The Warriors (1979)

Directed by Walter Hill
Cinematography Andrew Laszlo

Cyrus, the leader of the most powerful gang in New York City, the Gramercy Riffs, calls a midnight summit for all the area gangs, with all asked to send nine unarmed representatives for the conclave. A gang called The Warriors are blamed for killing Cyrus as he gives his speech. They now have to cross the territory of rivals in order to get to their own ‘hood. The Warriors slowly cross the dangerous Bronx and Manhattan territories, narrowly escaping police and other gangs every step of the way.

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I’ll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a Popsicle

10/10
Author: movieman_kev from United States
8 October 2005

The Warriors, headed by Swan (Michael Beck), framed for killing Cyrus, a gang leader that would’ve united all of them, have to get home to Coney Island while all the rival gangs are gunning for them in this slightly surreal, slightly futuristic classic. All of the actors were brilliantly casted and well acted, not the least being David Patrick Kelly as highly memorable villain, Luther (Waahhrriioors come out to pllllllaahhhhyyyaaaa, is all I have to say). The new Director’s cut which adds a prologue text crawl that ties it more firmly to an ancient Greek tale, as well as comic book wipes that transitions some scenes, may dumb it down a tad and spell it out for the audience too unsubtly, but it does NOT diminish from the overall greatness of the movie in the least. The superb director/ writer Walter Hill has made some all-time classics with “48 Hrs.”, “The Getaway”, “the Driver”, Red Heat”, among others. ALL of them much loved by me and to say that this film is hands down the best of all is quite a compliment indeed.

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Followed by a video game based on it by Rockstar that looks simply amazing and a planned remake that will in no way even hope to be as half as good as the original (It won’t even have the great Baseball Furies, I mean, come on now!!)

My Grade: A+

Director’s Cut DVD Extras: An Introduction Walter Hill; A little over an hour long documentary cut into 4 featurettes (The Beginning: From Novel To Screen, The Battleground: Casting the Warriors, The Way Home: Making The Warriors, and The Phenomenon: Releasing the Warriors); Theatrical trailer; Video Game Trailer; and Trailers for “P Diddy’s Bad Boys of Comedy”, “Airplane: Don’t Call me Shirley Edition”, “Hustle & Flow”, “Macgyver”, “George Lopez: Why you crying?”, & “the Godfather”

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Development

Film rights to Sol Yurick‘s novel The Warriors were bought in 1969 by American International Pictures but no film resulted.

Rights were then obtained by producer Lawrence Gordon who commissioned David Shaber to write a script. Gordon sent the script to director Walter Hill with a copy of Sol Yurick’s novel. Hill recalls, “I said ‘Larry, I would love to do this, but nobody will let us do it.’ It was going to be too extreme and too weird.”

Gordon and Hill were originally going to make a western but when the financing on the project failed to materialize, they took The Warriors to Paramount Pictures because they were interested in youth films at the time and succeeded in getting the project financed. Hill remembers “it came together very quickly. Larry had a special relationship with Paramount and we promised to make the movie very cheaply, which we did. So it came together within a matter of weeks. I think we got the green light in April or May of 1978 and we were in theaters in February of 1979. So it was a very accelerated process.”

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Hill was drawn to the “extreme narrative simplicity and stripped down quality of the script”. The script, as written, was a realistic take on street gangs but the director was a huge fan of comic books and wanted to divide the film into chapters and then have each chapter “come to life starting with a splash panel”. The director was finally able to include this type of scene transition in the Ultimate Director’s Cut released for home video in 2005.

Your just part of what’s happening tonight, and it’s all bad!

8/10
Author: sol from Brooklyn NY USA
28 July 2004

****SPOILERS**** “Nine guys no weapons” thats the word going around on the mean streets of New York City about the conditions for the big gang pow-wow up in the Bronx that “The Warriors” a Coney Island street gang took the subway from their home base in Southern Brooklyn to attend.

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Cyrus, Roger Hill, the leader of the city’s biggest street gang “The Riffs” will be the main speaker laying out the strategy for the gangs of New York eventual take over of the city. Telling the thousands of gang members assembled at the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park that if they unite and stop fighting with each other they can become the most powerful force in the city, five times bigger that the NYC police department, an urban army that will have the “Big Apple” and everything in it just for the taking.

Before Cyrus can finish his speech a shot rings out from the crowd and he falls to the ground dead. Unjustly accused by the real killer of Cyrus of murdering him “The Warriors” are on the run for the entire film from the upper reaches of the Bronx to their home in Coney Island, the longest trek on the NYC subway.

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By the time that they make it back in the morning they’ll not only be exonerated of Cyrus’ murder but will earn the respect and admiration of all the gangs that were out to capture or kill them that horrifying night. But “The Warriors” paid a heavy price in their run for freedom they lost three men, Cleon Fox & Ajax, Dorsey Wright Thomas G. Walters & James Remar.

One of the best movies ever about survival on the streets of New York City or any other big urban metropolis for that matter with a heart thumping run-for-your-life by the gang from Coney Island through the streets and on the subways of New York while being attacked on all sides by murderous street gangs and police alike. The gangs who got the word from the Riffs high command to waste “The Warriors” for the death of their leader Cyrus make “The Warriors” long journey back to Brooklyn like a journey through the bowels of hell itself.

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The movie “The Warriors” is more like a movie about a group of soldiers then that of an urban street gang who’s trapped behind enemy lines, and being attacked by the enemy forces from all sides, as they try to make it safely back to their home base in Coney Island fighting for their lives every step of the way. There are a number of penetrating and individual stories among those involved.

There’s Swan, Michael Beck,who took over the leadership of “The Warriors” when their leader Cleon was wasted at the beginning of the film. Cool sure of himself and intelligent Swan guided the battered group back home under conditions as deadly as any a group of fighters would face in a real war zone.

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There’s Ajax, James Remer, who’s macho attitude as well as his big stud image of himself got the best of him when he was hand cuffed to a park bench and clobbered by the police when he tried to “make it”, against the advice of his fellow “Warriors”, with an undercover policewoman.

There’s Rembrandt, Marcellino Sanchez, “The Warrior” artist or marker who saved his fellow gang members from the girl gang “The Lizzies” when he realized that they were setting him and his fellow “Warriors” up for the kill.

And there was Mercy, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, who hitched on with “The Warriors” after inciting the gang “The Orphans” on them. We soon begin to see, like Swan did, that her yarning for violence and excitement was a cover for the loveless and hopeless life that she led.

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By the end of the movie with the sun rising over the sands and ocean of Coney Island and “The Warriors” back home vindicated and free from gang attacks they come to realize after that night of horrors that thy just lived through things will only get better because the worst that they could have ever imagined to have happened was now behind them.

Powerful movie that has reached cult status since it’s release back in 1979 and justifiably so; the movie “The Warriors” is defiantly a WINNER.

a classic in it’s own right

10/10
Author: xfuneralofheartsx from United States
10 December 2006

I’ll admit the first time I saw this, I didn’t see what the big deal was. I thought parts were dragged out, unneeded, and didn’t make any sense. I decided to give it a second chance, and it instantly became one of my favorite movies.

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The Warriors tells the tale of a “futuristic” New York City, in which, it seems, everyone is either associated with a gang, a cop, or just in the way. The Riffs, the largest gang in the city, calls for a meeting, consisting of 9 representatives from each gang, and each member to be unarmed. During this meeting, Cyrus, the leader of the Riffs, tells his plan of a unified gang which would run the city and outnumber the cops. During his speech, Luther, a member of the Rogues, shoots Cyrus after sneaking a gun into the meeting. Questions arise as to who did it, which the finger being pointed at the Warriors. From here on out, the Warriors are on their own as they must travel from the Bronx to Coney Island by any means necessary, traveling by train and by foot, through other gang territory.

Now a days, the violence in the movie may not effect some, but seeing as how it was made in 1979, I can see where the controversy comes from. As the movie goes on, you will start cheering for the Warriors and anticipating what will happen next. The use of (then) unknown actors helps you get into the story a little bit more, as you realize these could be everyday people and not big-name, big-budget Hollywood actors.

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Looking back, I realized how much the meeting was an allegory for the Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a dream” speech. From the vision of a unified group to the assassination and even after wards, when the Warriors are saying what a great man and leader Cyrus would have been.

If you enjoy the movie, or want to understand it more, I highly recommend the Warriors video game, produced by Rockstar. It runs (almost) alongside the movie, but also provides a steady back story or how the Warriors was started and how each member came to be. An added bonus of the game is some of the major actors return to provide voices for their characters, such as Swan, Ajax and Cleon. It is also interesting to see (if you watch the movie before playing the game), how well the clips from the movie translate into the game. Many of the key scenes look like they are taken straight from the movie, like the meeting and the introduction of all of the Warriors in the beginning.

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Again, I highly recommend this movie for anyone who likes cult movies, as this is a major one. Even if you don’t like cult movies, I recommend it for the strong messages it sends.

Kinetic Cult Classic

8/10
Author: tieman64 from United Kingdom
7 April 2010
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ah, the 70s, the decade when a genre director like Walter Hill could turn a film like “The Warriors” into some kind of adrenaline fuelled comic book masterpiece. Release this film in any other decade and it would be torn to shreds. But the 70s? No way man. In the 70s, hacks made great films, and even crappy films oozed a kind of electric immediacy.

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Of course it’s important to remember that we had all kinds of factors affecting American cinema in the 60s and 70s. Vietnam, various feminist and civil rights movements, the invigorating influences of the British, French and Italian new waves, Watergate, the pill, hippies, drugs, the dismantling of the Empires, the documentary boom, the sexual revolution etc etc. People believed they could change things. That films could set people free. There was hope, man!

Of course, disillusionment then set in. By the 80s, Ashby would turn to drugs, Coppola would take up a career in sucking, Kubrick would take increasingly long hiatuses, Lumet and Altman would be relegated to adapting stage plays, Kurosawa would be recovering from a suicide and Antonioni, Bergman and Fellini might as well have been dead, Woody Allen churning out some Fellini/Bergman pastiche once a year…in English. Who needs them?

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So it was back to business. Back to wish-fulfilment cinema, only now films like “Godfather” and “Jaws” had led to violence becoming the ultimate cinematic cumshot. Elsewhere set-piece cinema was the norm, continuous titillation the raison d’etre of most films, whilst modern gadgetry led to a vampiric obsession with “remaking” or “correcting” narratives of the past with “new” techno-wizardry.

By the time the 80s ended, guys like Spielberg, Lucas and Zemeckis had six of the ten top grossing films of the decade, blockbusters were drawing in previously unheard of sums of money, advertising levels had soared and global blanket releases were pushing more and more films off screens. In the early 90s indie markets began to spring up, but by the end of that decade indie festivals like Sundance would likewise be homogenized and Hollywoodized, the cinematic revolution once again moving elsewhere, this time to the Middle East and Asia.

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And so we wax nostalgically about the 70s, that oddball age of American cinema when the social cocktail was such that a guy like Walter Hill could turn a wacky plot into some kind of kinetic masterpiece.

Set in the near future, “The Warriors” revolves around a street gang who find themselves stuck in the Bronx as they try desperately to get back to their home turf in Coney Island. The problem is, every gang in the city is out to get them, not to mention the cops. Sounds juvenile? It is. But the film nevertheless oozes ambiance. Shot on location and almost entirely at night, Hill and cinematographer Andrew Laszlo create a world of dark shadows, fluorescent bulbs, rain slick streets and moody nightmare. Elsewhere Hill uses careful compositions to evoke comic book panels and the splash designs of graphic novels. These panels are emphasised in the DVD director’s cut of the film, much to the anger of the film’s fans.

