen and straight thinking woman. Add in small roles for Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck (the leads of the 1962 version) and you have a great ensemble cast.

So not the best Scorcese film ever, but some tight editing, great camerawork, a haunting theme and devilishly over-the-top acting help make this a frighteningly fun movie to watch. Strongly recommended

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Mortal Sins

Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
7 April 2004

The climaxes are emblematic of the differences between Scorcese’s version and the original. In 1962, Mitchum was ordinary, ironic, sneaky. Peck was Peck. And the climax was quiet. Crickets chirped. There was no wind. Bodies crept around in black shadows or splashed together in shallow water. In this one, Nolte is a lawyer who has broken the code and DeNiro is his nemesis, tatooed, obscene, half his face burned off, a raving maniac. Not sinister, just absolutely loco. And the confrontation is situated in a howling gale, earsplitting noise, rushing rapids, the groan of fiberglass hull splitting on rocks, blood all over the place.

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I don’t know that one version is in any objective sense better than the other, although I vastly prefer the earlier version. I liked Mitchum’s character better. He was quite ordinary in an extraordinary way. But from the beginning DeNiro seems to overplay the role. His accent, redolent of grits and red-eye gravy, seems to sit uncomfortably on him (maybe he’s played in too many New York movies), whereas Mitchum’s sly Southern drawl comes out oh so naturally. And that sinister grin of Mitchum’s is worth a dozen lessons at the Actor’s Studio.

But there is one scene in which DeNiro outdoes Mitchum in terms of sheer impact. It’s when the wrecked houseboat is being swept out into the raging river with DeNiro shackled to a stanchion about to be drowned. DeNiro launches into this fit of screaming nonsense and singing gibberish hymns, insane in a way you’ll never be. It’s an explosive performance.

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Juliette Lewis is remarkable too. Her “umms” and “ahhs” and other hesitations fit her barely nubile personality exactly. Her scene with DeNiro in the mock Schwarzwald of the high school auditorium is impossible not to admire. Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange turn in professional performances, as do the other principal actors.

I’m not sure why I like the earlier version better. Maybe because it was so awesomely simple a story compared to this one. There was good and there was evil. We all know the world doesn’t work that way, but it’s fascinating to watch a simple-minded tale being spun out like a well-told fairy story. This one invites us to think about things. Unlike Lori Martin in 1962, Juliette Lewis gets a temporary case of the hots for the well-read and manipulative ex-con. And unlike Peck in 1962, Nolte has committed sins. He held back information that might have helped his client, DeNiro, because he was convinced that DeNiro was guilty and should be put away. I can’t figure out what Jessica Lange or the dog did, but everybody has to be redeemed anyway because of original sin. Scorcese’s Catholicism may be showing.

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Overall, this is flashier in every respect than the original — more guns, more blood, more “force majeur” — and maybe that’s part of the problem. At times it looks as much like pandering to an audience of kids raised on MTV’s quick cuts and sexy bodies and on Sly Stallone’s action movies. I mean that at times it felt like the movie was talking down to the audience.

Still, it’s an interesting movie in its own right. Not badly done. But I wish they’d stop pushing out remakes of classics. Leave well enough alone because otherwise you’re liable to find yourself in Dante’s Purgatorio.

Scorsese on Elm Street….

4/10
Author: mcfly-31 from anaheim, ca
6 June 2009

I think we all begin a lot of reviews with, “This could’ve made a GREAT movie.” A demented ex-con freshly sprung, a tidy suburban family his target. Revenge, retribution, manipulation. Marty’s usual laying on of the Karo syrup. But unfortunately somewhere in Universal’s high-rise a memorandum came down: everyone ham it up.

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Nolte only speaks with eyebrows raised, Lange bitches her way through cigarettes, Lewis “Ohmagod’s!” her way though her scenes, and Bobby D…well, he’s on a whole other magic carpet. Affecting some sort of Cajun/Huckleberry Hound accent hybrid, he chomps fat cigars and cackles at random atrocities such as “Problem Child”. And I want you to imagine the accent mentioned above. Now imagine it spouting brain-clanging religious rhetoric at top volume like he swallowed six bibles, and you have De Niro’s schtick here. Most distracting of all, though, is his most OVERDONE use of the “De Niro face” he’s so lampooned for. Eyes squinting, forehead crinkled, lips curled. Crimany, Bob, you looked like Plastic Man.

The story apparently began off-screen 14 years earlier, when Nolte was unable to spare De Niro time in the bighouse for various assaults. Upon release, he feels Nolte’s misrep of him back then warrants the terrorizing of he and his kin.

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And we’re supposed to give De Niro’s character a slight pass because Nolte withheld information that might’ve shortened his sentence. De Niro being one of these criminals who, despite being guilty of unspeakable acts, feels his lack of freedom justifies continuing such acts on the outside. Mmm-kay.

He goes after Notle’s near-mistress (in a scene some may want to turn away from), his wife, his daughter, the family dog, ya know. Which is one of the shortcomings of Wesley Strick’s screenplay: utter predictability. As each of De Niro’s harassments becomes more gruesome, you can pretty much call the rest of the action before it happens. Strick isn’t to be totally discredited, as he manages a few compelling dialogue-driven moments (De Niro and Lewis’ seedy exchange in an empty theater is the film’s best scene), but mostly it’s all over-cranked. Scorsese’s cartoonish photographic approach comes off as forced, not to mention the HORRIBLY outdated re-worked Bernard Hermann score (I kept waiting for the Wolf Man to show up with a genetically enlarged tarantula).

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Thus we arrive at the comedic portion of the flick. Unintentionally comedic, that is. You know those scenes where something graphically horrific is happening, but you can’t help but snicker out of sight of others? You’ll do it here. Nolte and Lange squawking about infidelity, De Niro’s thumb-flirting, he cross-dressing, and a kitchen slip on a certain substance that has to be seen to believed. And Bob’s infernal, incessant, CONSTANT, mind-damaging, no-end-in sight blowhard ramblings of all the “philosophy” he disovered in prison. I wanted him killed to shut him up more than to save this annoying family.

I always hate to borrow thoughts from other reviewers, but here it’s necessary. This really *is* Scorsese’s version of Freddy Krueger. The manner in which De Niro relishes, speaks, stalks, withstands pain, right down to his one-liners, is vintage Freddy. Upon being scalded by a pot of thrown water: “You trying’ to offer sumpin’ hot?” Please. And that’s just one example.

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Unless you were a fan of the original 1962 flick and want a thrill out of seeing Balsam, Peck, and Mitchum nearly 30 years later (or want a serious head-shaking film experience), avoid a trip to the Cape.

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The Poseidon Adventure (1972 )

Directed by Ronald Neame

Cinematography by

Harold E. Stine

The plot centers on the SS Poseidon, an aged luxury liner on her final voyage from New York City to Athens before being sent to the scrapyard. On New Year’s Eve, she is overturned by a rogue wave. Passengers and crew are trapped inside, and a rebellious preacher attempts to lead a small group of survivors to safety.

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Not a dull moment in this timeless adventure.

15 May 2004 | by karen_g32 (Perry, NY) – See all my reviews

It is hard to believe this movie was made over 30 years ago. Don’t let the fact that it was made in 1972 influence your decision to see it. It is as exciting today as it was then. I never miss a chance to see it, as I pick up new details each time. The scene when the cruise ship turns over is especially awesome. The actors are well cast. There is just a sprinkling of comedy to take the edge off the drama. Gene Hackman plays his part well. I have never been disappointed by this actor. The main characters compliment each other well. They are all familiar faces, but they become the people they are playing. Hollywood has not remade this movie because they can’t improve on it.

The Best Natural Disaster Film

8/10
Author: AVES-2 from Manchester, NH
3 April 2000

The Poseidon Adventure is one of those movies I have seen at least once a year as long as I have been alive.

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I lived in Maine when I was a kid and we loved our natural disaster flicks. Of all the great disaster movies from the 70s, this has got to be the best one. Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelly Winters, Roddy McDowall, Leslie Neilson, and the list goes on.

The basic plot goes like this. The Poseidon is a cruise ship out for its last voyage and it is New Year’s Eve. The guests are all celebrating while deep beneath the ocean’s surface an earthquake is happening. The earthquake sets off a huge tsunami and the ship is knocked upside down. In order to be saved, a small group of people heads for the engine room at the bottom (make that top, since the ship is upside down) of the ship. At first, the ocean claims hundreds of the passengers until they are whittled down to about 10 people left. From here there are plenty of tense moments and a power struggle for control of the survivors. Typical disaster movie fare but done rather well.

This movie is a great main event for a disaster film weekend.

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Irwin Allen had been an extremely successful television producer during the 1960s but had a hard time making the break into feature films. Upon coming across the book, Allen immediately secured the rights and financing from 20th Century Fox to produce and distribute the film version. Stirling Silliphant and Wendell Mayes co-wrote the screenplay, removing some of the novel’s more unsavory scenes, including one where Pamela Sue Martin’s character Susan is raped in the aftermath of the capsizing, the sweeping away and loss of her brother Robin in a panicked crew rush (his fate is never known) and the seductive behavior of Linda Rogo toward the Reverend Scott. The writers concentrated on just a few characters, making them more sympathetic. In the novel almost all the characters were deeply flawed and in most cases unlikeable.

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A budget of $4.7 million was set, but on the eve of production the studio removed production support, the reasoning being that audiences were moving away from big-budget extravaganzas in favor of gritty, realistic, and cynical fare. Fox was also heavily in debt as a result of having produced several huge musical productions, most of which failed at the box office. Allen managed to get two wealthy friends to guarantee half the funding with their own money. The studio still had one stipulation, that the director be of its selection. Veteran British director Ronald Neame, who had directed the critically acclaimed The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie and Scrooge, was then selected.

The film was shot mostly in sequence to give the cast the feeling of actually going through the adversity of the characters. The cast reportedly got along very well. The two main characters, Scott and Rogo, were portrayed to the hilt by Hackman and Borgnine.

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In an interview many years later, Neame would comment that he let them loose a bit too much and they both “really chewed the scenery”, a theatrical term which denotes overly dramatic acting. Shelley Winters gave one of her very best performances as Mrs. Rosen, a role that would bring her great praise. She even performed her own underwater stunts swimming for extended periods.

Both in the book and film, the Poseidon itself was closely based on the Queen Mary and many early scenes were shot aboard the actual ship, permanently moored as a floating tourist attraction in Long Beach. The sets built to simulate the capsized liner were designed as closely to the actual ship’s design as possible. For the capsizing sequence, a full-size dining room was designed by Art Director William Creber in such a way that it could be re-dressed to appear upside down.

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Built on Stage 6 on the Fox lot, it was also designed to be lifted by large forklifts to simulate the ship being drawn into the giant wave. The set would be lifted to a 30-degree incline, allowing a convincing slide for actors and stunt performers. This was enhanced by tilting the camera in the opposite direction to exaggerate the effect. Once filming for the first half of the scene was completed, the set was completely redressed with tables being bolted to the inverted “floor” which had begun as the ceiling. Skylights with special padding for stuntmen to fall through were then built on the inverted “ceiling”, which began the scene as the dining salon deck. Other sets like the engine room, kitchen, and barber shop were built inverted.

In order to give the movie a visual feel for being on the open ocean, a special double mount was built for the cameras used, moving up and down and side to side. This was subtly done throughout the film both before and after the capsizing which gave the subliminal effect of rocking back and forth to the audience.

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For scenes with more action such as the opening sequence on the bridge the actors were coached to lean in the opposite direction of the camera tilt for more effect.

The scene of the tidal wave striking the ship was all done with practical effects with thousands of gallons of water and a large model. In order to convincingly shoot the ship turning over in the ocean Special Effects head L. B. Abbott obtained blue prints for the Queen Mary in 1/48th scale and based on this built a scale model at a cost of $35,000 which was 21 feet long and weighed several tons. The ship had working lights rigged all throughout and was attached to a mechanical mount below the water to control the movements of the ship as it turned on it side, struggled to right itself, then fully capsized.

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The scene was shot in one of the largest water tanks available at the time, measuring 32 feet, with two large 1,200-gallon dump tanks built above it. The tanks were then tilted into the main tank creating the wave effect. The cameras filming the scene were run at seven times normal speed to achieve the effect of a huge amount of water hitting the ship. When run at normal speed the slow motion effect simulated a much larger scale to the action. The scene where Captain Harrison (Leslie Nielsen) looks out over the ocean and sees the approaching wave was actually a shot of the high surf at Malibu and also filmed in slow motion. The model was then filmed from below fully capsized for several more scenes showing explosions blowing out of the funnels as the boilers blew and the ship settled deeper into the sea. The sequence still convincingly holds up today even though it was filmed more than 40 years ago and with no digital effects.