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But these changes are essential in undercutting or highlighting the film’s juvenile appeal, Hill recognising that “The Warriors” essentially plays out like an adolescent fantasy in which wannabe tough guys roam the streets at night without parental supervision, doing as they please.

Unsurprisingly, the film was based on “Anabasis” by Greek writer Xenophon. Both aim to resonate on a mythical level, both striped down hymns to bloodshed and bravery. In Hill’s case he charters the gang’s Spartanesque battle from the Bronx to Coney Island, the director ratcheting up the tension at every opportunity. Of course the majority of Hill’s films are Western’s in disguise, and so here he likewise tries to have every line of dialogue, every shot, boom with a kind of mythic weight. But what’s interesting is that literally every line in this film fails completely, none of the actors (all of whom seem amateurish or camp) able to project themselves into that archetypal space…and yet the film still works. I’ve never seen a film have every line of dialogue ring this false, and yet, due to the bare-bones nature of its plot, parred down dialogue, script and compositions, still resonate on the level of legend.

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When “Warriors” was first released, people initially linked it to such “urban violence” movies as “Death Wish” and “Dirty Harry”, or such nostalgic gang movies as “The Wanderers” and “The Lords of Flatbush”. But in reality “The Warriors”, which was released in 1979, ends the 70s by mirroring the existential road movies that began the decade (Two Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point, Easy Rider, Electric Glide in Blue etc). And so it begins with men emerging from a dark tunnel and then watches as they battle their way from ugly urbanism to idyllic beaches, gazing to infinity whilst the lyrics “Somewhere out on that horizon, out beyond them neon lights, I know there must be something better, but there’s no where else in sight” booming on the soundtrack. Rather than salivating over urban violence, or fighting, the film’s central metaphor is “running”, is “flight” rather than “fight”, our gang members finding no value in what is being fought over, the inner city a cesspit in which its wide eyed dreamers hope to escape, just like the drug fuelled hippies of “Vanishing Point” and “Easy Rider”.

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Today, this kind of dreamy existentialism is a now banalized facet of modern noir, our heroes all hoping to escape to some non-existent fantasy land on the horizon.

8.5/10 – Worth two viewings.

Good for a curious watch, but I doubt I’ll buy the movie poster

5/10
Author: nathanschubach from Northwest Ohio
16 July 2011
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I just watched this movie for the first time, and I’m 30 years old. I don’t know why I’ve never seen this before, but after actually playing the Xbox video game based on the movie, I found myself wondering what this movie is actually like…and I love gangster/street gang movies! So from the beginning, the premise seems pretty odd: a street gang Messiah named Cyrus (member of New York’s Gramercy Riffs gang) is gunned down by a one individual, a member of one of the…21 (?)…gangs in New York called to a meeting of the minds to overtake the city all as one unit instead of dividing into their individual gangs. The blame is put on a member of The Warriors (just a street gang in the wrong place, wrong time) to cover up the real shooter.

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Somehow Cyrus has enough clout in the city to make every gang in the city fight on Cyrus’ gang’s side, so they are all ordered to find and bring The Warriors back to The Riffs alive or “smashed.” There’s some Greek storyline that ties this whole story about reaching the water (or the beach) which acts like The Warriors “base” or something.

I have a number of problems with the movie. As original as the gangs and characters are in the movie, the premise is ridiculous. I feel that Walter Hill (the director) and whoever adapted the screenplay from the 1965 novel were pretty much trying to make what we saw in the movie “300.” The comic-book-style effects were interesting, but the story really sucks in my opinion. You can’t tell me all of these street gangs are zombified cult-members of Cyrus out for Warrior blood and play it off, as the director does, that this is another planet being represented and not real-life. Sure. Whatever. Cop out is more like it.

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Most of the movie is about street gangs, “street” meaning Earthly, neighborhood- defending gangs. So why were The Warriors so far out of their element to come to this meet-up? They were practically a thousand miles away from their base? Why does this Cyrus-meeting concern them then? And the beach is your turf? Good luck “patrolling” that area with 27 members.

I did like the music created for the film, which was mostly done as a score with a few prerecorded songs added in, including a Joe Walsh tune recorded before it was done with The Eagles. The cast that played The Warriors and their “found” girlfriend for the movie were all excellent with their own traits and personalities. The direction of the park fight between the Warriors and The Baseball Furies (nearly the winner of the dumbest gang name in the movie, the winner going to the Xylophones) was supposed to remind the audience of a Kurosawa Japanese samurai-film according to the director and editor, but I don’t see it…it wasn’t that amazing.

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Overall, worth the watch but I doubt I’ll watch it again unless there is a director commentary track or something worth reliving the simple experience that watching the movie is. It doesn’t really excite me at anytime in the film, and the movie seems to bank on the catchphrase “Warriors, come out and plaaa-aay” way too much.

The Warriors is coming out to play. Can you dig that?

7/10
Author: ironhorse_iv from United States
16 April 2013
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Warriors! Warriors! Can you come out and play. As a kid, I use to love this movie, and now when I’m an adult, I have a different opinion. It’s doesn’t hold up as much. Based on Sol Yurick’s 1965 novel of the same name. The movie starts out with two different scenes depending on which version, you watch. If you are watching the original, it’s starts out with original daytime Coney Island Boardwalk opening with the Warriors gang, War Chief Cleon (Dorsey Wright) talking to his girlfriend about attending the big meeting of all the big gangs in New York City at The Bronx which is a horrible way to start a movie.

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If you are watching the Director’s Cut; the film opens with night with Cleon telling a group of nine gang members about why they are going there. Cyrus (Roger Hill), the leader of the Riffs who wants to united all the gangs into one. Director Walter Hill use the Director’s Cut to bring back the comic book origins from a novel by inserting actual comic book-style panels as scene transitions, complete with dialogue balloons and “Meanwhile..” tags. It only kinda works, as Hill destroyed numerous legendary scenes by inserting awkward zooms, awkward cuts at pivotal moments, and freezes and transitions into stylized pseudo-comic book panels. The effect of this also completely destroy the pace and feel of one of the best, stylized, urban thrillers ever to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public. He shattered the mystery of the ambient Wonder Wheel opening by inserting an absolutely unnecessary animate reference to Anabasis before it.

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While, the film is supposedly loosely based on the work of Greek historian Xenophon. The Warriors has nothing to do with that novel. Walter Hill did considered Orson Welles as a narrator for the movie. I think that wouldn’t help the film if he did end up getting Welles. Anyways after the opening, when the group get to the Bronx, somebody killed Cyrus and framed the murder of them. Now the group of nine, must made their way back to their own turf: Coney Island while all the gangs looking for them. While, I like the original, I have to say that The Director Cut’s opening is more effective beginning at night. Throughout that night, the Warriors meet some interesting looking gangs. Sadly, none of them look menacing or a threat to the Warriors. They all look a bit over the top or silly. The Baseball Furies was off the wall.

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Dressed in New York Yankee baseball outfits and with multi-colored face-paint, the Furies don’t speak and silently chase after The Warriors armed with baseball bats. It’s just looks like a bunch of Mr. Mets mascots or WWE Abe “Knuckleball” Schwartz trying to attack them. Surprising, they are also based on a real life gang called Second Base who wore Lettermen jackets in the 1970s. Then there are the Lizzies are an all-female gang who seduce the gang so easily. I have to say that the Warriors are just dumb horn dogs to fall for it so quickly. I think the creators name them Lizzies, since it’s somewhat sounds close to lezzies. I think that was what they were trying to say with that gang. Another awful gang are the Punks. Honestly, if they went with people normally think of punks, it would be OK. But in here, the punks are wearing brightly colored outfits with dungarees like real life Chucky Dolls.

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Like the Baseball Furies, this gang doesn’t speak and they just sit or stand and stare at their opponents. The leader of the gang wears roller skates and is armed with a flick knife. Wow, how sinister. Not! The Rogues are not as well and they are the arch-rivals of the Warriors. From Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, The Rogues are led by Luther (David Patrick Kelly) the crazy guy who shot Cyrus just because he “likes doing things like that” and then frames The Warriors. Just go with it. They look like a gay BDSM erotic group. The Riffs are the biggest gang in the city and were led by Cyrus until he was shot by Luther are black martial artists who is hunting the Warriors as well. While the movie takes a comic book attempt, I just wish they made the gangs more realism.

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It’s weird in a way that the film did have some real life gangs in the film in the Riverside Park scene like the Homicides and Mongrels. I think film shouldn’t allow real life gangs in any fiction movie as it might seem that they are glorified real life crime. Still, I do dig the fiction gang Electric Eliminators bright electric yellow bomber jackets. I didn’t like the crew of the Warriors too much as well. Ajax (James Remar) was just unlikeable. Complaining, calling his fellow gang members ‘the f-word’ and his unhealthy appetite for women. Another character, I couldn’t stand was Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) like the Warriors said, is trouble. She get the Warriors nearly killed, but the Warriors new Warlord Swan (Michael Beck) allow her to tag along. What the hell? I wouldn’t allow her to tag along with any reason. I do like the DJ character (Lynne Thigpen).

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Only seeing her lips in the movie, the gangs of New York listen to the radio DJ to get updates on the whereabouts of The Warriors to assist with the city-wide hunt to find them. I don’t like what the Director’s cut does to the ending. That single change is so wretchedly disgraceful that it defies belief. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the movie. I like the action scenes, and I do like the soundtrack. It’s still an interesting movie. I’m just think the movie is a bit overrated. Still, check it out if you can. I still dig it.

Can you dig it ?, well actually yes Mr Hill, I bloody can !

8/10
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
4 March 2008

During my schooling as a teenager there were a handful of films that it was deemed cool to love, The Wanderers, Scum, Quadrophenia and The Warriors, and it’s perhaps a weird thing to say……. but I still feel here in my middle age that these are still cool films to be adored and cherished.

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I have just sat thru The Warriors again for about the hundredth time in my life, and it still entertains me as much now as it did back then, sure it’s dated, sure I see more cheese than I thought it had back then, but I also see a visually tight movie that actually delves interestingly into the lives and psyche of young gangers.

The plot is simple, all the gangs of New York City are called to a meeting where they are called to unite to take over the city, the leader of the gang known as The Riffs is a guy called Cyrus who is the one calling for the unity. He is shot and killed during the rally and The Warriors are wrongly framed for his murder, The Warriors then have to make their way back home to Coney Island with every gang in the city out to kill them, and also with the police hot on their tail as well. This journey is excellent as we are introduced to a number of gangs trying to get the better of The Warriors, the fights are well choreographed, the clothes are wonderful, and some of the dialogue is now teenage folklore.

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The film was criticised on release for glamorising gangs, but I fail to see how this opinion was formed, if anything the film has a sad streak running thru it when you analyze the main characters on show, but be that as it may, the films triumph is getting the will of the viewer to see the unfairly tarnished Warriors make it home to Coney Island, and the climax of the film is both poignant and punch the air great, 8/10.

Unique and Timeless

Author: gr8one232 from Buffalo
12 October 2004

The greatness of this movie is in its simplicity. A basic story in a setting that may or may not really exist. The writers tease us with a few potential turns towards some kind of coming of age movie, but they keep it closer to reality by locking the characters into their current state in the end.