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The model of the ship was used in several other productions over the years, including a television film produced by Allen entitled “Adventures of the Queen”. That film was a pilot for a never picked-up series starring David Hedison, with whom Allen had worked on the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea television series, which allowed him to make use of stock footage from The Poseidon Adventure as well. It was also re-dressed for a Titanic television film before being donated to the Los Angeles Maritime Museum in San Pedro, where it is presently located.

The #1 70s disaster movie that started it all

9/10
Author: Casey-52 from DVD Drive-In
15 August 2000

The 1970’s were the heyday of disaster films and this was one of the better ones. An overacting all-star cast graced the screen in all of them. THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE was the very first big-budget moneymaker that spawned a whole slew of knock-offs involving tidal waves, fires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and volcanoes. It is also arguably the best. Producer Irwin Allen was the mastermind behind most of them, known for spending millions of dollars on special effects and his big-name stars.

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A simple plot: a tidal wave knocks a ship upside down and a handful of survivors have to climb to the bottom of the ship at the surface before the ship sinks. They are led by a fanatical preacher (Gene Hackman) who conflicts with an ex-cop (Ernest Borgnine) and his ex-hooker wife (Stella Stevens). Jack Albertson (WILLY WONKA) and Shelley Winters are an elderly Jewish couple who are on their way to see their new grandchild. Pamela Sue Martin (TV’s Nancy Drew) and Eric Shea (like Bobby Brady, but more annoying) are brother and sister on their way to meet their parents. Roddy McDowall (a fantastic actor) is wasted as a ship hand who dies rather quick. Red Buttons (PETE’S DRAGON) is an elderly gentleman who helps the ship’s lounge singer (Carol Lynley) retain her sanity. Arthur O’Connell is a strict reverend who refuses to go along with Hackman. Leslie Nielsen makes a cameo as the ship’s captain who dies during the tidal wave.

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The cast really isn’t very important, it’s the special effects and on-going tension that makes the film so much fun. I absolutely love the claustrophobic and wet feeling that is so important to the execution of the film. While a lot of the acting hasn’t aged well (Shelley Winters, Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine are especially guilty of overacting!), the special effects aren’t too cheesy and the entire set of the ship is wonderfully well-made, still standing as an achievement on its own. Lots of unintentional humor abounds (the obese Shelley Winters swimming underwater, displaying her underpants clinging to her bulbous buttocks), which makes the viewing experience all the more enjoyable. The theme song, “The Morning After”, won an Oscar and is rather lightweight, but highly listenable.

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE definitely does have some twists and turns that surprise the viewer (not everyone gets out alive) and holds the audience’s attention throughout the entire thing, even though things do get a little soap opera-ish at times. This makes a great double bill with THE TOWERING INFERNO, which I find a better picture, but POSEIDON is a very fun viewing and is, if anything, a great movie to watch if you have 2 hours to kill.

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Excellent Hollywood Hokum Afloat

Author: FilmFlaneur from London
5 December 2003

First the bad news – Irwin Allen’s film is full of overacting, stereotyped characters, cheesy 1970s’ décor and allegorical content, and at times is hard to sit through with a straight face. The good news is that it is still hugely entertaining, remembered fondly by many viewers over two decades after it was first released, when it gained two Academy Awards (music and special effects). On its own terms, it is a film which remains highly successful, the sort of Hollywood product at which it is easy to sneer but compulsively watchable once started.

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Allen’s surefooted career began with another Oscar (that for the 1953 documentary The Sea Around Us), before he graduated onto the more profitable world of fantasy. The Lost World (1960), was followed by Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (1961) and Five Weeks In A Balloon (1962). He really found his stride with a series of now-cult TV shows like Lost In Space, Time Tunnel, Land Of The Giants, and so on. The Poseidon Adventure, which marked his return to the big screen, is credited by some as marking the start of the disaster-film boom, a slew of titles such as turkeys like Allen’s own The Swarm (1978) and co-director Neame’s Meteor (1979), as well as what is now seen as the finest achievement of the genre, The Towering Inferno (1974). Arguably Allen also helped kill off the cycle he helped start, as those who have sat through the appalling Beyond The Poseidon Adventure (1979), in which a bored Michael Caine reworks the original, can testify.

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Chief among the cast here is Gene Hackman, who plays the non-nonsense Reverend Scott. His own brand of muscular Christianity has caused him to be exiled by the church. Terming himself “angry, rebellious, critical and a renegade” Scott has no time for the meek of his flock, as is evident from his very first line in the film “Get down on your knees and pray God for help? Garbage!” He wants “winners, not quitters!” and, outside of disaster, it is the driven nature of his religious conviction that propels much of the film’s narrative. As events will prove, Scott’s self-help philosophy is just what is needed, although Hackman is occasionally guilty of chewing the scenery to show it, bringing little of the acting class he exhibited in the recent French Connection (1971). Along with the polo-necked reverend are a range of characters introduced quickly in scenes reminiscent of TV’s later The Love Boat: a gruff and bitter cop named Rogo (Ernest Borgnine), travelling with his wife the former prostitute Linda (Stella Stevens), an elderly Jewish couple the Rosens (Jack Albertson and Shelley Winters), a teenage girl and her young brother (Pamela Sue Martin and Eric Shea, a juvenile role parodied memorably in Airplane!), pop singer Nonnie (Carol Lynley), and Acres, a conveniently knowledgeable crewman (Roddy MacDowell).

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There’s also Martin, perhaps the most interesting supporting character, one who perhaps “has been a bachelor too long” – but who nevertheless strikes up a pathetic relationship with the shell-shocked Nonnie. In a film without a token black face to represent other minorities, and whilst Martin fondly considers marriage, he is instantly recognisable as a coded gay – a role which, in different times, would surely have been made more explicit.

Allen’s films are noticeable in that they often include strong religious or quasi-religious allegories. Thus the plagues of Egypt hover over The Swarm, shades of the Tower of Babel rise up in The Towering Inferno, and the film Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea asserts the truth of prophecy and revelation. Poseidon is the most explicit of this group, offering a sort of Pilgrim’s Progress, complete with its own version of earthly travails or hell, even including a final ascension of the chosen ones to heaven. For Allen, the disaster genre came complete with worldly ordeals to be borne with the possibility of final salvation, a narrative frame repeated from project to project. Convinced by providence, one can never imagine him making a film with an open-ended conclusion such as Hitchcock gave The Birds.

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The Poseidon is more than just a boat; it is a ship of some 1400 souls, a human world turned upside down. Transformed from a luxury liner to an environment full of torment, flames and death, though which the principals have to make stark moral choices, it is this landscape that makes the film so compulsive. Beginning with a climb up a gigantic Christmas tree as the first step to saving themselves, the main movement of the film ends with light beaming in through the opening of the ship’s ‘sky’, down onto Rogo’s now-believing, ecstatic face. Between times the assorted characters battling to survive have chosen between the words of the Purser (who urges survivors to stay put) or the Reverend Scott’s plan to work their way towards the bottom of the inverted ship. A case of God over mammon perhaps, for those who remain behind are quickly punished in a flood of almost biblical proportions. Scott has clearly found the right path, although it is hard for us to forgive his slowly closing the door on those drowning souls he abandons. At the end of the film this controversial cleric appears to abjure God entirely (“leave us alone!”) in a death scene strongly suggestive of crucifixion and hellfire.

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As others have rightly observed, where other directors like William Castle “used gimmicks implanted in theatres to increase the cheesy fun of his pictures… Allen made the movies themselves the gimmick.” This is noticeably true of The Poseidon Adventure, and the recreation of the stricken vessel is still impressive today. (The scene in the vertical shaft, where Acres meets his end, might easily have inspired a similar one in Alien: Resurrection, 1997.) Amidst the flooding deck ways Allen even manages a couple of truly surreal moments, as when the boy investigates the topsy-turvy barbershop, or the mysteries of the ship’s urinals.

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Generally the Oscar for special effects still seems well earned, although there’s surely a glaring mistake in the representation of the 90-foot wave bearing down on the ship, which appears to be breaking before impact! Cultists will enjoy the sight of serious Leslie Nielsen as the captain of the doomed liner, while some will regret that more is not seen of ex-Playboy playmate Stella Stevens, whose flimsy clothes remain stubbornly intact and opaque throughout each ordeal. Borgnine is, well, Borgnine and provides a suitable down-to-earth foil to Hackman’s driving optimism. Shelley Winters, who put on pounds of weight for the film and gained an Oscar nomination for her pains, is less impressive, although playing half of the self-absorbed Jewish couple was an uninspiring part.

Caveats aside, this is still an entertaining enough cinematic vessel to wonder around in and while away an hour or so, and there are surely much worse films out there with higher reputations. The DVD is cheap and can be recommended, although a special edition is sorely needed..

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The Classic: Accept No Substitutes

7/10
Author: ArchAngel Michael from Sword Of The Protector
21 November 2015

Spoilers Ahead:

This is the movie that really made Irwin Allen. He had been dominating television with Lost In Space, Time Tunnel and Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea. The cast is the star of this move; admittedly, the special effects are shaky compared to the remake. But again, as in the original Omega Man, we see that character development and a good script beats effects. Borgnine never gave a better performance in his life: here as Rogo, a policeman married to a prostitute with a big chip on his shoulder about it. Hackman is quite young here as an Iconoclastic preacher very much the personification of the Counterculture that is intensely strong outside the theater right now. Like Dirty Harry, another anti-Establishment Antihero, Hackman defies authority with deep, obvious contempt, pronouncing the ship steward an ‘idiot.’ This culminates in his verbal assault upon the Deity, at the end, with his recriminations about the suffering that his group is enduring.

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Cool Hand Luke, Harry and this preacher leave little doubt what time period this was made during. The movie has little exposition before the wave hits. While the outside effects of the wave are shaky, the inside ‘upside down world’ still looks good after all these years. The tour of the kitchen with burned up people inside remains creepy.

The supporting cast is excellent with McDowell, Albertson, Winters and Buttons. There is a real heartbreaking scene with Winters that shocked audiences when it was released but it adds to the realism of the ascent up towards the engine room. Rogo and Hackman are constantly fighting all the way until the end.

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You see, again, as in the Towering Inferno, that Allen is punishing morally flawed characters. In Towering, the most horrific death was married Wagner, after hours, fooling around with his secretary; here, Linda, Rogo’s wife, the ex prostitute suddenly is killed. Also, Hackman is judged for his blasphemy and constant yelling at God. I agree, it is not as salient as with Hitch or DePalma, but the deaths are not random. Acres, McDowell’s waiter, is a stand in for the evil shipping company who is bugging Nielsen, the captain, to go faster. You have probably heard the critics attack this as a ‘floating soap opera’; I admit, I prefer Towering to this one for that very reason. Yet, it has an excellent cast, is much shorter than Towering and is still quite intense. Do not be scared away by the bad effects of the wave, the interiors are quite well done.

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It is worth owning for the performances: Hackman dominates a group of excellent actors with his angry, defiant preacher. Most of the climb, the rest of the group is serving as referees between these two. It is not perspicacious to grasp what Allen is up to with Rogo’s unrelenting hostility to the preacher. This is why we have the earlier scenes, in Rogo’s cabin, with his embarrassment about his wife’s former occupation and their foreboding about running into any of her previous ‘customers.’ He is always finding fault with Hackman to assuage his paranoia that people are judging them. William’s score is well done with foreboding before the disaster and good eerie music on the climb.

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The acting is good even into the children who do well here. There is some light banter but, on the whole, this is one relentlessly grim well made movie. When you watch it over you will see why Allen went into films with this under his belt before he stumbled with The Swarm. Like all of this genre, it reflects the social upheaval of Watergate and The Withdrawal From Vietnam in America. The protests in the streets gave the country this ‘world turning upon us’ fear you see reflected here. Nothing was safe or stable anymore, this is the core of this collective nightmare. A Good Movie.

The Shining (1980)

The Shining is a 1980 British-American psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Scatman Crothers. The film is based on Stephen King‘s 1977 novel The Shining.

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The initial European release of The Shining was 25 minutes shorter than the American version, due to removal of most of the scenes taking place outside the environs of the hotel. Unlike Kubrick’s previous works, which developed audiences gradually through word-of-mouth, The Shining was released as a mass-market film, initially opening in two cities on Memorial Day, then nationwide a month later. Although contemporary responses from critics were mixed, assessment became more favorable in following decades, and it is now widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made.

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American director Martin Scorsese ranked it one of the 11 scariest horror movies of all time. Critics, scholars, and crew members (such as Kubrick’s producer Jan Harlan) have discussed the film’s enormous influence on popular culture.

A truly brilliant and scary film from Stanley Kubrick.

Author: unbreakablepabs (unbreakable_pabs_101@hotmail.com) from London
29 June 2003

I can’t praise this film long enough!

The Shining is, without doubt, one of Stanley Kubrick’s undisputed masterpieces and a true classic in horror cinema. It is a film that, over the course of the years, has managed to scare the living hell out of its audiences (and still does). The film is an adaptation of Stepehen King’s original novel, written in the late ’70s, and although the film is not very loyal to the book, it still stands as a thing of its own.

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Right from the beginning, as we contemplate the car going to the hotel from those stunning aerial shots, deeply inside us we know that something in the film, somehow, sometime is going to go wrong. As we obtain that severe warning, an almost inaudible voice gently whispers to us ‘sit tight’, a sense of unexpectedness invades us all, and it is that very same feeling that makes our hair stand on end throughout out the entire movie.

The plot is simple: Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) becomes the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in up in the secluded mountains of Colorado. Jack, being a family man, takes his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd) to the hotel to keep him company throughout the long, isolated nights. During their stay, strange things occur when Jack’s son Danny sees gruesome images powered by a force called ‘the shining’ and Jack is heavily affected by this. Along with writer’s block and the demons of the hotel haunting him, Jack has a complete mental breakdown and the situation takes a sinister turn for the worse.

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The film, unlike many horror-oriented films nowadays, doesn’t only rely on stomach-churning and gory images (which it does contain, anyway) but on the incredibly scary music based on the works of Béla Bartók and on the excellent cinematography (the Steadicam is superbly used, giving us a sense of ever-following evil), as well. The terrifying mood and atmosphere of the film is carefully and masterfully woven by Kubrick, who clearly knows how to really make a horror movie.

Jack Nicholson’s powerful performance as the mad father and husband is as over the top as it is brilliant. Shelley Duvall, who plays the worrying wife who tries to help her son, is also a stand out; she shows a kind of trembling fear in many scenes and is able to display weakness and vulnerability in a very convincing way. Undoubtedly, The Shining is full of memorable moments (the elevator scene or the ‘Heeeeeere’s Johnny’ one-liner for instance) and, simply put, it’s flawlessly brilliant.

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Stanley Kubrick’s direction is pure excellence, giving the whole film a cold and atmospheric look, thus creating an unbearable sense of paranoia and terror. There are moments of sheer brilliance and exquisite perfection in this film; the horrifying maze chase is a perfect example. Every single shot is masterfully created and there are some genuinely scary scenes which will make you sit on the edge of your seat.

The Shining is, in my opinion, a special landmark in horror cinema which will always be regarded as one of the scariest movies in film history. Since I saw it last year, when I was 13, I have rarely been able to have a bath in my bathtub.Just in case, ya know. Overall, The Shining is incomparably the scariest film I’ve ever seen in my whole life (and I can tell you I’ve seen a great deal of horror films).

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It is an unforgettable, chilling, majestic and truly, profoundly scary film crafted by an eccentric genius who wants to show that the impossible can be done. The Shining is a sublime, hauntingly intriguing and endlessly watchable film that shows Kubrick at his best.

Fact: Kubrick is better than King

Author: Ricky Roma (thepestilence001@yahoo.co.uk) from http://rioranchofilmreviews.blogspot.com/
16 October 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It’s well know that Stephen King doesn’t like Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining (so much so that he scripted an abysmal TV movie version). According to him, Kubrick didn’t understand the horror genre. Well, I think Kubrick did. I think he understood it only too well. He knew that it was a genre full of conventions, cheap tricks and tired clichés. Therefore Kubrick decided to throw all that nonsense out of the window and make a film based on atmosphere rather than predictable thrills.

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You don’t get people here jumping out of the dark time after time. You don’t get worthless shocks. Kubrick’s version of The Shining is an insidious film. It gets under your skin. In other words, it isn’t for Pavlovian dogs that have spent a lifetime being conditioned by cretinous nonsense.

What runs deepest through The Shining is a frustration with family. Right from the beginning it’s obvious that Jack isn’t happy with his lot – as he’s being shown around the hotel he can’t help but take a sneaky look at the backsides of a couple of women. Well, can you blame him? The poor man is married to a bug-eyed, bucktoothed Olive Oil look-a-like.

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Then there’s Jack’s quiet frustration with his son Danny. As he’s driving to the hotel, he’s bothered by requests for food. And then his son makes out that he’s knowledgeable because he saw a programme on TV. Already he’s slightly irked – he’s got to spend months alone with these people; one who resembles Popeye’s missus and one who talks to his finger.

So really the hotel brings out nothing that isn’t already there. It merely brings everything to the surface – Jack’s resentment as regards his wife, his frustration as regards his lack of writing talent and his annoyance at having a troubled son. It’s kind of like he’s testing his family. Are they strong enough as a unit to survive being cooped up together?

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One of the underlying themes in the film seems to be television. What happens in The Shining is what happens when someone stops watching the idiot box. With it, a person can find solace in mindless programming and retreat from the strictures of family life. Without it they’re faced with all their problems and all the failings of their loved ones. Even the strongest family can be brought to its knees when there’s no escape from each other’s company. Therefore it’s quite telling, when Jack loses the plot completely, that he spouts lines from TV: “Honey, I’m home” and “Here’s Johnny.” Just watch some television, Jack.

But it’s also the pain of writing that contributes to Jack’s insanity. There’s nothing quite as harrowing as an empty page. Plus there’s nothing more annoying than being interrupted mid-flow. One of the best scenes in the film is when Jack tells his wife to get lost when she interrupts him.

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It’s extremely violent in how cold Jack is towards Wendy. And because it’s grounded in a reality, it’s all the more effective.

Also rather unsettling is the scene where Jack talks to his son. He makes Danny sit on his lap and he proceeds to tell him how much he loves him and how he’d never hurt him. It works so well because it’s so cold and because there’s such an obvious lack of affection. The words are just empty platitudes. They mean absolutely nothing.

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Jack’s true feelings are only revealed when he gets to talk to Lloyd. It’s in this scene that you realise the marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – Wendy has never forgiven him for accidentally hurting his son. And it’s also in this scene that you realise (as if you hadn’t noticed earlier) that Jack is absolutely crackers. He’s talking to ghosts. But they could also be figments of his imagination, for there are mirrors behind most of the ghosts he talks to. Effectively he’s talking to himself. And I love this matter of fact way of dealing with the supernatural. There are no fancy tricks. Everything just seems unnaturally natural.

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In fact, everything to do with the ghosts is superbly handled. The twins are spooky, Lloyd is amiable and Grady is out of his mind. And it’s Grady who’s probably the most chilling presence in the film. He starts off as a bumbling waiter but then quickly becomes a stone cold killer. Just the way he says ‘corrected’ conveys more terror than a million slasher films. And Philip Stone’s performance is a million times more subtle than Nicholson’s. I mean, as much as I like Jack in the film, he does chew the scenery. But Kubrick likes his over the top performances, so that’s the way he wanted it.

And undoubtedly it’s Kubrick’s movie. He’s the real star. And I love everything he brings to the film. I love his command of lighting – just look at The Gold Room scenes. I love his use of music. I love the way that he turns the Room 237 scene, one that could have been a standard ‘jump’ scene, into a comment on Jack’s marriage – his willingness to be unfaithful. I love the way that he leaves lots of unanswered questions.

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I love the shots of the blood coming out of the lift. I love the helicopter shots at the start. I love the way that pages and pages of typed words are the most frightening visual in the film. I love the maze. I love the fact that you see a ghost getting a blow-job from a ghost in a bear suit… Man, I love absolutely everything about this film. It’s horror for people who know that true horror isn’t being stalked by a man in a mask, but being trapped alone with your family.

A classic horror from a master director

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
29 October 2001

When Jack Torrance (Nicholson) is offered a job as winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel he accepts it as an opportunity to work on his novel in an isolated environment. He is told stories of the last caretaker going mad and butchering his family but isn’t deterred. He arrives at the Overlook Hotel with his wife (Duvall) and child Danny (Lloyd) and is shown around the hotel by the cook (Scatman Crothers) who has the gift of perception. The cook warns Danny that the hotel can be of particular danger for those with the gift. It’s only a matter of time before Jack begins to act increasingly erratic.

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This is one of Jack Nicholson’s finest roles, his increasingly unhinged character is amusing and terrifying in almost equal measures. Duvall plays the role of the terrorised wife quite well – she does look like she’s genuinely filled with fear – but doesn’t have much else to do. Lloyd is excellent as the boy, although he doesn’t have too much emotion to express. However no doubt that this is Jack’s show.

The story doesn’t stick to King’s novel and is better for it; this is Kubrick’s Shining. The film has plenty of genuinely scary moments but manages to keep a creepy atmosphere all through – especially as the ghosts come out and Jack begins to move between his reality and the reality that is gradually claiming him.

Kubrick is excellent here, his cold direction adds to the overall creep factor of the film. It’s one of the best examples of his masterful touch.

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Overall this is an excellent horror movie – because the focus is on horror and fear rather than gore alone (as with modern horrors). Jack is excellent in one of his best roles ever and the whole package is delivered in a cold creepy manner by a sadly lost director.

The greatest horror movie of all time.

10/10
Author: Michael DeZubiria (wppispam2013@gmail.com) from Luoyang, China
2 April 2001
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Okay, okay, maybe not THE greatest. I mean, The Exorcist and Psycho and a few others are hard to pass up, but The Shining is way up there. It is, however, by far the best Stephen King story that has been made into a movie. It’s better than The Stand, better than Pet Sematary (if not quite as scary), better than Cujo, better than The Green Mile, better the Dolores Claiborne, better than Stand By Me (just barely, though), and yes, it’s better than The Shawshank Redemption (shut up, it’s better), I don’t care WHAT the IMDb Top 250 says.

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I read that, a couple of decades ago, Stanley Kubrick was sorting through novels at his home trying to find one that might make a good movie, and from the other room, his wife would hear a pounding noise every half hour or so as he threw books against the wall in frustration. Finally, she didn’t hear any noise for almost two hours, and when she went to check and see if he had died in his chair or something (I tell this with all due respect, of course), she found him concentrating on a book that he had in his hand, and the book was The Shining. And thank God, too, because he went on to convert that book into one of the best horror films ever.

Stephen King can be thanked for the complexity of the story, about a man who takes his wife and son up to a remote hotel to oversee it during the extremely isolated winter as he works on his writing. Jack Nicholson can be thanked for his dead-on performance as Jack Torrance (how many movies has Jack been in where he plays a character named Jack?), as well as his flawless delivery of several now-famous lines (`Heeeeeere’s Johnny!!’).

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Shelley Duvall can be thanked for giving a performance that allows the audience to relate to Jack’s desires to kill her. Stanley Kubrick can be thanked for giving this excellent story his very recognizable touch, and whoever the casting director was can be thanked for scrounging up the creepiest twins on the planet to play the part of the murdered girls.

One of the most significant aspects of this movie, necessary for the story as a whole to have its most significant effect, is the isolation, and it’s presents flawlessly. The film starts off with a lengthy scene following Jack as he drives up to the old hotel for his interview for the job of the caretaker for the winter. This is soon followed by the same thing following Jack and his family as they drive up the windy mountain road to the hotel. This time the scene is intermixed with shots of Jack, Wendy, and Danny talking in the car, in which Kubrick managed to sneak in a quick suggestion about the evils of TV, as Wendy voices her concern about talking about cannibalism in front of Danny, who says that it’s okay because he’s already seen it on TV (`See? It’s okay, he saw it on the television.’).