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The basic plot is a group of young gang members on the run from various other gangs after they are accused of murdering a prominent gang leader who had intended to unite all the gangs towards a common goal. I wont go into the plot besides that, instead I’ll highlight the bits and pieces of this film that give it its reputation

I sat watching this movie wondering what type of outside world surrounds these characters. We don’t ever get an answer to that question, but we do get a chilling scene on the subway, where the Warriors cross paths with two young couples coming from a prom or some type of formal dance. No words are said, they merely stare at the beaten and bloodied gang members (fresh off one spectacular fight scene) with fear in their eyes, and exit the train at the next stop. This scene lifts us from the plot for just a minute, but no more. The movie doesn’t lose focus, but it does open up for just a little bit to make you think

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When the Warriors return to Coney, Swan comments that they fought all night to get back to a s***hole. I worried that the movie was going to take a dramatic turn that would ultimately fail, but it doesn’t. Its merely a quick snapshot, like the subway scene, that maybe there’s more out there than this gang world. But whos to know or care. I loved it.

Lastly, David Patrick Kelly puts a stamp on this film with his slightly maniacal Luther. Hes about 175 soaking wet, but is still chilling in his role. The best line of the movie is his explanation for shooting Cyrus. You expect it to be some deep conspiracy so his gang can take over, or some outstanding revenge motive, but nah. Another example of this movie having limits that kept it in check. Excellent

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You will never see another movie like this, that sticks so closely to its simple plot with such brilliance. Modern movies always have to dig deeper. In many cases this is a good thing, but most of the time it fails and makes the movie fail to reach its potential. I’m curious how the remake will turn out, but I’m almost certain it will disappoint by trying to stretch beyond the original. Its like a band covering an old song and changing it around to fit their own sound, but failing miserably. Had they stuck to the old formula, it wouldve worked just fine. Time will tell though.

4

Coney Island’s BEST

9/10
Author: (barreljumpersblog) from Michigan
11 August 2015

If you’re talking cult movies from the 1970s then The Warriors is seminal to that conversation. The mood and atmosphere and visual-style of this movie encapsulates the crime-ridden city that was New York in the 70s. Today when people discuss the movies of the grind-house era, The Warriors is the pinnacle of that. For this little time capsule alone you can enjoy this movie since 99% of the film was shot on location.

This movie is a freight-train of momentum that doesn’t let dialogue slow it down. The plot is bare bones and characterization is kept to a minimum but very thing works. Before Mad Max: Fury Road, there was The Warriors and both movies share many similarities in their general approach to pace and world-building. I won’t slow things down by discussing the storyline or characters, because you need to enter this movie and experience it for yourself.

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Recently the pod-cast Don and his Amazing Friend did a thorough discussion of the movie where the covered everything from the original scripts to all the minor items to look for throughout the movie. It’s worth a listen…but only after you take the time to watch or re-watch this classic movie.

The Deer Hunter (1978)

Michael, Steven and Nick are young factory workers from Pennsylvania who enlist into the Army to fight in Vietnam. Before they go, Steven marries the pregnant Angela, and their wedding party also serves as the men’s farewell party. After some time and many horrors, the three friends fall in the hands of the Vietcong and are brought to a prison camp in which they are forced to play Russian roulette against each other. Michael makes it possible for them to escape, but they soon get separated again.
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An unforgettable movie.

23 February 2002 | by martymaster (Fredrikstad,Norway) – See all my reviews

This is a movie with a touching story about friendship and most of all in shows the horror of the Vietnam war. This movie has some of the best acting performances I have seen,and I am of course talking about Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken. They really goes into their roles and creates a great atmosphere. This movie also contains one of the most famous scenes in movie history,the russian roulett scene.This scene is so intense and creepy to watch. One of the few great Vietnam movies ever.

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In 1968, the record company EMI formed a new company called EMI Films, headed by producers Barry Spikings and Michael Deeley. Deeley purchased the first draft of a spec script called The Man Who Came to Play, written by Louis Garfinkle and Quinn K. Redeker, for $19,000. The spec script was about people who go to Las Vegas to play Russian roulette. “The screenplay had struck me as brilliant,” wrote Deeley, “but it wasn’t complete. The trick would be to find a way to turn a very clever piece of writing into a practical, realizable film.” When the movie was being planned during the mid-1970s, Vietnam was still a taboo subject with all major Hollywood studios.According to producer Michael Deeley, the standard response was “no American would want to see a picture about Vietnam”

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After consulting various Hollywood agents, Deeley found writer-director Michael Cimino, represented by Stan Kamen at the William Morris Agency. Deeley was impressed by Cimino’s TV commercial work and crime film Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974).Cimino himself was confident that he could further develop the principal characters of The Man Who Came to Play without losing the essence of the original. After Cimino was hired, he was called into a meeting with Garfinkle and Redeker at the EMI office. According to Deeley, Cimino questioned the need for the Russian roulette element of the script, and Redeker made such a passionate case for it that he ended up literally on his knees. Over the course of further meetings, Cimino and Deeley discussed the work needed at the front of the script, and Cimino believed he could develop the stories of the main characters in the first 20 minutes of film.

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Cimino worked for six weeks with Deric Washburn on the script. Cimino and Washburn had previously collaborated with Stephen Bochco on the screenplay for Silent Running (1972). According to producer Spikings, Cimino said he wanted to work again with Washburn. According to producer Deeley, he only heard from office rumor that Washburn was contracted by Cimino to work on the script. “Whether Cimino hired Washburn as his sub-contractor or as a co-writer was constantly being obfuscated,” wrote Deeley, “and there were some harsh words between them later on, or so I was told.

Cimino’s claim

According to Cimino, he would call Washburn while on the road scouting for locations and feed him notes on dialogue and story. Upon reviewing Washburn’s draft, Cimino said, “I came back, and read it and I just could not believe what I read. It was like it was written by somebody who was … mentally deranged.

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” Cimino confronted Washburn at the Sunset Marquis in LA about the draft, and Washburn supposedly replied that he couldn’t take the pressure and had to go home. Cimino then fired Washburn. Cimino later claimed to have written the entire screenplay himself. Washburn’s response to Cimino’s comments were, “It’s all nonsense. It’s lies. I didn’t have a single drink the entire time I was working on the script.”

Washburn’s claim

According to Washburn, he and Cimino spent three days together in Los Angeles at the Sunset Marquis, hammering out the plot. The script eventually went through several drafts, evolving into a story with three distinct acts. Washburn did not interview any veterans to write The Deer Hunter nor do any research. “I had a month, that was it,” he explains. “The clock was ticking.

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Write the fucking script! But all I had to do was watch TV. Those combat cameramen in Vietnam were out there in the field with the guys. I mean, they had stuff that you wouldn’t dream of seeing about Iraq.” When Washburn was finished, he says, Cimino and Joann Carelli, an associate producer on The Deer Hunter who went on to produce two more of Cimino’s later films, took him to dinner at a cheap restaurant off the Sunset Strip. He recalls, “We finished, and Joann looks at me across the table, and she says, ‘Well, Deric, it’s fuck-off time.’ I was fired. It was a classic case: you get a dummy, get him to write the goddamn thing, tell him to go fuck himself, put your name on the thing, and he’ll go away. I was so tired, I didn’t care. I’d been working 20 hours a day for a month. I got on the plane the next day, and I went back to Manhattan and my carpenter job.

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The Deer Hunter began principal photography on June 20, 1977.This was the first feature film depicting the Vietnam War to be filmed on location in Thailand. All scenes were shot on location (no sound stages). “There was discussion about shooting the film on a back lot, but the material demanded more realism,” says Spikings. The cast and crew viewed large amounts of news footage from the war to ensure authenticity. The film was shot over a period of six months. The Clairton scenes comprise footage shot in eight different towns in four states: West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Ohio. The initial budget of the film was $8.5 million.

Meryl Streep accepted the role of the “vague, stock girlfriend”, in order to remain for the duration of filming with John Cazale, who had been diagnosed with lung cancer. De Niro had spotted Streep in her stage production of The Cherry Orchard and had suggested that she play his girlfriend Linda.Before the beginning of principal photography, Deeley had a meeting with the film’s appointed line producer Robert Relyea.

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Deeley hired Relyea after meeting him on the set of Bullitt (1968) and was impressed with his experience. However, Relyea declined the job, refusing to disclose his reason why. Deeley suspected that Relyea sensed in director Cimino something that would have made production difficult. As a result, Cimino was acting without the day-to-day supervision of a producer.

Because Deeley was busy overseeing in the production of Sam Peckinpah‘s Convoy (1978), he hired John Peverall to oversee Cimino’s shoot. Peverall’s expertise with budgeting and scheduling made him a natural successor to Relyea, and Peverall knew enough about the picture to be elevated to producer status. “John is a straightforward Cornishman who had worked his way up to become a production supervisor,” wrote Deeley, “and we employed him as EMI’s watchman on certain pictures.

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It was 1978 and everyone in the audience was about to wet their pants

10/10
Author: yawn-2 from San Francisco, California
6 April 2006

No, this is not the best film about the Vietnam War; it’s hardly about Vietnam at all. The vets who don’t like it have it wrong, as do the Vietnamese who found it racist. It could be any war, with any combatants. But because the (primary) victims here are recognizable American archetypes, Americans will feel this in their gut more than any other war film I know of. This is one of the very few post-war Hollywood films that shows a sincere reverence for the lives of small town Americans.

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After seeing it in a very high quality theater on its initial release, I walked out thinking it was easily one of the best movies I had ever seen – and that I never wanted to see it again. But I looked at it today on cable and found that not much had changed about it, or me. I don’t want to see it again…but I want you to see it.

Even now, the Russian Roulette scene (in context, people: watch all that comes before it first) is the single most intense sequence I’ve seen; it makes the end of “Reservoir Dogs” seem like a cartoon. Best Walken performance, period. Meryl Streep glows, DeNiro has seldom been more affecting. A unique classic…it is not surprising that Cimino didn’t have another movie in him after something this wrenching.

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It’s been given a fairly bad reputation over the years – undeservedly so, too. One of the greatest films ever made.

10/10
Author: MovieAddict2016 from UK
7 July 2004
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

“One shot is what it’s all about. A deer has to be taken with one shot.”

There’s that particularly infamous scene in “The Deer Hunter” that seems to remain more disturbing each time we view it, when Michael (Robert De Niro), a Vietnam veteran, tracks down a friend of his named Nicky (Christopher Walken), who never arrived home after the war and is eventually found in Saigon, playing Russian Roulette for money, his mind an utter mess. He is unable to fully remember Michael, and refuses to return home, and what proceeds in the following sequence is a haunting example of gut-wrenching film-making.

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The Vietnam sequences take place midway through the movie, serving as a connection between the beginning and the end, both of which study the lives of the men and not the war around them. Michael, Nicky and Steven (John Savage) are young Pennsylvanian miners drafted into the war. Steven has just gotten married to the love of his life, but has little time to celebrate as he is shipped overseas with his friends. They eventually all find themselves taken hostage in a Vietnamese POW camp where their captors force them to play Russian Roulette. The rules of the game? Put a single bullet in a random chamber of a handgun, spin it, snap it, raise it to your head, squeeze the trigger, and repeat these steps until there’s only one man left standing.