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The hotel itself is the perfect setting for a story like this to take place, and it’s bloody past is made much more frightening by the huge, echoing rooms and the long hallways. These rooms with their echoes constantly emphasize the emptiness of the hotel, but it is the hallways that really created most of the scariness of this movie, and Kubrick’s traditional tracking shots give the hallways a creepy three-dimensional feel. Early in the film, there is a famous tracking shot that follows Danny in a large circle as he rides around the halls on his Big Wheel (is that what those are called?), and his relative speed (as well as the clunking made by the wheels as he goes back and forth from the hardwood floors to the throw rugs) gives the feeling of not knowing what is around the corner. And being a Stephen King story, you EXPECT something to jump out at you. I think that the best scene in the halls (as well as one of the scariest in the film) is when Danny is playing on the floor, and a ball rolls slowly up to him. He looks up and sees the long empty hallway, and because the ball is something of a child’s toy, you expect that it must have been those horrendously creepy twins that rolled it to him. Anyway, you get the point. The Shining is a damn scary movie.

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Besides having the rare quality of being a horror film that doesn’t suck, The Shining has a very in depth story that really keeps you guessing and leaves you with a feeling that there was something that you missed. HAD Jack always been there, like Mr. Grady told him in the men’s room? Was he really at that ball in 1921, or is that just someone who looks exactly like him? If he has always been the caretaker, as Mr. Grady also said, does that mean that it was HIM that went crazy and killed his wife and twin daughters, and not Mr. Grady, after all? It’s one thing for a film to leave loose ends that should have been tied, that’s just mediocre filmmaking. For example, The Amityville Horror, which obviously copied much of The Shining as far as its subject matter, did this.

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But it is entirely different when a film is presented in a way that really makes you think (as mostly all of Kubrick’s movies are). One more thing that we can all thank Stanley Kubrick for, and we SHOULD thank him for, is for not throwing this book against the wall. That one toss would have been cinematic tragedy.

Jack Torrance Meets David Bowman

Author: (tgarbari@ix.netcom.com) from New Jersey
18 February 1999

What can I say about the scariest movie I have ever seen that has not already been said by others more articulate than yours truly? Do not view this film expecting to see a screen version of the Stephen King novel. Rather, this is a Stanley Kubrick film, and to fully appreciate it one should judge it within the context of Kubrick’s entire body of work as a serious filmmaker. Thematically, THE SHINING relates most closely to 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, though flourishes of PATHS OF GLORY, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and BARRY LYNDON do manage to figure prominently in the film’s overall technique.

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In a nutshell (no pun intended), Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall co-star with Oregon’s Timberline Lodge – enlisted to portray the exterior of the Overlook Hotel – in a story that appears on the surface to be about ghosts and insanity, but deals with issues of child abuse, immortality and duality.

What the film might lack initially in terms of coherence is more than made up for in technique. Garrett Brown (the male voice in those old Molson Golden commercials), inventor of the Steadicam, chases young Danny Lloyd through hotel corridors and an amazing snow maze, providing magic-carpet-ride fluidity to scenes that ten years earlier would have been impossible to accomplish. If the film starts off too slow, remember who the director is. This man likes to take his time, and the results are well worth it: incredible aerial shots of the Overlook Hotel; horrific Diane Arbus-inspired twins staring directly at us; portentous room 237 and its treasure trove of terrible secrets; elevators that gush rivers of blood in slow-motion; Jack Torrance’s immortality found via the hotel (akin to David Bowman’s journey through the Space Gate); and some of the best use of pre-existing music ever assembled for a motion picture.

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It would take a book to examine and defend the film’s strong points and drawbacks. If you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to watch it alone with the lights off, with no interruptions, and make sure that it’s raining. This is a cinematic experience that changed my life at the age of 14. Makes a great double feature with Robert Wise’s 1963 thriller THE HAUNTING.

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9/10
Author: yancyscott1 from United States
9 April 2007

Even though The Shining is over a quarter of a century old, I challenge anyone to not get freaked out by Jack Nicholson’s descent into madness. This is a rare example of something so unique that no one has been able to rip it off; instead it has been referenced time and again in pop culture. The twins, the elevator of blood, RedRum, the crazy nonsense “writing”… this should be seen, if for nothing else, to understand all the allusions to it in daily life. The film is simultaneously scary, suspenseful, beautiful, and psychologically intriguing. It has the classic mystery of Hitchcock and the terror of a modern thriller. And it has what horror movies usually lack: a great script.

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Eeriness surpassed by class

10/10
Author: chaos-rampant from Greece
24 November 2008

Sometimes all good horror needs is a good idea. But sometimes, rarely indeed, a horror masterpiece will reach us by the hand of a Kubrick, with the adept, elusive touch of a great artist to guide the vision, and we know what separates it from all else.

Okay, the story has enough promise that even a hired gun would have to try to fail. Heck, even Stephen King himself didn’t fare so bad. It’s how Kubrick perceives King’s universe however, how he fills the frame with it, that renders THE SHINING a feast for the senses.

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Horror that will reach us through the mind and body alike, an assault as it were, tending eventually its pitch to a crescendo, yet curiously not without a delicate lull.

Kubrick’s cinema is, as usually, a sight to behold. We get the adventurous camera that prowls through the lavish corridors of the Overlook Hotel like it is some kind of mystic labyrinth rife for exploration, linear tracking shots exposing impeccably decorated interiors in symmetric grandeur. The geometrical approach in how Kubrick perceives space reminds me very much of Japanese directors of some 10 years before. In that what is depicted in the frame, the elements of narrative, is borderline inconsequential to how they all balance and harmonize together.

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Certain images stand out in this. The first shot of Jack’s typewriter, ominously accompanied by the off-screen thumps of a ball, drums of doom that seem to emanate from the very walls or the typewriter itself, an instrument of doom in itself as is later shown. A red river flowing through the hotel’s elevators in a poetry of slow motions. Jack hitting the door with the axe, the camera moving along with him, tracking the action as it happens, as though it’s the camera piercing through the door and not the axe. The ultra fast zoom in the kid’s face violently thrusting us inside his head before we see the two dead girls from his POV. And of course, the epochal bathroom scene.

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Much has been said of Jack Nicholson’s obtrusive overacting. His mad is not entirely successful, because, well, he’s Jack Nicholson. The guy looks half-mad anyway. Playing mad turns him into an exaggerated caricature of himself. Shelley Duvall on the other hand is one of the most inspired casting choices Kubrick ever made. Coming from a streak of fantastic performances for Robert Altman in the seventies (3 WOMEN, THIEVES LIKE US, NASHVILLE), she brings to her character the right amounts of swanlike fragility and emotional distress. A delicate, detached thing thrown in with the mad.

The Gauntlet (1977)

Director:

Clint Eastwood

Cinematography by

Rexford L. Metz

Written by Dennis Shryack and Michal Butler, the film was originally set to star Marlon Brando and Barbra Streisand; Brando subsequently withdrew, replaced by Steve McQueen.  However, differences between Streisand and McQueen ultimately led to their joint departure in favor of Eastwood and Locke. The Gauntlet was filmed in Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada, as well as in nearby deserts in both states.

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For the house scene, it was built at a cost of $250,000 and included 7,000 drilled holes that would include explosive squibs for its demolition. The helicopter chase scene included a helicopter that was built without an engine for the crash sequence. To simulate the gunshots from the gauntlet of officers at the end of the film, the bus was blasted with 8,000 squibs.From the total budget of $5.5 million, $1 million was spent on the various action sequences.

Critical response

Although a hit with the public, the critics were mixed about the film.

Judith Crist of the New York Post wrote that the film was “a mindless compendium of stale plot and stereotyped characters varnished with foul language and garnished with violence”

Roger Ebert, on the other hand, gave it three stars and called it “…classic Clint Eastwood: fast, furious, and funny”. David Ansen of Newsweek wrote, “You don’t believe a minute of it, but at the end of the quest, it’s hard not to chuckle and cheer”.

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Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 82% based on 17 reviews.

Ridiculously entertaining

6 May 2007 | by TrevorAclea (London, England) – See all my reviews

A one-time Steve McQueen-Barbra Streisand vehicle until McQueen met Streisand, and subsequently a Clint Eastwood-Streisand vehicle until Eastwood met Streisand, The Gauntlet sees Clint sending up his Dirty Harry image as a none-too-smart washed out drunken cop escorting Sondra Locke’s foul-mouthed “nothing witness in a nothing trial” from Las Vegas to Phoenix and finding the Mob and every cop in two States determined to stop them – even the Vegas bookies are taking bets on ever-lengthening odds (70-1) on their not making it. From the days when Clint still made films in broad daylight and could film interiors without turning all the lights out and seen as wildly over the top at the time (even the famed Frank Frazetta poster art offered Clint as a Conan-esquire muscular figure in ripped shirt with girl in one hand and gun in the other), now it’s almost an exercise in naturalism for the genre.

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Sure there’s more firepower on display that in all of Eastwood’s previous films combined (including both Where Eagles Dare and Kelly’s Heroes!), with cars, houses and buses shot to pieces with gleeful abandon while helicopters crash into power lines, but somehow Michael Butler and Dennis Shryack’s script manages to sell the increasing absurdities in a perfectly conceived audience picture that’s designed to entertain and does just that.

There’s a nice line in self-deprecating wit that never quite crosses the line into outright stupidity and Eastwood’s tight direction keeps the action moving without losing sight of the fact that it’s the characters that really need to sell the film. Just as importantly the on screen relationship between Eastwood and Locke hadn’t overstayed its welcome yet as it quickly would over their subsequent films, their initial vicious sparring giving way to genuinely convincing tenderness in the later scenes, giving you a pair you can actually root for. Great fun if you’re not expecting gritty realism – like the end credit says, ‘Law enforcement procedures depicted in this film do not necessarily depict those of any law enforcement agency mentioned herein.’ No **** Sherlock.

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Once again, Clint shows you why he’s the best in the business.

9/10
Author: TOMASBBloodhound from Omaha, NE USA
23 March 2006

How many rounds of ammunition can you fire into a house before it will collapse? Or maybe you’d like to see how many rounds you can fire into a bus before it will stop running. If you’re interested, or if you just like Clint Eastwood, then The Gauntlet is for you! Our film centers around Clint playing a sloppy policeman from Phoenix who is assigned to transport a sassy hooker (Sondra Locke) from Las Vegas back to his jurisdiction.

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This will not be an easy task. First of all, this Eastwood character is no Dirty Harry. His Ben Shocklee is an alcoholic, and barely capable of doing his job. The hooker’s testimony could potentially bring down some important figures, so the cops and mafia also don’t want them to return to Phoenix. In addition to all that, the woman is such a bitch that even a trip across town with her would be almost too much to bear. The two are put in one harrowing situation after another as Clint proves that he has the moxy to simply “get the job done”.

This film, if made by or starring inferior talent, would be nothing short of ridiculous. Several situations that arise in this film seem improbable at best, and often ludicrous. Eastwood’s charm, and the razor-sharp dialog keep it moving along. You end up almost believing it could happen. Clint Eastwood is that talented. His acting and direction are as good as ever.

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The film has plenty of memorable scenes. Along with the shootouts, we get some very amusing and often very funny situations. One of my favorites is when Eastwood single-handedly talks an entire motorcycle gang into surrendering one of their bikes or facing the consequences of his pistol. And what would an Eastwood/Locke film be without a scene where she is sexually assaulted? Though disturbing, the scene has a hilarious conclusion. Another scene belongs to Locke, herself. In it, she puts a foul-mouthed police flunky in his place using some very sexually explicit words.

That a film which would seemingly be quite ridiculous on paper is made into such a fine product is a testimony to the genius of Clint Eastwood. He is without a doubt my favorite actor of all time.

9 of 10 stars for The Gauntlet.

The Hound.

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Did Clint Eastwood really direct this (or was it Ed Wood)?

3/10
Author: zacdawac from New York, NY
12 October 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The entire police forces from two separate states come out to fire thousands of gun shots at a dimwitted, but well intentioned cop and a college educated, hyperactive hooker because said hooker is going to testify in court that she saw the new police commissioner masturbating. And it gets better.

What do you do when every gangster and peace officer in Arizona and Las Vegas have orders to shoot you on site? First, of course, you increase your list of enemies by unnecessarily agitating a gang of fifty large bikers, then you hijack a bus in broad daylight and spend a half hour unloading luggage, at gunpoint, in full view of hundreds of people, then you provide the people who want to kill you with a written trip syllabus so they know when and where to expect you, and then you drive your bus right into the six hundred cops who are firing non-stop machine guns at you.