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After a series of fortunate events Michael, Nicky and Steven escape and make their way downriver. All three men are eventually rescued, Nicky via helicopter and Michael and Steven later on. Steven’s battered, infected legs are amputated and he is left helpless in a wheelchair. Michael returns home as well only to find that Nicky is still back in Vietnam. Nicky’s girlfriend back home, Linda (Meryl Street), begins to fall in love with Michael, but Michael soon remembers his promise to Nicky (“If I don’t make it back don’t leave me over there”) and travels over 2,000 miles back into the middle of his own personal hell to find and rescue his best friend. It’s hard for him to understand why Nicky doesn’t recognize him when he finally tracks him down. “It’s me, Mike.” “Mike who?”

Causing mass controversy upon its release because of its alleged “racist” content regarding the Vietnamese, a crowd of Vietnam veterans gathered around outside the Oscars ceremony and caused riots as well, claiming that the film was “not accurate” and somehow insulting to the veterans of the war.

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However as many film historians, authors and critics have already pointed out, the film is never meant to be a 100% accurate depiction of the events in Vietnam. It is not really a Vietnam War picture at all. Instead, it is a focus on the aftermath of war, and how damaging it can be, both physically and mentally, to its participants. Because of the era that “The Deer Hunter” was released in, Vietnam was a recent event, the focus of the nation, and is therefore used as a more convenient — and relative — backdrop (much like “Apocalypse Now”). Unlike “Platoon” this is not a movie relating specifically to the Vietnam War, in fact less than a half an hour is devoted to the war scenes. It is a character study, and accusations of racism — although perhaps justified to some extent — are hardly convincing as the film itself is not concerned with bashing the participants of the war as it is the war itself.

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It is the film’s necessary setup that is often called long and boring and, ironically, unnecessary, but this is essentially where the nature of each character is examined for the audience. To launch directly into the war sequences would be sloppy, and we would have a harder time caring for the characters. Instead, we are given scenes with weddings, discussions, and hunting trips — normal events. Then, the end, a somber reflection upon the past, chronicles the aftermath of the damaging events in the lives of Michael, Steven, Nicky and their loved ones. Michael has a hard time adapting back to his normal life. It would be hard for anyone, after experiencing such damaging events and images.

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De Niro made a few post-Vietnam films during the ’70s and ’80s, the most famous being “Taxi Driver,” in which Travis Bickle was totally unable to find his way in life again after the war and resorted to violence in order to justify his existence and release his anger. “The Deer Hunter” is similar in approach but reveals more background; this would be a suitable prequel of sorts if the names had been changed.

Over the years “The Deer Hunter” has surprisingly gained a fairly bad reputation — most of which stems back to the controversy surroundings its release and protested accolades.

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Director Michael Cimino’s follow-up (“Heaven’s Gate”) was an enormous flop, bankrupting United Artists, and he had a hard time finding work afterwards. His first feature film, “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot,” which starred Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges, was a buddy road movie that was also a sign of things to come in Cimino’ later features, most notably the process of male bonding, which is a huge primal element in this project. Cimino was an extremely talented and visionary director, and it’s a shame that the ambition of “Heaven’s Gate” cost him his career.

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And furthermore, despite the negativity surrounding “The Deer Hunter,” it is still one of the finest works of American cinema, a touching, poignant and ultimately depressing film that asks us if the effects of war extend past the physical and into the realm of human mentality. Yes, I think they do.

You Can’t Take It with You (1938)

Directed by Frank Capra
Cinematography Joseph Walker

You Can’t Take It with You is a 1938 American romantic comedy film directed by Frank Capra and starring Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, and Edward Arnold. Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the film is about a man from a family of rich snobs who becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family.

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The stenographer Alice Sycamore is in love with her boss Tony Kirby, who is the vice-president of the powerful company owned by his greedy father Anthony P. Kirby. Kirby Sr. is dealing a monopoly in the trade of weapons, and needs to buy one last house in a twelve block area owned by Alice’s grandparent Martin Vanderhof. However, Martin is the patriarch of an anarchic and eccentric family where the members do not care for money but for having fun and making friends. When Tony proposes Alice, she states that it would be mandatory to introduce her simple and lunatic family to the snobbish Kirbys, and Tone decides to visit Alice with his parents one day before the scheduled. There is an inevitable clash of classes and lifestyles, the Kirbys spurn the Sycamores and Alice breaks with Tony, changing the lives of the Kirby family.

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Three Cheers To The Vanderhof Family,Three Cheers To Lionel Barrymore.

3 July 2003 | by vivian_baum_cabral (Rio De Janeiro,Brazil) – See all my reviews

My favorite american director is Frank Capra.”It Happened One Night” is his first great film.”Mr.Deeds Goes To Town”,”Mr.Smith Goes To Washington” and “Meet John Doe” are perfect examples of how to make a great film about simple,ordinary man.”It’s A Wonderful Life” is everybody’s favorite holiday film.But “You Can’t Take It With You” is Capra’s masterpiece.The story is perfect,The direction is brilliant and it’s impossible you don’t get tears in your eyes with the sweetness and shear simplicity of Martin Vanderhof.That leads us to the best thing in this classic:Lionel Barrymore,one of the greatests actors in film history.All you have to do is see this film and “It’s a Wonderful Life” and see for yourselfs.

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Mr.Potter is cruel,heartless,despicable and absolute fascinating(I still can’t believe it ranked only 6 in the AFI list,because for me he’s the greatest villain in film history)All Mr.Potter lack,Martin Vanderhof has to share.He is absolutely adorable,he has a lot of friends.(The scene in the court room is magnificent)he is sweet,and equally fascinating.(Not to mention that Lionel is really gorgeous in this film)One must remember the shining presence of Jean Arthur,and equally portrayal of good and young Jimmy Stewart.Not to forget Edward Arnold and his greedy Anthony P. Kirby,who tries at all costs to buy Grandpa’s house.But Lionel teaches him in a marvelous harmonica duet,how to enjoy life.The Plot is simply and delightul.Jean is Lionel’s granddaughter,and she loves Jimmy Stewart,who is the son of the blood sucking banker Arnold.Jean decided that the two family’s shall met,But Stewart’s family will have a shock when they meet the wonderful and very eccentric Vanderhof family with Lionel,the grandfather anyone would love to have,Spring Byington as the writing mother(Only because someone forgot a typing writer in her house)Ann Miller as the adorable dancing sister,Essie,and a very funny Mischa Auer as the russian dancing teacher,who always arrives just in time for dinner.Pay also attencion in a small but memorable perfomance of the forgotten silent actor H.B.Warner as the broken Mr.Ramsey.

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I believe I already say to much,but not all this site will be enough to say what this masterpiece and Martin Vanderhof means to me

My Rate:1000 Out Of 10

Capra at his best!

10/10
Author: mjpooch from United States
25 March 2005

For film-goers and movie fans that are from my generation, it is easy for these films to get lost in the shuffle. Ask someone my age, who would now be 25, what the best movie of all time is, they’re likely to say Pulp Fiction or Fight Club.

Not to take away from today’s movies, but for anyone who has not gone back and viewed classic Capra, such as “You Can’t Take it With You,” then they are truly missing out.

This movie is pure magic and beauty. Lionel Barrymore gives a performance as relevant in 2005 as it was in 1938. And what can you say about Jimmy Stewart?? This is a rare gem of a film and in true Capra fashion, the climactic final scene brings tear to the eye, much the same way as Harry Bailey’s toast in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

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It Always *Is* A Wonderful Life…

10/10
Author: gaityr from United Kingdom
11 July 2002

I wouldn’t exactly call YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU (YCTIWY) Capra’s forgotten movie–after all, it *did* win the Best Picture Oscar in its year. And I *have* heard of this film by word of mouth previously, though perhaps not as frequently or with as much ubiquity as some of Capra’s other films. Compared to IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, for example, YCTIWY distinctly has the status of a ‘minor classic’. I don’t believe this is deserved, even if themes and (co-)stars are shared between these movies: YCTIWY should definitely be far better known and remembered than it actually is.

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First of all, the story-telling is flawless. It very cleverly sets up the two very different families, the Vanderhof/Sycamores (an offbeat family trading most importantly in happiness) and the Kirbys (a stiff up tight banking family trading mostly in weapons). To complete the biggest deal of his career, Anthony Kirby Sr (Edward Arnold) must buy up the last house in a neighbourhood, and of course, this house belongs to Martin Vanderhof (a delightful Lionel Barrymore). The movie pleasantly surprised me in *not* having young Tony Kirby (James Stewart) be assigned to get Vanderhof to sell his house and thereby falling in love with Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) and her zany family. Rather, he was in love with her to begin with, and loved her regardless of what he thought of her family. (Though it would be impossible to hate any of them, I feel!) The story really is simple:

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Tony loves Alice no matter what, and doesn’t want her or her family to put on a show to impress his own family. When he surprises her by turning up a day early for a dinner engagement, the Kirbys meet the Vanderhof/Sycamores for who they truly are, wind up in jail, and along the way, learn a little bit about being real human beings.

There are several delightful scenes in the film as well, all beautifully filmed and connected such that the story is a coherent whole. I’m especially partial to practically any scene with James Stewart wooing Jean Arthur (those two, quite seriously, make the cutest couple imaginable)–I love it when he sort of proposes to her. “Scratch hard enough and you’ll find a proposal.” Or that lovely intimate scene in the park where he directs her to a seat like he would at the ballet, or when they start dancing with the neighbourhood children. The scene in the restaurant was also amusing, when Tony kept warning Alice that there was a scream on the way, building it up so perfectly that *she* wound up screaming before he did. It’s hard to beat the scene in night court too, when Capra foreshadows pretty much the exact same scene and sentiment in the forthcoming IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, when all of Vanderhof’s friends chip in to pay off his fine. It’s sweet, it’s real, and it’s something you really do wish could still happen in this world.

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Even the littlest things like Grandpa Vanderhof’s dinnertime prayers are enough to remind the viewer of what a world could be like if we kept our values simple, our wants satisfied, and ourselves happy.

Second of all, the acting is superlative. How could it *not* be, with a cast like this? Evidently I was completely charmed by James Stewart and Jean Arthur, who are both incredibly believable both as real people and movie stars, and who together make Tony and Alice an utterly credible, true-to-life couple. Edward Arnold was great as the stuffed shirt Anthony Kirby Sr too–his eventual ‘thawing’ was something that could easily have been played in too exaggerated a fashion, but both the actor and director, I suspect, are too good to have allowed that to happen. I also had great fun watching Ann Miller in her secondary role as Essie Sycamore, Alice’s dancing sister.

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I sincerely hope that every person making this film had just as much fun as I did watching it, because the whole secondary cast was excellent, and I loved all the characters we were introduced to, particularly the entire Sycamore family with their attendant friends (the ex-iceman DePinna, or the toymaker Poppins) and even their servants Rheba and Donald, who were treated almost as much as part of the family as could be expected at that time. But my greatest praise would have to be reserved for Lionel Barrymore as Martin Vanderhof–a sweeter, lovelier old man you just couldn’t imagine, and a complete change from his much-better-known Mr. Potter in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. He really does make Grandpa Vanderhof very much a real person, from his reminiscences about Grandma Vanderhof, to his messing around with the IRS agent, to his harmonica-playing and evident love of life and people.

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I really could not say enough good things about this movie (which I prefer to IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE). It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, and quite frankly, it’ll make you glad to be alive. Not many movies can do that. And it’s most certainly true that you can’t take your money with you… but what you *can* do is take this movie and its message to heart. 10/10, without a doubt.