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And it still gets better. After spending ten minutes firing thousands of shots at a fellow officer and his courtesan friend, on the orders of the new, clearly psychotic commissioner, six hundred heavily armed cops stand and watch, without blinking, as said commissioner is gunned down in the middle of the street by said hooker. And of course, after having more shots fired at them than the population of Iraq, our hapless hero and his hardy harlot humbly hobble away, relatively unscathed.

When Joel Mcrea and Veronica Lake chased a freight train, it defined movie magic. When Charles Grodin and Bobby De Niro chased a freight train, it was a moment to treasure. When Sandra Locke and Clint Eastwood chased a freight train, you might as well have been watching a bad Heckle and Jeckle cartoon. Comparing THE GAUNTLET to past and future Eastwood directorial efforts, like PLAY MISTY FOR ME, MYSTIC RIVER, and UNFORGIVEN is like saying THE GODFATHER in the same breath as GIGLI.

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Clint runs “The Gauntlet” with a lady named Gus.

7 June 2004 | by lemon993 (Staten Island, New York) – See all my reviews

This baroque and utterly implausible action drama subscribes to the over-the-top theory of movie making. Huge quantities of bullets, bikers and bad apples are unleashed on Mr.Eastwood, Ms. Locke, his remand witness, and us, the audience. Eastwood executes the gauntlet with great resolve and resourcefulness: he even knows how to fortify a bus with armored plates. Clint is in peak form and Locke will never again reach the heights that she does here. Clearly, the two have wonderful screen chemistry and would remain together as a couple for more than a decade. Watching the film today, I think there is a scene that went missing–or was cut. It occurred at the beginning of the movie and involved the sadistic police commissioner and Locke’s prostitute. The scene is later described in great detail by Locke when she and Clint are on the lam in a desert cave. So where is it? My dad took me to see this “R” rated film on a bitterly cold night in early February ’78–it was released in late ’77. I think he was unaware of the rating because I did get an eyeful that night. Make sure you see this movie letterboxed in order to absorb all the destructive power and subtle artistry on display.

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A chaotic road trip to justice!

7/10
Author: lost-in-limbo from the Mad Hatter’s tea party.
5 November 2005

A rundown cop who’s always on the drink named Ben Shockley is assigned to accompany a foul-mouthed prostitute in Las Vegas to a protection program across the country in Phoenix to testify against highly placed authority figure, although first they have to get through a gauntlet of bad cops and the mob who actually want them both dead. So now the odds aren’t in their favour, but Shockley is determine to do his job, no matter how big the odds are against them.

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Classic Eastwood is on show here people. Although, it’s not one of his greatest nor particularly original. But this reasonably familiar cop / action film delivers what it intended to do by giving us a taut little road movie across baron landscapes with a tremendous amount of brutally fast-paced shootouts and grand chase scenes. I mean a lot! To sum it up, shootouts, shootouts and even more shootouts. Watch things go boom with a lot going on at such a furious pace! What more could you want?

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So you ask, why is this nothing out of the ordinary? Because this kind of thing wasn’t particularly new within this era of films. There were definite shades of Dirty Harry; Eastwood’s character Shockley was the exact opposite to Harry though. The one thing you’ll notice is that there is no real excuse or depth behind the plot, but to stage one chaotic and stretched out shootout after another. Sometimes they feel like they go on forever! Nonetheless, they might be far-fetched and fail logic, but they’re rather well set-up by director Eastwood. Giving us a sudden burst around each corner and because of that there’s hardly a mundane moment… uh, maybe Eastwood did overkill certain shootouts, but it did get the blood pumping! So, when the “exaggerated” climax hits the screen – at least the film was consistent in that aspect.

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The performances were top-notch, with Eastwood’s persona making any film his in watchable. He gives a stellar performance. Sondra Locke as Gus Mally was perfect. The chemistry between the leads was outstanding. The scathing and rough dialogue amongst them was a treat with great use of sarcasm and offbeat humour. The biting conversations truly built on the paranoia at hand with many top one-liners. This gives the film a buddy type of feel. Other key factors are the soothing blues soundtrack, well established camera shots that capture a beautiful landscape, but also the panic of the situation they face. While, there might be underlining themes running throughout the plot, I just didn’t read too much into it.

Just leave your brain at the door and enjoy the total chaos and destruction that follows with your screen being sprayed with bullets! Definitely recommended for fans of Eastwood and gritty action films.

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70’s masterpiece from Eastwood. Feast for Clint fans.

10/10
Author: Mika Pykäläaho (bygis80@hotmail.com) from Järvenpää, Finland
20 June 2001

Everyone has a number one favorite actor, I’m quite sure about it. I just simply love legendary Mr. Clint Eastwood and every work he has ever done. I don’t know why, there’s something so peculiar about him, something different. I wonder what would’ve the 70’s been like without Clint and his roles as a for example Dave Garver in his directing debut “Play Misty for me”, Harry Callahan, Joe Kidd, John “Thunderbolt” Doherty in “Thunderbolt and lightfoot”, Josey Wales, Philo Beddoe (yes, even him) and the mysterious stranger in “High plains drifter”? He’s done so much for the audience and I’m thankful for everything we’ve got from him over the years. I can’t help of admitting I love his flicks even if they aren’t as good as they normally are or should be.

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I’m not referring to this movie, I’m just saying that if I love those much poorer films (Firefox, Pink Cadillac, Any which way you can…) it goes without saying I adore “The Gauntlet” because it’s unconditionally one of the best movies from him ever and there isn’t a real movie freak in the world who can possibly deny it. It’s the 6th motion picture he directed and Clint’s role as a drunken cop Ben Shockley is one of the coolest in his long and successful career and one my personal favorites. They don’t make movies like this anymore. Plot is so fast, funny and ridiculously amazing it brings me into a total ecstacy. I’ll promise when you’ve seen the crazy end sequence of “The Gauntlet” you’ll never forget this film. One of the most memorable Eastwood classics of the 70’s and a much better than for example many of the “Dirty Harry” sequels. I also think that this is Sondra Locke’s best performance in Eastwood’s movie. From Clint’s own directions, this is by far his very best police film. Definitely 10 out of 10.

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Manages to combine preposterousness with heavy-handedness

4/10
Author: James Hitchcock from Tunbridge Wells, England
28 November 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In “The Gauntlet”, as in a number of his other films, Clint Eastwood plays a tough cop. Ben Shockley, however, is very different to Harry Callahan (or, for that matter, to Walt Coogan, Eastwood’s cool dude character from “Coogan’s Bluff”). Whereas Dirty Harry is a ruthless but dedicated officer who gets all the tough jobs his colleagues don’t want, Shockley is a disillusioned alcoholic (the first sight we have of him is a whiskey bottle falling from his car and smashing on the ground), a man who wants the important cases but never gets them and is counting down the days until his retirement.

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Shockley is given what seems like a routine assignment. He is to travel from his base in Phoenix, Arizona, to Las Vegas to extradite Gus Mally, a witness in a forthcoming trial. (Coogan, coincidentally, was also based in Arizona). When he arrives, however, he receives two surprises. The first is that Gus is not a man but a woman. (It’s short for Augustina). The second is that she is determined not to be extradited to Phoenix, claiming that she will be killed if she gives evidence at the trial. Shockley realises that Gus is due to give evidence against powerful Mafia figures, who will go to any lengths to prevent her from doing so. Worse still, it gradually dawns upon him that some of his colleagues in Phoenix are in league with the Mob and have set him up to be killed along with his witness. He is forced to “run the gauntlet” to get himself and Gus back to Phoenix alive, despite being pursued not only by Mob assassins but also by most of the police forces of Arizona and Nevada. (The bad guys have convinced the authorities that Shockley himself is, in fact, a killer).

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Whereas “Dirty Harry” asked some important questions about law enforcement and the nature of justice, “The Gauntlet” is simply an action-adventure film with some romantic elements thrown in. (Gus starts out as a foul-mouthed prostitute, but it soon becomes clear that she has hidden reserves of courage and resourcefulness, and she and Shockley fall for one another). There are a number of set-pieces as Shockley and Gus try and outwit their pursuers. It never, however, tries to be a realistic action film. The set-pieces are all way over the top, sometimes almost hilariously so, more closely resembling battle scenes from a war film than the sort of shootouts one normally sees in cop movies. In one scene Shockley and Gus are under siege in a house which collapses after a relentless bombardment from police marksmen; they emerge untouched. In another they are pursued by a helicopter which crashes after hitting overhead power lines (a denouement I could see coming as soon as I saw pylons in the distance).

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The most bizarre sequence must be the finale when Shockley rides back into Phoenix in a hijacked bus. Although phalanxes of armed men fire enough ammunition into the bus to wipe out several regiments, he still succeeds in getting through the lines, suffering only a slight flesh wound. Gus is completely unharmed. The whole thing is made to seem even stranger by scenes that seem taken from a surreal comedy; the idea of bookmakers offering odds on whether a witness will survive to give evidence at trial could be out of Monty Python.

Preposterous action sequences do not always make for a bad film; think, for example, of how many unfeasible stunts the hero manages to perform in the course of every James Bond movie. The Bond films, however, manage to get away with being preposterous because they are made with a wit, style and lightness of touch largely lacking in “The Gauntlet”, a film which manages to combine preposterousness with heavy-handedness. The action sequences may be fun to watch in themselves, but they do not really add up to a satisfying film overall. One of Clint Eastwood’s weaker efforts. 4/10

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Superman (1978)

Just before the destruction of the planet Krypton, scientist Jor-El sends his infant son Kal-El on a spaceship to Earth. Raised by kindly farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent, young Clark discovers the source of his superhuman powers and moves to Metropolis to fight evil. As Superman, he battles the villainous Lex Luthor, while, as novice reporter Clark Kent, he attempts to woo co-worker Lois Lane.

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Superman Takes Off On The Big Screen

10 January 2006 | by ccthemovieman-1 (United States) – See all my reviews

It’s interesting that another re-make is coming out this year. Man, time flies because I vividly remember when this movie came out and the excitement it caused. This was the first Superman anyone had ever seen with modern-day special effects, so it was pretty cool, to say the least.

It’s still very entertaining, and the more I watch this the more I’m amused with the villain (Gene Hackman as “Lex Luthor”) and the lines he delivers. He’s a funny guy. Christopher Reeve, meanwhile, was always a popular “Man Of Steel” and the special effects are still fun to watch, from the long opening scenes showing the end of the planet Kryton all the way to the ending credits. There’s a solid soundtrack to this, too.

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Personally, I didn’t care for Margot Kidder as Lois Lane but then again, Lane’s character in the 1950s TV series was a bit annoying, too. I guess it comes with her character. However, being a kid growing up with that series with all its innocence (it’s now on DVD, by the way, and worth a purchase), it was just too weird hearing Lois ask Superman what color her panties were!

Anyway, this is simply great entertainment. As a superhero, Superman has always been THE MAN. Three sequels followed this film, the second one being the best in my opinion.

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You’ll still believe a man can fly

Author: y2mckay from Bay Area, CA
12 May 2001

Every once in a while you’ll be flipping channels or meandering through the aisles of the local videorama, and you will stumble upon a film that takes you back to your childhood – and the child-like wonder that accompanied it. After 2 decades, as well as numerous (inferior) sequels and remakes, the original Superman is back.

Well, okay, maybe this wasn’t the ORIGINAL one, but certainly no other version of the legend has had such a lasting impact as this one. Nor has any other telling of the tale been as thorough and ambitious as that put forth by Director Richard Donner and Story writer Mario Puzo. Add to that the utterly inspired (and inspiring) score by John Williams, and you have a dose of that good old movie magic. Even the opening credits manage to raise your adrenaline levels, as the Superman symbol soars through space across the screen and Williams’ opening theme perfectly builds to a masterful crescendo. It will make you want to stand up from your couch and soar out of the nearest window, though I don’t recommend it if you live on anything above the first floor.

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The film begins on Superman’s home world of Krypton, a dazzling planet dotted by crystalline cities which, combined again with William’s incredible theme music, seem to present an image of heaven itself. A super-race of highly advanced beings, the Kryptonians’ only weakness is their pride, as the infant Superman’s father, Jor-el points out. It is that pride that leads them to ignore Jor-el’s warnings that the planet is doomed by an impending supernova. In a last ditch effort to save his son, as well as some remnant of his race, he sends his infant son Kal-el to the planet Earth in a deep space probe. Marlon Brando, in the role of Jor-el, gives one of his best performances. His role is the stuff of Hollywood legend, since he was paid 4 million dollars for his role of about 10 minutes, but despite his exorbitant fee and minimal screen time, his performance is no less worthy.