Don’t worry, be happy!

10/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
21 August 2005

George Kaufman and Moss Hart, the playwrights of the original play in which this film is based, seemed to have been keenly aware that most people in their pursuit of wealth and success in life basically forget the most important point of all: To live life to its fullest, enjoying every minute of it and sharing with loved ones and friends everything, good, or bad.

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“You Can’t Take it with You” is an enormously satisfying theater play, which must have drawn Frank Capra’s attention to bring it to the movies. In fact, it meshes well with most of his films, in that this is a film with a social conscience, after all. The screen play by Robert Riskin has some awkward moments, but the finished product proves that Mr. Capra could turn any script into a movie with great success. While this film is not in the same league as his other masterpieces, it is still a good way to spend some time with good company.

Much has been said in this forum about the merits of YCTIWY. The cast of this film is Hollywood at its best. Lionel Barrymore makes a great contribution with his Martin Vanderhof, the patriarch of the crazy household where happiness lives. Vanderhof’s life is full because of his family and the friends he welcomes to share whatever he has, asking nothing in return. He is a rich man, indeed.

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By contrast, Anthony Kirby, the Wall Street millionaire, is a miserable human being. His whole aim in life is to amass a fortune that he will not be able to spend at all. He is reminded by Vanderhof that his life is worth nothing because he has no friends. Edward Arnold does wonders portraying this unhappy man, in perhaps, the best performance of his long film career. Mr. Arnold was a great actor.

The other notable character in the film is Alice Sycamore, the young secretary that happens to fall in love with the rich Kirby heir. In fact, she has the pivotal role of telling off the father of the man she loves because she sees the older Kirby for what he really stands. As Alice, the wonderful Jean Arthur takes the role and makes a splash with it.

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James Stewart has a minor role in this film, in comparison to the above mentioned ones. Ann Miller is charming as the happy would be ballerina Essie. Spring Byington makes a great Penny, the woman who can write plays in the middle of all the confusion going on in the Vanderhof household. There is a small scene where the incomparable Charles Lane, an actor that has been seen in innumerable films in minor roles, who plays a tax collector. The rest of the cast is excellent.

I Don’t Want To Take It With Me…

4/10
Author: Rich Wright
18 November 2012

ts easy to be cynical and sneering at this film… so I will be. The supposedly happy, carefree family in this film consists of old men who make fireworks in their cellar, a woman who dances everywhere instead of walking and a patriarch who never gets cross and doesn’t stop dishing out fortune cookie advice. They also carry musical instruments and break out into song whenever the mood takes them, even in a prison. Capra wants us to think that these nutcases, because they do whatever they please and spend so much time together rather than accumulate money, are living a perfect life. If such a bohemian philosophy leaves you dirt poor and acting like a bunch of escaped mental patients, then get me a job as a 9-to-5 bank clerk pronto.

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If you disagree with the central premise, then you really have no room to maneuver. I suffered through scene after scene of sappy speeches and events pertaining to the views of Mr Capra, each one more tiresome than the last. Rich = Unhappy and no idea of community. Poor = Salt of the earth and always there for each other. What a crock. Capra’s other films may have extolled the same virtues, but at least they didn’t ram them down our throats. And they had the added advantage of having non-annoying characters and well thought out plots. Watching this is was for me akin to listening to a lecture by a BNP representative… I don’t agree with your opinions, and that’s all you have to offer. So… I quit. 4/10

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Jimmy, how could you?

2/10
Author: annmason1 from Bellingham, WA
27 February 2007
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I love old movies. I love Frank Capra. I love Jimmy Stewart. I do not love “You Can’t Take It With You.” Like other would-be-likers, I kept hanging in there, fighting sleep; waiting to laugh, to cry, to stay awake. I groaned and grabbed the remote when Gramps talked whatever his name was to join along and play the harmonica. Good God! And there was that twit dancing dancing dancing…and the wrestling Russian and the black couple dancin’ and every other hokey junk Capra could throw in! I couldn’t even hear Jean Arthur, she talked so low and ducked her face behind her hair so often I can only conclude she was hoping to avoid any association with this stinker.

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To say this movie insults one’s intelligence is a compliment. It attempts to tug at your heartstrings so much that it chokes you with them.

Do yourself a favor, replay “It’s a Wonderful Life” instead.

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So Dated, It Can Be Painful To Watch

3/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
19 June 2007

Here’s another film that just doesn’t date well but, hey, it’s almost 70 years old. I have found most of the comedies (the Marx Brothers are an exception) of that time period aren’t very funny these days. Humor has changed a lot.

There is a crazy family in this film and these crackpots are pretty humorous the first time you see them, in their first scene, but not the subsequent ones. They only get more and more annoying as you hear them.

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The romance between Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur is sappy and bogs down the film. How they advertise that Arthur is the beautiful lead female romantic in here amazes me. She was talented actress but “beautiful” or “glamorous?” Hardly, plus she had an awful voice. She does better as a comedienne or straight dramatic actress than playing the “beautiful romantic” as one known national critic labeled her. Maybe it is just this film because normally I like Arthur, but she’s awful in here.

When you add Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, Micha Auer and Spring Byington and have the famous Frank Capra directing, you would think this is going to be topnotch, but the movie is anything but impressive or entertaining, especially now in this day-and-age. In fact, many parts of this story have such an absence of credibility to them that you’ll cringe watching. With the big awards it won, I expected a better movie.

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Serpico (1973)

Directed by Sidney Lumet
Cinematography Arthur J. Ornitz

Serpico is a 1973 American neo-noir crime drama film directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Al Pacino. Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler wrote the screenplay, adapting Peter Maas‘s biography of NYPD officer Frank Serpico, who went undercover to expose corruption in the police force. Both Maas’s book and the film cover 12 years, 1960 to 1972.

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Working as a uniformed patrolman, Frank Serpico excels at every assignment. He moves on to plainclothes assignments, where he slowly discovers a hidden world of corruption and graft among his own colleagues. After witnessing cops commit violence, take payoffs, and other forms of police corruption, Serpico decides to expose what he has seen, but is harassed and threatened by his peers. His struggle leads to infighting within the police force, problems in his personal relationships, and his life being threatened. Finally, after being shot in the face during a drug bust on February 3, 1971, he testifies before the Knapp Commission, a government inquiry into NYPD police corruption between 1970 and 1972. After receiving a New York City Police Department Medal of Honor and a disability pension, Serpico resigns from the force and moves to Switzerland.

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Production

Prior to any work on the film, producer Martin Bregman had lunch with Peter Maas to discuss a film adaptation of his biography of Frank Serpico. Waldo Salt, a screenwriter, began to write the script which director Sidney Lumet deemed to be too long. Another screenwriter, Norman Wexler, did the structural work followed by play lines.

Director John G. Avildsen was originally slated to direct the movie, but was removed from production due to differences with producer Bregman. Lumet took the helm as director just before filming.

The story was filmed in New York City. A total of 104 different locations in four of the five boroughs of the city (all except Staten Island) were used. An apartment at 5-7 Minetta Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village was used as Serpico’s residence, though he lived on Perry Street during the events depicted in the film. Lewisohn Stadium, which was closed at the time of filming, was used for one scene.

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honest filmaking, good and true story of corruption in NY police department

11 March 2004 | by parsleylion (Ireland) – See all my reviews

Sidney Lumet is a director who captures something crucial in city based dramas surrounding legal and political affairs; with films like ’12 angry men’, ‘the verdict’, ‘nightfalls on Manhattan’ and ‘Q & A’ he shows an excellent grasp of the power plays in civic politics. In ‘Serpico’ he uses an excellent script to tell the story of an unorthodox character in Frank Serpico, a hippie in a time when most cops were square as a doorway but whose honesty when faced with police corruption marks him out as a man of remarkable character. Unflinching in its depiction of Serpico, the film portrays warts and all, over the period in which he refuses to take money and shows his extraordinary political vindication at an official investigation into NYPD corruption.

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The story of civic corruption is cogent in any time, one only has to look at great empires like Rome to understand how much corruption plays a part in the shaping of so called civilizations; where the very foundation stones have bodies, so to speak, buried under them or even within them. This film is both informative and honest in much the way ‘All the Presidents Men’ would be in the following year.

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Winning Al Pacino a deserved Oscar nomination in the years between the Godfather’s Part I and II; it demonstrates the range of an actor who would go on to portray a character in Michael Corleone soon afterwards who is the very nemisis of the character in Serpico. In Serpico there is a dramadocumentary that calls to mind Shakespeares history plays in its depiction of a classical situation of a man ostracized and driven by noble sentiments to embody something of the civic value one expects of servants of the public trust. Brilliant film. 10 out of 10.

Sure, The Godfather made Al Pacino a star, but Serpico kept him one

9/10
Author: Derek237 from Canada
5 June 2003

Al Pacino is one of the best actors around, and he has many definitive roles. His role as Frank Serpico is certainly one of them. He acts with such charm and smoothness in some scenes, while explosive and intense in others.

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The movie gets into a big plot line about police corruption and Serpico blowing the whistle on the department. It’s interesting and the whole point of the movie, but the reason this is such a good movie is because of the character, not the plot. The better scenes include Serpico’s personal life and struggles. There’s one great part where he explains to his girlfriend why he’s always wanted to be a cop. It’s scenes like those that make you sympathetic for him.

Sidney Lumet and Pacino made a great team for this movie, and proved to be a great team for Dog Day Afternoon a few years later. But as good as a director Lumet is, as good as everyone involved with this movie is, this is Pacino’s movie. It’s an essential viewing for his fans.

My rating: 9/10

Unfair. Unfair!”

Author: Michael Coy (michael.coy@virgin.net) from London, England
16 January 2002

Frank Serpico begins his career with the NYPD as an idealistic rookie who believes in the moral value of policing. He has a simple and old-fashioned ethical code, an outlook which used to be known as honesty. What he finds is a moral sewer, five boroughs wide, in which almost every cop is on the take.

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The police are just another gang of hoodlums, but with more guns than the bad guys. Even basically decent cops go along with the kickback culture, because a locker-room psychology prevails in which values have become perverted. Squad loyalty is now a criminal conspiracy of silence. Detectives do not hesitate to shake-down hoods who are slow to pay. To Frank Serpico, this is simply wrong. He wants no part of it. And so his long agony begins.

Both responding to and helping to shape the mood of its time, a weary cynicism towards authority, “Serpico” arrived on the screen just as Watergate built to its climax. Americans could no longer regard their institutions as gleaming examples to mankind of optimism and good government. The film begins gloomily with Serpico badly wounded, having been shot in the face. We hear police and ambulance sirens fading, symbolically representing the life-force ebbing from Frank, and the withering of American dreams.

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This first-class film is a triumph, and one that could easily have misfired. Had the crooked cops been depicted as mere thugs, then Serpico himself would have been an archetype, just another two-dimensional crusader. What gives the film its psychological richness is the realisation that the dishonest cops are NICE. These are affable, reasonable men who want to like Serpico and want to welcome him onto the team. The camaraderie is seductive and it’s difficult for Frank to hold out against it. He is besieged by self-doubt, wondering if he is just a one-man awkward squad, or worse – a prima donna, sacrificing personal relationships on the altar of his own ego.

Again, the easy (but disastrous) course would have been to give Frank some big heroic speeches, allowing him to inveigh against corruption. The film chooses instead to go for psychological truth, and this is what makes the project outstanding. Appalled, afraid and despairing of ever changing anything, Frank withdraws into himself. He becomes the spectre at the feast, the silent rebuke, the muted but ever-present conscience of his colleagues.