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The probe crashes in a farmer’s field in the early 1950’s, to be discovered by the Kents, with Glen Ford in the role of Pa Kent. Though he seems to have even less screen time than Brando, his role as the young Superman’s moral example is no less pivotal to the story. Superman’s childhood and most of his teen years are completely skipped over, however, Jeff East gives an excellent portrayal of the teen Clark Kent, who is only beginning to discover the real extent of his powers.

Most of the supporting cast equally distinguish themselves. Gene Hackman creates a charming and amusing villain in Lex Luthor, and while Margot Kidder’s portrayal of Lois Lane is a bit forced and grating at times, she still shines with a kind of charm, and it is always fun to watch her slip from the tough-as-nails reporter to the flustered schoolgirl every time the Man of Steel hits the scene. If you still don’t like her performance, watch the “Lois Lane screen tests” in the special features section of the DVD, which includes tryouts by various prominent actresses of the day. After watching them, I think you’ll agree that the filmmakers made the right casting choice.

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But of course, the person we will remember the most is Christopher Reeve as Superman, and this is the way he should be remembered. It was certainly his greatest role, and although he overplayed the nerdy and fumbling Clark Kent, and his Superman sometimes pauses to deliver silly platitudes, he does so with an air of wry amusement. He may act like a goody two-shoes, but mostly he just seems to be having a good time showing off, and damn it, why shouldn’t he? He’s Superman, after all. If I could fly, you could damn well bet I’d be showing off too. This is confirmed in a brief but enjoyable restored scene in which, after saving Lois Lane and the President, as well as foiling several crimes, Superman flies back to his Fortress of Solitude to discuss it with his “Father”, or rather, the persona of Jor-el which has been preserved in memory crystals and sent to earth with the infant Kal-el, so that he could benefit from Jor-el’s knowledge and wisdom. He admonishes his son that, while it is natural to enjoy being able to show off his powers, he must learn to be humble and keep his vanity in check.

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It is surprising how little moments of restored footage such as this one seem to breathe much more life into the characters, giving them a depth not seen in their previous cinematic incarnation. And while the film is a tale of the power of good, it is ultimately a tribute to the power of love. It is love that makes Superman more vulnerable than even kryptonite, love that makes him betray his Kryptonian father’s admonition to “never interfere with human history”, and love that makes him truly human.

Though it is nearly an hour into the film before Superman finally makes his first heroic and world-stunning appearance, it is well worth the wait. The action gets more and more exciting, rivaling anything that today’s action counterparts, like “The Mummy Returns” can dish out. The effects, though antiquated by today’s overblown CGI standards, are still impressive and manage to maintain their looks and grace in their old age. As Lex Luthor launches a diabolical plan involving hijacked twin nuclear missiles, the subsequent chase, followed by Superman’s efforts to save an Earthquake-ravaged California, are breathtaking even by today’s standards.

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Like the superhero of title, the film itself is not without its weaknesses. In trying to keep in touch with its vintage comic book roots, it can be a tad cornball at times, and occasionally gets bogged down by what I call the “golly gee-whiz” factor. Yet it does so in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, retaining enough adult sophistication and genuine drama to keep it from lapsing into a mere kiddy show or a parody of the source material. In fact, the film has several surprisingly mature nuances. If, like me, you hadn’t seen this film since you were a kid, then you will be in a much better position to fully enjoy the subtleties of the film now. (i.e, Lois Lane, in her rooftop interview of Superman asks “How big are you . . . er, I mean . .. how TALL are you”. I obviously missed that as a kid, because it had me rolling with laughter this time around.

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But despite a few loose threads in the cape and tights, The Man of Steel remains quite intact and appropriately larger than life. It is therefore fitting that this film has been re-mastered and re-released in collector’s two-sided DVD format. The sound and picture quality are excellent, wiping away the tarnish of age and making the film shine again. Some of the many features include the aforementioned restored footage (about 10-15 minutes worth), a few additional deleted scenes (which, I thought, should have been restored into the film as well), commentary by director Richard Donner, the Lois Lane screen tests, specials on the making and origins of the film, and a music-only track (well worth the price of the DVD alone).

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If you haven’t seen this movie since you were a kid, and you want to feel like a kid again, rent it now. If you’ve never seen it at all, then the release of this DVD has taken away your last excuse. You will believe a man can fly.

Christopher Reeve Will Be Missed

Author: departed07 from United States
11 October 2004

I thought I would pay tribute to one of Christopher’s Reeve’s best role ever; and that role is Superman. As many comic book fans follow, the film tells the story of Clark Kent who was born on Krypton and was transported into Earth after the planet exploded and loses his real family. As a new family finds him in the field going home, the couple take Clark as their own son and raise him.

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What the couple know about Clark is that he has a gift to do things twice as fast than any other ordinary human being; but as time goes by, Clark loses his father of a stroke and decides to take a life of his own as he works for the Metropoltian Newspaper, he meets Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and he has a crush on her, even saving the woman from being killed. Just like any comic book movie, there is always a villain; with Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor in a campy role along with Ned Beatty as Otis, the sycophant with no sense, these two plan to destroy the world with nuclear weapons. Christopher Reeve doesn’t get into the Superman Costume until 45 minutes into the film in which he saves Lois in one scene, busts bad guys and becomes and icon to the public. Superman is the finest comic book movie, and I only wish Christopher Reeve’s family the best.

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Filming

Principal photography began on March 28, 1977 at Pinewood Studios for Krypton scenes, budgeted as the most expensive film ever made at that point. Since Superman was being shot simultaneously with Superman II, filming lasted 19 months, until October 1978. Filming was originally scheduled to last between seven and eight months, but problems arose during production. John Barry served as production designer, while Stuart Craig and Norman Reynolds worked as art directors. Derek Meddings and Les Bowie were credited as visual effects supervisors. Stuart Freeborn was the make-up artist, while Barry, David Tomblin, John Glen, David Lane, Robert Lynn and an uncredited Peter Duffell and André de Toth directed second unit scenes. Vic Armstrong was hired as the stunt coordinator and Reeve’s stunt double; his wife Wendy Leech was Kidder’s double. Superman was also the final complete film by cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, who died during post-production while working on Tess for director Roman Polanski.

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The Fortress of Solitude was constructed at Shepperton Studios and at Pinewood’s 007 Stage. Upon viewing the footage of Krypton, Warner Bros. decided to distribute in not only North America, but also in foreign countries. Due to complications and problems during filming, Warner Bros. also supplied $20 million and acquired television rights.

New York City doubled for Metropolis, while the New York Daily News Building served as the location for the offices of the Daily Planet. Brooklyn Heights was also used. Filming in New York lasted five weeks, during the time of the New York City blackout of 1977. Production moved to Alberta for scenes set in Smallville, with the cemetery scene filmed in the canyon of Beynon, Alberta, the high school football scenes at Barons, Alberta, and the Kent farm constructed at Blackie, Alberta.

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Brief filming also took place in Gallup, New Mexico, Lake Mead and Grand Central Terminal. Director Donner had tensions with the Salkinds and Spengler concerning the escalating production budget and the shooting schedule. Creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz reflected, “Donner never got a budget or a schedule. He was constantly told he was way over schedule and budget. At one point he said, ‘Why don’t you just schedule the film for the next two days, and then I’ll be nine months over?’.” Richard Lester, who worked with the Salkinds on The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers, was then brought in as a temporary co-producer to mediate the relationship between Donner and the Salkinds, who by now were refusing to talk to each other. With his relationship with Spengler, Donner remarked, “At one time if I’d seen him, I would have killed him.”

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Lester was offered producing credit but refused, going uncredited for his work. Salkind felt that bringing a second director onto the set meant there would be someone ready in the event that Donner could not fulfill his directing duties. “Being there all the time meant he [Lester] could take over,” Salkind admitted. “[Donner] couldn’t make up his mind on stuff.”  On Lester, Donner reflected, “He’d been suing the Salkinds for his money on Three and Four Musketeers, which he’d never gotten. He won a lot of his lawsuits, but each time he sued the Salkinds in one country, they’d move to another, from Costa Rica to Panama to Switzerland. When I was hired, Lester told me, ‘Don’t do it. Don’t work for them. I was told not to, but I did it. Now I’m telling you not to, but you’ll probably do it and end up telling the next guy.’ Lester came in as a ‘go-between’. I didn’t trust Lester, and I told him. He said, ‘Believe me, I’m only doing it because they’re paying me the money that they owe me from the lawsuit. I’ll never come onto your set unless you ask me; I’ll never go to your dailies. If I can help you in any way, call me.”

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It was decided to stop shooting Superman II and focus on finishing Superman. Donner had already completed 75% of the sequel. The filmmakers took a risk: if Superman was a box office bomb, they would not finish Superman II. The original climax for Superman II had General Zod, Ursa and Non destroying the planet, with Superman time traveling to fix the damage.  In the original ending for Superman, the nuclear missile that Superman pushed into outer space happens to strike the Phantom Zone, freeing the three Kryptonian supervillains, The final shot was originally going to be General Zod, Non and Ursa all flying towards Earth, in an ominous sequel hook moment.[citation needed] The sequence can be seen in its entirety at the beginning of Donner’s edit of Superman II, where it was fully restored.

Donner commented, “I decided if Superman is a success, they’re going to do a sequel. If it ain’t a success, a cliffhanger ain’t gonna bring them to see Superman II.

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What a Major Disappointment- this is no masterpiece

3/10
Author: Red Death from United States
21 August 2014
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I honestly do not get why people love this film so much. Did I even watch the same movie these guys did?

The movie starts on Krypton, a surprisingly dull set piece that looks more like something cooked up by a designer who is very rich, yet lacking in imagination. Nothing makes it really stand out as a truly alien world, making for a rather forgettable set piece.

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Once Superman arrives on Earth, we see his origin story, which doesn’t particularly stand out to me, largely due to the movie not really examining what his experience with his powers are like when he is young and can’t control him. Another point of contention is that when he is 18, he is played by an actor who doesn’t fit the look of Superman. We get to the part where he works at the daily planet, which is watchable.

The acting is decent, for the most part, I’ll give the movie that much. But I honestly feel it could have been put to better use.

Now, for the plot. My first problem with this is that the missiles Lex Luthor steals would not be transported in any state for which they would be assembled and fit to use for the safety hazards this would pose. My second problem is that even a 100 megaton yield hydrogen bomb on top of a fault line would not be enough to cause a major earthquake. If Lex Luthor was such a brilliant scientist, he should have known that. It just doesn’t make sense.

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My third problem is that Superman brings Lois Lane back from the dead by reversing time itself by going backwards around the Earth (with terrible yet unintentionally funny special effects), which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It also kills what precious little suspense was there to begin with because Superman could theoretically keep doing this whenever he felt like it. It really just felt like the writers wrote themselves into a corner and pulled something out of their asses to keep the plot going.

This movie suffers from a terminally bland character who is never endangered by anything but kryptonite, and whose only personality trait is “nice” and other slight variants. We never see any of the dilemmas a godlike alien who was the last of his species and an alien to the planet he lives on would face. Instead, we see a smiling, perfect hero who is not merely incapable of doing wrong, but incapable of being tempted. If “nice” and “perfect” are the only personality traits one has to go by, than it becomes meaningless. The smiling, easygoing hero feels forced and fake.

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I have heard that Superman being nigh invincible is interesting when he has to avoid being tempted to use his powers for selfish purposes, which would be true if he was capable of being tempted.

With poor special effects, a plot greatly weakened by holes and general lack of logic and an overdramatic score that blares out even when nothing of importance happens, I got one of the biggest disappointments of my childhood in this movie. And what frustrates me the most is that if Superman could be written so he is less one dimensional, it would be a movie worth seeing. Ultimately, though, this movie is a dull, unfulfilling exercise in wasted potential lack character development, a good plot, a good score and decent/interesting special effects. This, however, is just my opinion and you can feel free to have your own.

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The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Cinematography Ted Moore
Oswald Morris

The Man with the Golden Gun is a 1974 British spy film, the ninth entry in the James Bond series and the second to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. A loose adaptation of Ian Fleming‘s novel of same name, the film has Bond sent after the Solex Agitator, a device that can harness the power of the sun, while facing the assassin Francisco Scaramanga, the “Man with the Golden Gun”. The action culminates in a duel between them that settles the fate of the Solex.