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Though Frank rejects the golden shield which is eventually offered, we feel that the system still means something. There are still some honest cops, and even after all these vicissitudes, the United States is still a nation of laws. Lumet’s profoundly liberal and optimistic view of America ultimately shines through, but the final mood is one of quiet resignation rather than triumphalism. Right can prevail over wrong, but a price has to be paid. Serpico wins his titanic struggle, but he is diminished and saddened as a man.

The film contains some marvellous technical things. In the opening minutes, the action cuts between Frank as he is now (wounded, broken and alone) and as he started out (the clean-cut, idealistic rookie). These transitions are seamless, and the narrative logic is smooth and natural. We see Frank’s first moment of disenchantment in a cafeteria when it dawns on him that cops get free handouts of food, but they have to take whatever comes. This first bewilderment develops until we see the gulf open up between Frank and the dishonest cops, the ones who take the money but also take the self-loathing.

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The terrible stress to which Frank is subjected is depicted with skill. The police department has a huge institutional inclination to protect its own, and this vast weight is brought to bear on Serpico. Equally, the pressure is relieved cleverly at appropriate points in the narrative. Frank’s ‘collar’ of Rudi Casaro reaches an explosive climax as this all too human guy reaches breaking-point. On the other hand, the romantic story-telling interlude with Laurie and Serpico’s undercover cameo as an orthodox rabbi break the tension and vary the pace beautifully.

The second-unit work is of a uniformly high standard. We are shown atmospheric New York streetscapes with grubby brownstones and the massive, overbearing masonry of the Brooklyn Bridge, in knowing homage to the films noirs of twenty years earlier.

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The symbols are powerful. This city, and this police department, are too colossal for one man to stand against them. Practice sessions in the police firing gallery intelligently reinforce the film’s undercurrent of foreboding. Paper targets obscure the gunmen’s faces, suggesting a monolithic force united against Frank, then come hurtling towards him on pulleys, signifying the fate which is rushing to meet him.

Mikis (Zorba the Greek) Theodorakis has provided a classy score. I particularly liked the jazzy, minor-key horn passage.

Pacino puts in another of the towering performances which have distinguished him as the profoundest acting talent of his era. He is simply wonderful. Barbara Eda-Young gives top-notch support as Laurie, the genuinely loving partner who is destroyed by her man’s seeming eagerness for martyrdom in rejection of domestic happiness.

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If ever an actor exuded confidence it’s Tony Roberts, and he is ideally cast as Bob Blair, Serpico’s well-connected ally. Though he can open City Hall doors, he can’t actually help Frank at all. Nobody can. Christ-like, Frank understands that it is ordained – he must go to the hill alone.

 

Al Pacino’s magical wardrobe

Author: tieman64 from United Kingdom
12 September 2008
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

“I’m thrilled by the fact that I’m not even sure how many films I’ve done. All I want to do is get better and quantity can help me to solve my problems.” – Sidney Lumet

Sidney Lumet has such a huge filmography that it’s hard to keep track of everything he’s made. In the 1950’s he hit us with at least one classic (“12 Angry Men”), before spending the next 5 years filming TV shows, stage plays and the occasional theatre production.

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He then made three films in quick succession (“Stage Struck”, “That Kind of Woman” and “The Fugitive Kind”), the last two with Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando. Already we can see Lumet’s style developing; he sees himself as a theatre director, content to simply sit back and guide his actors.

After some more TV work, Lumet then directed “A View from the Bridge”, “Long Day’s Journey into Night”, “The Pawnbroker” and “Fail Safe”. Here he begins to reveal himself as a bit of a socially conscious artist. These films are all tragic morality plays, focusing on homosexuality, alcoholism, the holocaust and nuclear annihilation respectively.

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Lumet then spent the next decade trying to branch out. “The Hill” was a gruff, overtly masculine picture, filled with a cast of strong, sweaty men. “The Group”, in contrast, was about as “feminine” as you could get, featuring a cast of lesbians, girls and women. He then did “The Deadly Affair”, a once influential but now dated spy thriller, followed by “Bye Bye Braverman”, an absurd comedy in the vein of Robert Altman’s “Brewster McCloud”. With “The Sea Gull” he tried his hand at Chekov and with the surreal “The Appointment” he dabbled at Fellini.

In the 1970s Lumet did some of his best work. “The Anderson Tapes” may be flawed, but we can see Lumet playing with space and architecture here, designing his heist story to show off his sets and clever camera work.

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He then follows this up with 2 great cop films: “The Offence” with Sean Connery and “Serpico” with Al Pacino. The greater of the two is, of course, “Serpico”, with its iconic lead performances and superbly claustrophobic aesthetic. It’s another one of those “man against the system” pictures, but Lumet’s camera captures well the grit of low-rent New York and the paranoia of being an undercover officer. Pacino – bearded, Christlike and with a procession of hilarious outfits – is even better.

Lumet would then have hits with “Network”, “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Murder on the Oriet Express”, 3 films which show him trying to break away from his theatrical roots. He tried his hands at comedy and musicals along the way (“Just Tell Me What You Want” and “The Wiz”), but these films haven’t aged well.

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Then came “Prince of the City”, arguably his most ambitious picture. Vast in scope, Lumet juggles this mammoth crime picture with confidence. Sadly, not many people have seen this film.

The rest of Lumet’s career has been pretty hit and miss. The best of his later films are arguably “The Verdict”, an excellent courtroom drama with Paul Newman, and “Running on Empty”, a sensitive, underrated film starring River Phoenix and Judd Hirsch.

9/10 – Masterpiece.

Beardface

5/10
Author: MovieAddict2016 from UK
24 February 2004

Review edited for IMDb due to word limit. See wiredonmovies.com for full review.

“Serpico,” its many flaws notwithstanding, is far from being a terribly exciting motion picture. Granted, it is based on the true story of an incorruptible Italian-American cop named Frank Serpico who brought down an entire police precinct that was “in on the take.” But true stories aren’t always warranting for great films. That’s the primary reason Hollywood always spices stories up by inserting scenes that never occurred in real life and altering the facts.

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“Serpico” could have used a bit of altering. It’s just not interesting enough to sustain its material for two and a half hours. Perhaps a ninety-minute movie would have done it justice, but its running time is far too long for such a film. But even then I could probably say it’s a well-made film. Too bad it feels so sloppy and cheap.

Let me briefly rephrase that in a nutshell: It’s not a bad movie. It just could have been a lot better.

Sidney Lumet should be ashamed. He should have fired the editor the first day on the job. Here we have many different scenes spliced together, in apparently random order, and an unbearably dingy audio track that *plays during (and over) conversations!* Music is essential to all film, but it has to be used correctly. You can’t just play a soundtrack throughout an entire motion picture.

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But Lumet doesn’t even do that. He plays it in the worst spots he possibly could. It’s as if he went through the entire movie, marked down each scene where there shouldn’t be music in the background, then applied it. Even if you’re going to burden the audience with music and dialogue blending together at the same time, at least make it *good* music!

Many scenes seem pointless and badly executed. Pacino is a standout but the rest of the film is a failure. The acting (save Pacino) is stiff and the dialogue is corny (save Serpico’s, but even his gets cheesy sometimes). It’s as if everything were scripted by an author and just fed to the actors. Oh, wait, that’s exactly what happened. My bad.

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Did all these people who claim this is the best police corruption film ever made witness the same mediocre blend of poor technicalities and acting and music that I did? Did they not see the horrendous nature of the random interactions being spliced together with separate ones? Did they not notice that every time a crucial character moment came around this really, really bad music started to play over the actors’?

The plot is pointless because I’ve already delved into it–a downtown police precinct is corrupt and they can’t stand Serpico’s morality. So they decide to plot against him and try to murder him. They fail. First we get Serpico being led away in a car. (“He’s been shot by a cop!”) Bloodstained and in a daze, we see Al Pacino’s bearded portrayal of Serpico drifting in and out of consciousness.

Then we get the non-introduced flashbacks to the beginning.

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But Lumet presents Serpico as a caricature, playing by all the rules and fitting snugly into a giant cliché. Al Pacino rises above these clichés, of course, with his hard-edged performance. But imagine how much more powerful it could have been if the director and scriptwriter had liberated him and set him free. Maybe we’d get a performance to equal that in “Scarface.” But alas, Pacino is simply overburdened with juggling these clichés and only manages to make the character somewhat realistic. Even then he goes through the same routines that all the clean characters go through. (Even Sly made it more realistic in “Cop Land.”)

I saw a documentary once about the real Frank Serpico and what he did after the film was released. He turned into a hermit. He still looks the same, with his beard and all, but it’d be interesting to watch the film with him and have him point out all the things he actually did and said as opposed to what’s in the movie. I’m not saying Serpico was corrupt. I’m sure everything is true. I’m sure he was a very nice and moralistic man.

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But there’s a difference between being a moralistic man and a naive idiot like Serpico in the movie. Pacino makes him smarter than he appears on paper but read some of his lines to yourself and notice the sheer stupidity of it all.

Pacino’s performance is a knockout one, which is why “Serpico” gets a fair rating in my book and a weak recommendation. But it takes its time getting places, too many scenes are out of place, the music is more often distracting than not and the rest of the cast are insufferable. They could easily have brought down Pacino but he’s too strong for that. He’s a fighter, just like Serpico, which may explain why he took on the role. Too bad Lumet had to interfere with his performance. Too bad the music had to interfere with the dialogue. Too bad Lumet and the music had to be there at all. Just imagine what Scorsese could have done with this, and how liberating he could have made the character and his interactions. Here we just have a stone caricature of a real man, and it isn’t too terribly impressive.

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The Searchers (1956)

Cinematography Winton C. Hoch
Directed by John Ford

Ethan Edwards, returned from the Civil War to the Texas ranch of his brother, hopes to find a home with his family and to be near the woman he obviously but secretly loves. But a Comanche raid destroys these plans, and Ethan sets out, along with his 1/8 Indian nephew Martin, on a years-long journey to find the niece kidnapped by the Indians under Chief Scar. But as the quest goes on, Martin begins to realize that his uncle’s hatred for the Indians is beginning to spill over onto his now-assimilated niece. Martin becomes uncertain whether Ethan plans to rescue Debbie…or kill her.

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Near Villainous Role for THE DUKE

19 November 2001 | by marquis de cinema (Boston, MA) – See all my reviews

The Searchers(1956) has been reflected to death by many filmmakers in their own work with main ideas, situations, and plot as guide. Many elements of The Searchers(1956) influenced film directors ranging from Brian De Palma, George Lucus, Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, and Sergio Leone. There are scores of other movie makers whom I cannot list at the top of my head that were affected by this one film. Obvious film influences are Once Upon a Time in the West(1968), Obsession(1976), Taxi Driver(1976), Star Wars(1977), and Hardcore(1979). It shows that great works of cinema are also able to inspire many admirers and disciples. Only films(stories) by Akira Kurosawa has been reflected more often by film directors than The Searchers(1956).

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John Wayne was legendary American film star and big box office draw by 1956. The Searchers(1956) lends creedence to John Wayne being an exceptional actor enforced by his multi-layered performance. In a career that spanned five decades, The Searchers(1956) is the efflorescence of John Wayne. John Wayne gives a complex/flawed portrait of a man looking for redemption and salvation. One fine moment that examplifies the multi-layerness of John Wayne’s performance is the look on Ethan Edwards face as he feys over what will happen to his brother and family. The Searchers(1956) was to John Wayne’s career what Treasure of the Sierra Madre(1948) was to Humphrey Bogart and Vertigo(1958) was to James Stewart.

Story is about drifting, trying find something which is self-meaningful. Ethan Edwards is such a drifter who is always in search of a purpose. The Searchers(1956) is really about drifting in the American Frontier and search for self-discovery. There were many drifters like Ethan Edwards in the Old West especially in the wake of the Civil War.

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The Cowboy drifter in the Old West is almost the equivalent of the Samurai ronin in Tokugawa Japan Era. These drifters were men who were on the go, had temporary employment, and always wondered about their existence in life.

Rare individualistic motion picture in the old studio system days when many Hollywood films were studio controlled. The Searchers(1956) defies the typical 1950s Hollywood film presentation because its a director’s picture. Excells on a visual level with interesting camera placement. Camera framing also plays a psychological and visual role in representation of two conflicting worlds(Civilized West and Wild West). Helped by crisp and flawless editing that flows the plot along effortlessly. Shades of Homer’s THE ODYSSEY are penetrated into the heart of the story with irony.

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Deals with racial prejudice with honest and truthful gusto. Racial prejudice in The Searchers(1956) is filmed in terms of emotional and psychological depth. The racial prejudice of the protagonist echos the prejudice of many white people in the Old West felt towards native Americans. The relationship between Ethan Edwards and Martin Pawley is met by distrust, prejudice, and sarcasm. Only towards the end does Ethan Edwards begin to show some sign of acception and respect for Martin Pawley. Shows that people are willing to change if they are willing to confront the dark side of humanity.

John Ford was the one director who was able to channel the talents of John Wayne to full heights. He made it possible for John Wayne to become an American film star by casting him in Stagecoach(1939). The other major director John Wayne had great success with was Howard Hawks. The Searchers(1956) is the greatest film of the Ford-Wayne tandem. Each are at their highest and most professional peak as film artists. In film working relationship they were halves of one and one of halves.

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Ethan Edwards fullfills the requirements of hero and villain in narrative plot structure. This makes him an anti-hero with human strengths and flaws so typical of this type of protagonist. Its funny that John Wayne detested Italian Westerns and yet played a character in The Searchers(1956) who fits the mold of the Spaghetti Western anti-hero. Ethan Edwards is the closet thing to a villain John Wayne played in the movies. At the beginning Ethan Edwards lives only for hate and revenge. By the end he becomes merciful and forgiving.

On-location photography gives the film its rugged character. Monument Valley is depicted with beauty, mystery, and savagery. The people in the story are represented by their environment and location. Monument Valley was a favorite film location of John Ford who was obsessed by its untamed and individualistic nature. Monument Valley site is explored on a physical, psychological, and social level. Scenery is an important character of the Classic American Western and none so more true then in The Searchers(1956).

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Another major motif in The Searchers(1956) is redemption. The path of hate and vengeance is replaced by compassion and forgiveness. Its this motif as well as others that makes the story a subtle Catholic driven tale. Redemption is the saving grace for a destructive and negative character like Ethan Edwards. Revenge until the climatic moment takes importance over everything else in Ethan Edwards life. Redemption is one motif from The Searchers(1956) that influenced Scorsese and Schrader.

Martin Pawley goes with Ethan Edwards on revenge pledge as way of following path of fealty. The moment of Ethan picking up his niece and holding her with compassion is a tender one. Jeffrey Hunter as Martin Pawley provides a nice foil to John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards. Cinematography in The Searchers(1956) is forceful and graceful. In time The Searchers takes place, drifters like Ethan Edwards are dime a dozen but by the period depicted in films of Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinaph, they are nearly extinct. The Searchers(1956) is a milestone in both American and World cinema.

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The ultimate western

9/10
Author: ironhorse_iv from United States
5 March 2013
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

John Ford’s The Searchers is my favorite all-time western. To even further appreciate this masterpiece one must read Alan Le May’s novel by the same name on which this movie is based.

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If you do, you will appreciate certain details which John Ford made sure to recreate on the screen, and most importantly you will get a better understanding of the time line. It is truly amazing how Ford managed to fit so many years into two hours without losing too much. John Ford use of scenery and character development was unsurpassed. It just has everything. The movie opens with a door framing shot on the Edwards homestead. The shot shows the loneliness and isolation of Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returning home from the civil war. Over dinner, we learn that he’d always been a “loner” since his brother was married to the woman he loved, and the “cause” he fought for in the Civil War lost, but he refused to surrender. While out on patrol, the Edwards homestead was attack by Native Americans. The scene with Ethan Edward coming home to see the death and the burn ruins of the home is sheer brilliance and was the last straw he had with the Comanche tribe.

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He notice that his niece Debbie was capture by them, and force to be a wife to its leader, Scar. He wasn’t going to allow that. He goes to rescue the girl, spending years searching for her, his motivation becomes increasingly questionable and dark. John Wayne as Ethan Edwards was the subtle darkest character he ever played. He had a serious hated for Indians, which the book made clear and the movie less so. If you pay very close attention when Debbie (Natalie Wood) is hiding out by the Tombstone, you can just make out the writing. It shows why Ethan is borderline racist. A lot of people might point that that the movie might be a bit racist due to Ethan’s hatred of anything Native American. This is not a racist movie. In fact, Ford examines the extremity of racism by the whites against the Native Americans during this period. In fact, there was a lot of interracial hatred in Texas and the West. Still, nearly all of the violence and hatred in the film is by the whites.

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The film questions the racist attitude they had at the time towards the American natives, epitomized by Wayne’s character, but still Ford had attempted to justify mass murder for revenge in the film. Hence the dry run at the Academy Awards. John Ford’s purpose in making The Searchers wasn’t to make a statement about the horrible treatment and oppression of Native Americans. It was to tell a good story. The Searchers, is in fact one of the biggest complex, multi-layered films to come out of the Hollywood studio system. The photography and film subtext is legendary. The Searchers was filmed in VistaVision, and movies made in VistaVision look so much better today when restored than other forms of film-making at the time. Watch it on Blu-ray which has breathtaking cinematography of Monument Valley in its best. The setting in Monument Valley was made for westerns. The ending of The Searchers is great, without a doubt. Arguably one of the greatest scenes in the history of movies.

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Ford says everything without words. This scene is simply perfect show and tell. There are so many analysis of what happen to Ethan Edward in the final minutes that raise questions. When Duke John Wayne holds his arm, it was tribute to his hero, Harry Carey, who was a star of silent western films. Harry Carey often did what Duke did in the last scene of The Searchers. Still there are a bit of silly, such in the case in the letters being read by Vera Miles in the cabin on the large wooden bench. Those parts dragged a little. I thought the fight scene at the end was a little hokey. The editing isn’t that great and some of the props were obviously 70 years ahead of their time. The movie didn’t get the critical acclaim when it came out. It wasn’t until the 1970s that The Searchers came to serious critical acclaim, too late for Ford but not Wayne. Taxi Driver, Star Wars, and Godfather was inspired by the technique of this film. That’s saying something.

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Several film critics have suggested that The Searchers was inspired by the 1836 kidnapping of nine-year-old Cynthia Ann Parker by Comanche warriors who raided her family’s home at Fort Parker, Texas.[13][14] She spent 24 years with the Comanches, married a war chief, and had three children (one of whom was the famous Comanche Chief Quanah Parker), only to be rescued against her will by Texas Rangers. James W. Parker, Cynthia Ann’s uncle, spent much of his life and fortune in what became an obsessive search for his niece, like Ethan Edwards in the film. In addition, the rescue of Cynthia Ann, during a Texas Ranger attack known as the Battle of Pease River, resembles the rescue of Debbie Edwards when the Texas Rangers attack Scar’s village. Parker’s story was only one of 64 real-life cases of 19th-century child abductions in Texas that author Alan Le May studied while researching the novel on which the film was based.

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His surviving research notes indicate that the two characters who go in search of a missing girl were inspired by Brit Johnson, who ransomed his captured wife and children from the Comanches in 1865. Afterward, Johnson made at least three trips to Indian Territory and Kansas relentlessly searching for another kidnapped girl, Millie Durgan (or Durkin), until Kiowa raiders killed him in 1871.

The ending of Le May’s novel contrasts to the film’s, with Debbie, called Dry-Grass-Hair by the Comanches, running from the white men and from the Indians. Marty, in one final leg of his search, finds her days later, only after she has fainted from exhaustion.

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In the film, Scar’s Comanche group is referred to as the Nawyecka. The more common names for this Comanche division (with whom Cynthia Ann Parker lived) are Nokoni or Nocona. Some film critics have speculated that the historical model for the cavalry attack on a Comanche village, resulting in Look’s death and the taking of Comanche prisoners to a military post, was the well-known Battle of Washita River, November 27, 1868, when Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s 7th U.S. Cavalry attacked Black Kettle’s Cheyenne camp on the Washita River (near present-day Cheyenne, Oklahoma). The sequence also resembles the 1872 Battle of the North Fork of the Red River, in which the 4th Cavalry captured 124 Comanche women and children and imprisoned them at Fort Concho.

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Reception

Although the film was set in Texas it was filmed in Monument Valley, Utah.

Upon the film’s release, Bosley Crowther called it a “ripsnorting Western” (in spite of the “excessive language in its ads”); he credits Ford’s “familiar corps of actors, writers, etc., [who help] to give the gusto to this film. From Frank S. Nugent, whose screenplay from the novel of Alan LeMay is a pungent thing, right on through the cast and technicians, it is the honest achievement of a well-knit team.” Crowther noted “two faults of minor moment”:

  • “Episode is piled upon episode, climax upon climax, and corpse upon corpse…[t]he justification for it is that it certainly conveys the lengthiness of the hunt, but it leaves one a mite exhausted, especially with the speed at which it goes.
  • “The director has permitted too many outdoor scenes to be set in the obviously synthetic surroundings of the studio stage…some of those campfire scenes could have been shot in a sporting-goods store window.”

Variety called it “handsomely mounted and in the tradition of Shane“, yet “somewhat disappointing” due to its length and repetitiveness; “The John Ford directorial stamp is unmistakable. It concentrates on the characters and establishes a definite mood. It’s not sufficient, however, to overcome many of the weaknesses of the story.”

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The New York Herald Tribune termed the movie “distinguished”; Newsweek deemed it “remarkable.” Look described The Searchers as a “Homeric odyssey.” The New York Times praised Wayne’s performance as “uncommonly commanding.”

The film earned rentals of $4.8 million in the US and Canada during its first year of release.

Possibly the greatest movie ever made (ala Spielberg)

10/10
Author: sngjudge (sngjudge@gte.net) from Los Angeles, CA
24 July 2000

OK. First of all, I have seen quite a few movies in my time, and the complexity of this film makes this one of the top 5 movies of all time. Steven Spielberg said (in an early 90’s interview) that this movie was possibly the greatest of all times, due to the depth of the character studies.

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The interplay between Ethan & Martha (his brother’s wife)is subtle, yet screams of an undying, yet unfulfilled love that has endured for several years. You have to see the scene where Ward Bond is left in the house eating doughnuts, and witnesses the final, tender goodbye, while looking straight ahead, coming to the realization of what it all means, and how hard it is for the two of them to keep it from everyone else.