The Man with the Golden Gun was the fourth and final film in the series directed by Guy Hamilton. The script was written by Richard Maibaum and Tom Mankiewicz. The film was set in the face of the 1973 energy crisis, a dominant theme in the script. Britain had still not yet fully overcome the crisis when the film was released in December 1974.

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The film also reflects the then popular martial arts film craze, with several kung fu scenes and a predominantly Asian location, being shot in Thailand, Hong Kong, and Macau. Part of the film is also set in Beirut, Lebanon, making it the second Bond film to include a Middle Eastern location – the first being Turkey in “From Russia With Love”.

The film saw mixed reviews. Christopher Lee‘s performance as Scaramanga, intended to be a villain of similar skill and ability to Bond, was praised, but reviewers criticized the film as a whole, particularly the comedic approach, and some critics described it as the lowest point in the canon. Although the film was profitable, it is the fourth lowest grossing Bond film in the series. It was also the last film to be co-produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, with Saltzman selling his 50% stake in Danjaq, LLC, the parent company of Eon Productions, after the release of the film.

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Writing and themes

Tom Mankiewicz wrote a first draft for the script in 1973, delivering a script that was a battle of wills between Bond and Scaramanga, who he saw as Bond’s alter ego, “a super-villain of the stature of Bond himself.” Tensions between Mankiewicz and Guy Hamiltonand Mankiewicz’s growing sense that he was “feeling really tapped out on Bond” led to the re-introduction of Richard Maibaum as the Bond screenwriter.

Maibaum, who had worked on six Bond films previously, delivered his own draft based on Mankiewicz’s work. Much of the plot involving Scaramanga being Bond’s equal was sidelined in later drafts. For one of the two main aspects of the plot, the screenwriters used the 1973 energy crisis as a backdrop to the film,  allowing the MacGuffin of the “Solex agitator” to be introduced; Broccoli’s stepson Michael G. Wilson researched solar power to create the Solex.

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While Live and Let Die had borrowed heavily from the blaxploitation genre, The Man with the Golden Gun borrowed from the martial arts genre that was popular in the 1970s through films such as Fist of Fury (1972) and Enter the Dragon (1973).However, the use of the martial arts for a fight scene in the film “lapses into incredibility” when Lt Hip and his two nieces defeat an entire dojo.

Casting

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Cinematography Vilmos Zsigmond

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a 1977 American science fiction film written and directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, Bob Balaban, and Cary Guffey. It tells the story of Roy Neary, an everyday blue-collar worker in Indiana, whose life changes after an encounter with an unidentified flying object (UFO).

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Close Encounters was a long-cherished project for Spielberg. In late 1973, he developed a deal with Columbia Pictures for a science fiction film. Though Spielberg received sole credit for the script, he was assisted by Paul Schrader, John Hill, David Giler, Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins, and Jerry Belson, all of whom contributed to the screenplay in varying degrees. The title is derived from UFO-ologist J. Allen Hynek‘s classification of close encounters with aliens, in which the third kind denotes human observations of aliens or “animate beings.” Douglas Trumbull served as the visual effects supervisor, while Carlo Rambaldi designed the aliens.

Strong emotional core that avoids Rockwell-esque sentimentality

24 January 2003 | by bob the moo (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

When the whole area suffers a full blackout, electrician Roy Neary is called out to service some poles suspected of being down.

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Sitting in his truck trying to find directions he is suddenly caught in a bright light and the electric’s on his truck fail. Shortly it passes and he sees a craft pass overhead. At the same time nearby a woman pursues her young son who has wandered out in search of the lights that have been calling to him. Both adults are left wanting to know the truth and filled with half-ideas and images that haunt them – when Gillian Guiler son is taken, this becomes even more important to them. Meanwhile the military, led by investigator Claude Lacombe uncover planes and ships that have been missing for decades and uncover hidden codes and signals in the mysterious crafts.

I am currently ploughing my way through Speilberg’s Taken on BBC2 so I thought I’d give this classic another view just to remind myself how good Speilberg and aliens can be. The plot is perfect for any UFO nut – the government are behind everything and know of everything. The story unfolds really well – the three main stories complimenting each other and giving the film a sense of pace.

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The strand with Lacombe following events all round the globe is the least personal (and thus least involving) but it is enticing us for the climax of the film. Neary’s soul searching maybe does go on a little too long but the emotion in the family situation is intense and his frustration and sense of confusion is very real. Although the thrid strand has less screen time the abduction of the child is a powerful scene and the emotion is well brought out.

The special effects are very good but the glue of the film is the emotional telling. This is Speilberg doing well – he never really gives into his American Apple Pie style sentimentality and the film keeps moving along and has a real emotional heart to it. The climax of the movie always sort of messes me up and I find it best not to question it’s logic on any level for fear of holes opening up all over it – but it does have a sense of childlike wonder to it, which I guess Speilberg was trying to get across.

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As usual Dreyfuss does well under Speilberg and he is mostly responsible for keeping the emotion in his character realistic without being all syrupy and sickly. Truffaut is OK but it’s impossible to see him as anyone but Francis Truffaut and his character suffers as a result. Garr and Dillon are both strong female characters for different reasons and the support cast are generally very good (including a good handful of the Dreyfuss family).

Overall this film never gets me as one of the greatest sci-fi’s of all time, but it is certainly a very good film that takes `real’ people as it’s driver and not flashy effect shots. That `Taken’ seems to be slipping into Norman Rockwell type mawkishness is good enough reason to revisit CE3K.

personal all-time favorite

10/10
Author: billreynolds from usa
27 January 2004
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For my taste, the first hour and a half of this movie is the greatest stretch of filmmaking ever.

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Up until Roy and Jillian reach the “dark side of the moon” on Devil’s Tower, this movie is perfect. No, it’s beyond perfect — it’s sublime. It takes me to a level of bliss that no other movie can do.

Many critics and viewers — including a number on this site — don’t like this movie at all. Those who do like it almost uniformly like the final sequence, the “alien landing,” the best. For me it is the rest of the movie that is the most remarkable. Some of my favorite sequences:

1. The blinding flash of light that ends the opening credits and leads us to a sandstorm in Sonora Desert, Mexico — Present Day, with various team leaders, Bob Balaban, and Francois Truffaut speaking three languages as they find a whole bunch of old Navy planes lost in the Bermuda Triangle and an old geezer who saw something very strange.

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“El sol salio a noche. Y me canto,” he keeps saying. Translation: “He says the sun came out last night. He says it sang to him.” Then Balaban translates for Truffaut: “Il dit que le soleil etait venue ici hier soir, et qu’il chantait pour lui.” Then Balaban disappears in a cloud of dust. The mystery created in that sequence is incredible — the greatest opening of all time, if you ask me. Trivia note: that sequence was the last Spielberg filmed before the movie’s release. The shooting script opens with Indianapolis Flight Control, but Spielberg decided he wanted a new opening and shot this after production had wrapped. Supposedly this sequence was inspired by the Iraqi prologue in the Exorcist.

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2. Roy’s first encounter with the aliens in his power company truck — a brilliantly conceived and edited sequence. I love the dolly in to Roy’s window as he pants in shock in the shadows, then the comedy of his reaction when the lights in the truck come back on.

3. The “sky speeders” disappearing into the clouds over Muncie, followed by lightning and then the lights of the city coming back on, bit by bit. Spielberg’s use of miniatures here is breathtaking — as it was in 1941 and as it is later in CE3K when the UFO believers gather again to await another encounter and the lights from the government helicopters move toward them across the plains below.

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4. The entire sequence of Roy going crazy. This was controversial with critics — Pauline Kael, who loved the movie generally, hated Roy throwing the bushes into the kitchen — and Spielberg actually cut the entire digging up the garden sequence from the so-called “Special Edition.” To me, though, this is the absolute heart of the movie. Ask people what they remember from CE3K and the first thing they’ll say is “mashed potatoes.” To my mind, the garden sequence is one of those magical moments that is so funny and so sad it’s just perfect. I believe every second of it, every time. The reactions of the kids are perfect — the oldest son is big enough to be angry, while the middle says, “Dad, when we’re finished with this can we throw dirt in my window?” (In the dinner sequence, little Sylvia has arguably the best line in a movie full of them — “I hate, I hate these potatoes. There’s a dead fly in my potatoes.” An ad lib, of course.)

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In recent years, Spielberg has expressed concern with the fact that Roy leaves his family to pursue the aliens, and has said that if he were to make the movie over again, he would change that part. To my way of thinking, if you take that out, there is no movie. What this movie is really about is Roy’s obsession, and that, I think, is why it has such a hold on me personally. This movie is about what it’s like for a person whose life has lost its meaning suddenly finding there is a really important purpose, and pursuing that purpose at all costs. Is it right for him to turn his family’s life upside down and ultimately leave them behind to do that? No. But his obsession is understandable, I think, and the purpose Roy finds is something a lot of people would like to feel. Also, it’s clear that Roy is not acting entirely of his own free will — he has been “commanded” subliminally to make his way to Devil’s Tower.

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I am not aware of any other movie — or book, or any other source, for that matter — that portrays 70s suburban life so accurately. The street, the house, the cars, the toys, the furniture — it is like an archeological document. And the way the kids act, and the family conflicts — to my way of thinking, they are all portrayed with unerring accuracy and realism. Some have contended that Ronnie is unflatteringly portrayed, but to me that’s not fair. She can’t be blamed for reacting the way she does to Roy — many people in her shoes would. Garr’s performance is brilliant; she and Dreyfuss are magical together. Melinda Dillon, too, is brilliant in her role. In the shooting script, the sexual attraction between Roy and Jillian was more overt, but Spielberg wisely downplays it in the finished film. It’s only hinted at, although it is there.

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The actual “alien landing” sequence, in my opinion, is a letdown. It’s brilliantly photographed and realized, but once Roy and Jillian make it to the dark side of the moon, the primary tension in the story is gone. If I could edit this movie, I’d take a major pair of shears to the final sequence, cut it down to maybe half its current length. I do get choked up when I see Roy in his red suit at the end of the line of astronauts, though, and Jillian wiping tears away as she clicks away with her Kodak.

As with the original Star Wars, my other all-time favorite movie, I have a problem with the way this picture has been hacked and altered from its original release through various special editions. I understand it’s possible to watch the original 1977 cut on the DVD, and I’m glad of that. That original version is the best. I first got to know this movie on ABC in the early 1980s, when it was shown with all the original and Special Edition footage edited together. Personally, I don’t think the special edition footage adds much (even the Gobi desert sequence, which is an interesting concept that was in the shooting script, stands out because it was obviously shot by a different DP and doesn’t have Truffaut in it).

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Anyway, I will always cherish this movie. “You tell Crystal Lake we’re going to candlepower in ten minutes!” “Zey belong here more zan we.” “There’s always some joker who thinks he’s immune.” “You can’t fool us by agreeing with us.” “What the hell is going on around here? Who the hell are you people?” “Ronnie, everything’s fine. All this stuff is coming down.”

Close Encounters Of The Incomprehensible Kind

3/10
Author: garthbarnes-83945 from United States
27 June 2015

Spoilers Ahead:

This movie, besides being dreadfully boring, suffers from two bizarre assumptions. One, that advanced beings are less aware of how their actions effect more primitive forms. Two, that their forms of organizing knowledge are identical with our own. The first is also found in THE MOTIONLESS PICTURE, they cannot tell scans from weapons attacks, though we, the primitives can. Here, they burn faces, terrorize a single mom, almost burn her house down and abduct her little boy. We are supposed to believe that they are that advanced and are oblivious to the consequences, moral and scientific, of their behavior.

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The deduction is unavoidable either they are: 1. malevolent or 2. Retarded. On earth, it is an empirical fact that the higher up the chain of mammal life we go, the greater the awareness of our actions on other creatures, not less. Here, as in the MOTIONLESS PICTURE, they tool about kidnapping children, burning faces, planting the image of the Devil’s Tower in monkey boys heads which tortures them and causes them to freak out and go bananas. Does this sound like benevolent aliens to you?

The second one we see in the last half hour of the movie. As in CONTACT, where we hear Ellie tells us that math is the only truly universal language. What is the evidence for that assertion? Kant shows us that the forms of unifying the phenomenal into categories like causation, plurality are simply our ways of making sense of the phenomenal world and have not reality outside of our minds.

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Why would we assume their minds work like ours? Notice that imitation is not communication. No communication occurs in this movie only we play back and they play back. Nothing more than if we played Little Deuce Coupe to them and they played it back to us. What happened? nothing but mindless mimic behavior. The same with the silly hand gestures, what just took place?

Beyond these subtleties, the movie is one of the most boring pieces of crap you will ever endure. The effects have not aged well; as one great reviewer wrote, they do look like lighted ice cream cones. You will not enjoy watching Roy and his family come apart; or Roy turning the living room into a mud room, literally. It is an ugly, boring film. Seeing the little boy and his mother terrorized and then the little boy abducted, sorry, these actions do not bespeak benign, kind aliens. Forgive me, it came out after STAR WARS and it was so apparent to us, at the time, it was an attempt to cash in on that movie. It is just different enough but you get the point. Ironically, Carpenter did the same thing to Steven with STARMAN right after E.T. The movie is not esoteric it is absurd and incomprehensible deliberately I believe. Q.E.D.

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Devils Tower in Wyoming was used as a filming location

Principal photography began on May 16, 1976, though an Associated Press report in August 1975 had suggested filming would start in late 1975. Spielberg did not want to do any location shooting because of his negative experience on Jaws and wanted to shoot Close Encounters entirely on sound stages, but eventually dropped the idea.

Filming took place in Burbank, California; Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming; two abandoned World War II airship hangars at the former Brookley Air Force Base in Mobile, Alabama; and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad depot in Bay Minette. The home where Barry was abducted is located outside the town of Fairhope, Alabama. Roy Neary’s home is at Carlisle Drive East in Mobile. The UFOs fly through the former toll booth at the Vincent Thomas Bridge, San Pedro, California. The Gobi Desert sequence was photographed at the Dumont Dunes, California, and the Dharmsala-India exteriors were filmed at the small village of Hal near Khalapur, 35 miles (56 km) outside Bombay, India.

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The hangars in Alabama were six times larger than the biggest sound stage in the world. Various technical and budgetary problems occurred during filming. Spielberg called Close Encounters “twice as bad and twice as expensive [as Jaws]”

Matters worsened when Columbia Pictures experienced financial difficulties. Spielberg estimated the film would cost $2.7 million to make in his original 1973 pitch to Columbia, but the final budget came to $19.4 million. Columbia studio executive John Veich remembered, “If we knew it was going to cost that much, we wouldn’t have greenlighted it because we didn’t have the money.” Spielberg hired Joe Alves, his collaborator on Jaws, as production designer.In addition the 1976 Atlantic hurricane season brought tropical storms to Alabama. A large portion of the sound stage in Alabama was damaged because of a lightning strike.Columbia raised $7 million from three sources: Time Inc., EMI, and German tax shelters.

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Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond said that, during the time of shooting for the film, Spielberg got more ideas by watching movies every night which in turn extended the production schedule because he was continually adding new scenes to be filmed.Zsigmond previously turned down the chance to work on Jaws. In her 1991 book You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, producer Julia Phillips wrote highly profane remarks about Spielberg, Zsigmond, and Truffaut, because she was fired during post-production due to a cocaine addiction. Phillips blamed it on Spielberg being a perfectionist.

Visual effects

Douglas Trumbull was the visual effects supervisor, while Carlo Rambaldi designed the aliens. Trumbull joked that the visual effects budget, at $3.3 million, could have been used to produce an additional film. His work helped lead to advances in motion control photography.

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The mother ship was designed by Ralph McQuarrie and built by Greg Jein. The look of the ship was inspired by an oil refinery Spielberg saw at night in India.Instead of the metallic hardware look used in Star Wars, the emphasis was on a more luminescent look for the UFOs. One of the UFO models was an oxygen mask with lights attached to it, used because of its irregular shape. As a subtle in-joke, Dennis Muren (who had just finished working on Star Wars) put a small R2-D2 model onto the underside of the mothership. The model of the mothership is now on display in the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Annex at Washington Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Virginia.

Since Close Encounters was filmed anamorphically, the visual effects sequences were shot in 70 mm film to better conform with the 35 mm film used for the rest of the movie. A test reel using computer-generated imagery was used for the UFOs, but Spielberg found it would be too expensive and ineffective since CGI was in its infancy in the mid-1970s.

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The small aliens in the final scenes were played by local girls in Mobile, Alabama. That decision was requested by Spielberg because he felt “girls move more gracefully than boys.” Puppetry was attempted for the aliens, but the idea failed. However, Rambaldi successfully used puppetry to depict two of the aliens, the first being a marionette (for the tall alien that is the first to be seen emerging from the mothership) and an articulated puppet for the alien that communicates via hand signals with Lacombe near the end of the film.

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Magnificent Obsession (1954 )

Directed by Douglas Sirk
Cinematography Russell Metty

Magnificent Obsession is a 1954 Universal-International Technicolor romantic feature film directed by Douglas Sirk; starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson. The screenplay was written by Robert Blees and Wells Root, after the 1929 book Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas. The film was produced by Ross Hunter. Sirk sometimes claimed that the story was based distantly on the Greek legend of Alcestis.

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Spoiled playboy Bob Merrick’s (Rock Hudson) reckless behavior causes him to lose control of his speed boat. Rescuers send for the nearest resuscitator, located in Dr. Phillips’s house across the lake. While the resuscitator is being used to save Merrick, Dr. Phillips suffers a heart attack and dies. Merrick ends up a patient at Dr. Phillips’s clinic, where most of the doctors and nurses resent the fact that Merrick inadvertently caused Dr. Phillips’s death.

Helen Phillips (Jane Wyman), Dr. Phillips’s young widow, receives a flood of calls, letters and visitors all offering to pay back loans that Dr. Phillips refused to accept repayment of during his life. Many claimed he refused by saying “it was already used up.” Edward Randolph (Otto Kruger), a famous artist and Dr. Phillips’s close friend, explains to Helen what that phrase means. This helps her to understand why her husband left little money, even though he had a very successful practice.

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Merrick discovers why everyone dislikes him. He runs from the clinic but collapses in front of Helen’s car and ends up back at the hospital, where she learns his true identity. After his discharge, Merrick leaves a party, drunk. After running off the road, Merrick ends up at the home of Edward Randolph, who recognizes him. Randolph explains the secret belief that powered his own art and Dr. Phillips’s success. Merrick decides to try out this new philosophy. His first attempt causes Helen to step into the path of a car while trying to run away from Merrick’s advances. She is blinded by this accident.

Merrick soberly commits to becoming a doctor, trying to fulfill Dr. Phillips’s legacy. He also has fallen in love with Helen and secretly helps her adjust to her blindness under the guise of being simply a poor medical student, Robby.

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Merrick secretly arranges for Helen to travel to Europe and consult the best eye surgeons in the world. After extensive tests, these surgeons tell Helen there is no hope for recovery. Right after this, Robby shows up at her hotel to provide emotional support, but eventually discovers that Helen has already guessed his real identity. Merrick asks Helen to marry him. Later that night, Helen realizes she will be a burden to him, and so runs away and disappears.

Many years pass and Merrick is now a dedicated and successful brain surgeon who secretly continues his philanthropic acts, and searches for Helen. One evening, Randolph arrives with news that Helen is very sick, possibly dying, in a small Southwest hospital. They leave immediately for this clinic. Merrick arrives to find that Helen needs complex brain surgery to save her life. As the only capable surgeon at the clinic, Merrick performs this operation. After a long night waiting for the results, Helen awakens and discovers she can now see.

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Magnificent Obsession was previously filmed in 1935, also by Universal, as Magnificent Obsession with Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor. Sirk began production on Magnificent Obsession, his previous production, Taza, Son of Cochise having wrapped up the month before.

Taza, a 3-D western, also starred Rock Hudson, and it was the second time the two had worked together (the first time being 1952’s Has Anybody Seen My Gal?). Hudson had just begun to start his career at that point, previously playing leading parts in Universal B-movies, usually directed by Joseph Pevney or Frederick De Cordova.

Pre-production scouting for locations began on August 26, 1953 by director Douglas Sirk, Director of Photography Russell Metty, and Unit Manager Edward K. Dodds. Rehearsals began on September 8.Second-unit footage of locations at Lake Tahoe began filming on September 14. A speedboat, “Hurricane the 4th,” was secured for the second unit footage of Hudson’s boat.

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Charles Bickford was originally cast in the role of Randolph, but was withdrawn from the cast on September 15. Sirk and Wyman were ill, and Rock Hudson injured, so filming of Magnificent Obsession was delayed longer than Bickford had anticipated. Although the studio and Bickford had come to an oral agreement and trade announcements mentioned Bickford in the role, Bickford had at the same time made an agreement with Warner Bros. for another picture and walked out on the Magnificent Obsession when shooting began on the 1954 version of A Star is Born, in which he played studio head, Oliver Niles. Bickford was replaced by free-lance character actor Otto Kruger.

While second-unit footage wrapped at Lake Tahoe, screen tests of Barbara Rush, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead, Jane Wyman, Gigi Perreau, Donna Corcoran, and Sheila James took place on Stage 8 in Universal City on September 16 and 17. Director Sirk was ill, and utility director Joseph Pevney filled in. The next day, Corcoran, Hudson and Judy Nugent were tested by Pevney. Test shots were taken in Lake Arrowhead with the new Cinemascope anamorphic lens process, an early consideration. The production started in a flat widescreen process at an aspect ratio of 2:1, at that time Universal’s standard ratio.

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Production began on September 21 at Lake Arrowhead with Sirk back in the director’s seat.

Magnificent Obsession was an early starring role for Hudson, and, according to Wyman, he was very nervous. Some of his scenes had to be re-shot thirty or forty times, but Wyman never said a word. Reportedly, years later at a party, Hudson ran into Wyman and said, “You were nice to me when you didn’t have to be, and I want you to know that I thank you and love you for it.”[citation needed]

Frank Skinner composed the music for this film, the theme of which inspired a song of the same title with lyrics by Frederick Herbert. The Four Lads recorded the song with the Percy Faith orchestra. Victor Young also recorded an instrumental version of the song which featured a viola solo by Anatole Kaminsky.

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The Glossy Facade Gives Way To A Studio Classic

23 July 2005 | by Michael Bragg (Michael27@aol.com) (Foster City, CA) – See all my reviews

Looking back on the abbreviated career of Douglas Sirk, “Magnificent Obsession” rises above being just another “woman’s film” or “weepie”. It actually serves as a notable turning point as it is the first in a string of Technicolor melodramas Sirk helmed at Universal-International, as well as one of his most popular. It also kick-started the malnourished career of Rock Hudson and sent his fame into another realm. Despite the film’s lame-brained premise and endless implausibilities, Sirk takes the material and dishes out a sweet, moving drama that is a thinly disguised tale of Christianity.

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Hudson stars as Bob Merrick, a millionaire playboy with no cares in the world. His lavish and self-serving lifestyle inadvertently leads to the death of a prominent local doctor, Wayne Phillips. Dr.Phillip’s widow, Helen(Jane Wyman)tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered life, while at the same time resisting the advances of Bob Merrick. His persistence results in an accident in which Helen goes blind. In a convoluted and corny twist, Bob tries to redeem himself by giving selflessly to others and devoting his life to medicine to find a way to restore Helen’s eyesight.

Every stereotype of every soap opera convention is used in overwhelming doses to tell the story of “Magnificent Obsession”. The “alternative lifestyle” of Christianity that Bob learns is a mish-mash of psychobabble that even the most detail-oriented viewer would find boring and confusing.

screen-shot-2015-12-29-at-12-47-19-amAnd the seriousness in which the actors take the material is eye-rollingly unbelievable. But this film is saved by the always-savvy direction of Douglas Sirk(who himself hated the plot)and an elegant, understated Jane Wyman who brought her own brand of sophistication to every role she played – and was Oscar-nominated for this role. Even Hudson is able to overcome his nerves in his first leading, A-list role to give a performance that is convincing. Sirk’s use of reflective surfaces and a dominating color palette give this movie a look that is undeniably sheen. And Frank Skinner’s classical score takes the ordinary material to an emotional level; although the choral “oohs and aahs” on the soundtrack are a bit pungent for such a quiet film. This is not Sirk’s best work, but it is definitely solid enough to engage first time viewers and a must for fans of the German-bred director’s work.

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