It is true that the film was filmed in Utah with the story taking place in Texas, but that quickly becomes a moot point. There is not space to extol all the virtues of this movie The relationship of Ethan & Martin, Martin & Lori, and the raw emotion experienced by all members of the cast are worth the rental price. No cast member came back from making this movie the same way they were when they left. Watch the film, it gets inside you. Watch it again, and you’ll find things you never saw before, no matter how many times you see it.

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Forgotten theme

10/10
Author: flaxies7 from United States
17 March 2005

Whenever I read critic’s reviews of “The Searchers,” I’m continually astounded by how they beat into the ground the racial aspect of the movie. Yes, it is undeniably an important theme in the plot, but no one ever touches on its more simple and beautiful qualities: the harshness of life in the Old West; the pioneer spirit so eloquently described by Ma Jorgensen. And most importantly, the fierce dedication to family shown by Ethan and even more so by the true hero of the film, Martin Pawley. As for the allegedly racist views of Ethan Edwards, go read the book, as Amos (the Ethan character in the book) had very real reasons to despise the Indians. People do ugly things to each other. Life is complex and viewpoints are often the results of one man’s experience.

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Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Cinematography Arthur Ibbetson

The world is astounded when Willy Wonka, for years a recluse in his factory, announces that five lucky people will be given a tour of the factory, shown all the secrets of his amazing candy, and one will win a lifetime supply of Wonka chocolate. Nobody wants the prize more than young Charlie, but as his family is so poor that buying even one bar of chocolate is a treat, buying enough bars to find one of the five golden tickets is unlikely in the extreme. But in movieland, magic can happen. Charlie, along with four somewhat odious other children, get the chance of a lifetime and a tour of the factory. Along the way, mild disasters befall each of the odious children, but can Charlie beat the odds and grab the brass ring?

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Timeless.

30 September 2001 | by Michael DeZubiria (wppispam2013@gmail.com) (Luoyang, China) – See all my reviews

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a truly magnificent piece of filmmaking and remains one of the most fascinating and wonderful adventure films ever made. One of the things that makes this film so intriguing is that it could have been made at any time. I mean, just from watching it, you can’t really tell when it was made. It has been one of my favorite films for almost 20 years now, and it wasn’t until today that I actually realized when it was made. Watching it again last night, I had convinced myself that it was made sometime in the early to mid 80s, and I was shocked to find out that this year is the movie’s 30 year anniversary. Until now, pretty much the only movie I associate with 1971 is A Clockwork Orange, and it’s just strange for some reason to find out that this classic movie was made so long ago.

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At any rate, Willy Wonka is a tremendously imaginative and inspiring film. It’s a family film, but one of the most important aspects of a family film is that it has to be enjoyable for a variety of ages. This is what makes movies like Toy Story and Shrek such huge successes- the adults will love it just as much as the kids are sure to. Hence: `family’ film. On the other hand, this is also the downfall of such other movies that are strictly for a much younger audience, like Cats & Dogs. The makers of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory understood this very well, and you can see that just by the way that the cast is divided. Here are all of these kids (funny how it was only kids who found those golden tickets…) who were at this candy factory, and they had each elected to bring one of their parents with them as the one admissible member of their family who was allowed by Wonka to accompany them to the factory.

WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY [US 1971]

One of the best elements of this film is the excellently written script and, even more, the songs. These are some of the best songs in any movie ever made, rivaling even the best of the songs from Disney’s films (hey, some of them are really good…). There are, of course, some exceptions, such as `Cheer up, Charlie,’ which I have been fast-forwarding through for as long as I can remember, but for the most part, the songs are fun to listen to and they pertain to life outside the movie. They are not just songs about the candy-making genius of Willy Wonka or the excitement of being able to tour his mysterious factory, but they are about life in the real world. They’re about believing in yourself and being motivated in life (`Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world, there’s nothing to it…’), but there are also some that have to do mostly with the movie but are still just as enjoyable, such as the classic song that Wonka sings in the tunnel on board his boat (curiously named `Wonkatania’), which was creepily covered by Marilyn Manson a couple of decades later.

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The dialogue in the film contains some of the most interesting little tidbits in the entire movie. Wonka’s lines, in particular, are wonderfully strange and amusing (`A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men.’). He is a truly eccentric and fascinating man, and Gene Wilder captures the character flawlessly, as he delivers the lines from the brilliantly written script. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of those rare movies that comes along and completely changes the way that fantasy films are made. It’s all about having fun in life and being hopeful against all odds and, most of all, being able to have fun in life. There are times when you have to let things go for a while and just act like a kid. Eat candy, run around and play, steal fizzy lifting drinks and bump into the ceiling that now has to be washed and sterilized, it doesn’t matter as long as no one’s looking. That’s such a trivial little quirk of Wonka’s (who sterilizes their ceiling?) that it becomes obvious that the movie is trying to say that it’s okay to break the rules every once in a while. Have fun in life.

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Besides being absolutely mouth-watering (to this day, I still fantasize about sinking my teeth into one of those gigantic gummy bears), the movie is an uplifting adventure that warms the heart and sends people of all ages away with fairy tale candies dancing in their heads and wonderful songs just behind their lips. It is an always-welcome vacation from reality for people of all ages, and it should always be remembered and loved for that. This movie will ALWAYS be a must-see.

The idea for adapting the book into a film came about when director Mel Stuart’s ten-year-old daughter read the book and asked her father to make a film out of it, with “Uncle Dave” (producer David L. Wolper) producing it.

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Stuart showed the book to Wolper, who happened to be in the midst of talks with the Quaker Oats Company regarding a vehicle to introduce a new candy bar from their Chicago-based Breaker Confections subsidiary (since renamed the Willy Wonka Candy Company and sold to Nestlé). Wolper persuaded the company, who had no previous experience in the film industry, to buy the rights to the book and finance the picture for the purpose of promoting a new Quaker Oats Wonka Bar.

It was agreed that the film would be a children’s musical, and that Dahl himself would write the screenplay.  However, the title was changed to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

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Screenwriter David Seltzer conceived a gimmick exclusively for the film that had Wonka quoting numerous literary sources, such as Arthur O’Shaughnessy‘s Ode, Oscar Wilde‘s The Importance of Being Earnest, Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and William Shakespeare‘s The Merchant of Venice. Seltzer also worked Slugworth (only mentioned as a rival candy maker in the book) into the plot as an actual character (only to be revealed to be Wilkinson, one of Wonka’s agents, at the end of the film)..

Casting

All six members of Monty Python: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, expressed interest in playing Wonka, but at the time they were deemed not big enough names for an international audience. Three of the members, Cleese, Idle and Palin, were later seriously considered for the same role in Tim Burton’s version.

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Before Wilder was officially cast for the role, Fred Astaire, Joel Grey, Ron Moody and Jon Pertwee were all considered.Spike Milligan was Roald Dahl’s original choice to play Willy Wonka. Peter Sellers even begged Dahl for the role.

When Wilder was cast for the role, he accepted it on one condition:

When I make my first entrance, I’d like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp. After the crowd sees Willy Wonka is a cripple, they all whisper to themselves and then become deathly quiet. As I walk toward them, my cane sinks into one of the cobblestones I’m walking on and stands straight up, by itself; but I keep on walking, until I realize that I no longer have my cane. I start to fall forward, and just before I hit the ground, I do a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applause.

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The reason why Wilder wanted this in the film was that “from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”

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Jean Stapleton turned down the role of Mrs. Teevee. Jim Backus was considered for the role of Sam Beauregarde. Sammy Davis, Jr. wanted to play Bill, the candy store owner, but Stuart did not like the idea because he felt that the presence of a big star in the candy store scene would break the reality. Anthony Newley also wanted to play Bill, but Stuart also objected to this for the same reason.

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Filming.

Principal photography commenced on 30 April 1970, and ended on 19 November 1970. The primary shooting location was Munich, Bavaria, West Germany, because it was significantly cheaper than filming in the United States and the setting was conducive to Wonka’s factory; Stuart also liked the ambiguity and unfamiliarity of the location. External shots of the factory were filmed at the gasworks of Stadtwerke München (Emmy-Noether-Straße 10); the entrance and side buildings still exist. The exterior of Charlie Bucket’s house, which was only a set constructed for the film, was filmed at Quellenstraße in Munich, Bavaria. Charlie’s school was filmed at Katholisches Pfarramt St. Sylvester, Biedersteiner Straße 1 in Munich. Bill’s Candy Shop was filmed at Lilienstraße, Munich. The closing sequence when the Wonkavator is flying above the factory is footage of Nördlingen in Bavaria.

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Reception

Willy Wonka was released on 30 June 1971. The film was not a big success, being the fifty-third highest-grossing film of the year in the U.S., earning just over $2.1 million on its opening weekend, although it received positive reviews from critics such as Roger Ebert, who compared it to The Wizard of Oz.

Seeing no significant financial advantage, Paramount decided against renewing its distribution deal for the film when it expired in 1977. Later that year, Warner Communications, the then-parent company of Warner Bros., acquired Wolper Pictures, Ltd., which led to Quaker Oats selling its share of the film’s rights to Warner Bros. for $500,000 at the same time.

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By the mid-1980s, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory had experienced a spike in popularity thanks in large part to repeated television broadcasts and home video sales. Following a 25th anniversary theatrical re-release in 1996, it was released on DVD the next year, allowing it to reach a new generation of viewers. The film was released as a remastered special edition on DVD and VHS in 2001 to commemorate the film’s 30th anniversary. In 2003, Entertainment Weekly ranked it 25th in the “Top 50 Cult Movies” of all time.

Warner’s ownership of the film helped them get the rights to make a new version in 2005, named Charlie and the Chocolate Factory after the original book, as well as a stage musical adaptation that had its premiere in London in 2013.

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As of 2016, the film holds an 89% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the critical consensus stating “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is strange yet comforting, full of narrative detours that don’t always work but express the film’s uniqueness”.

Willy Wonka was ranked No. 74 on Bravo‘s 100 Scariest Movie Moments  for the “scary tunnel” scene.

Dahl disowned the film, the script of which was partially rewritten by David Seltzer after Dahl failed to meet deadlines. Dahl said he was “disappointed” because “he thought it placed too much emphasis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie”, as well as the casting of Gene Wilder instead of Spike Milligan. He was also “infuriated” by the deviations in the plot Seltzer devised in his draft of the screenplay, including the conversion of Slugworth, a minor character in the book, into a spy (so that the movie could have a villain) and the “fizzy lifting drinks” scene.

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The film made its television debut on 23 November 1975 on NBC. There was a little controversy with the showing as the Oakland Raiders vs Washington Redskins (26-23) Football game went into overtime, and the first 40 minutes of the movie were cut. The film placed 19th in the TV Ratings for the week ending 23 Nov, beating out The Streets of San Francisco and Little House on the Prairie. The next TV showing of the film was on 2 May 1976, where it placed 46th in the ratings. Some TV listings indicate the showing was part of the World of Disney time slot.

So shines a good deed in a weary world.

10/10
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
10 December 2010

The world goes on chocolate overdrive when it’s announced that famed candy maker, Willy Wonka, has put five golden tickets in his Wonka Bars. The lucky recipients of these tickets will be treated to a day out in the top secret Wonka factory, where they can see how the sweets are made, and if they are even luckier, they will get a lifetimes supply of free chocolate.

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Nobody wants a golden ticket more than Charlie Bucket, from a desperately poor family, Charlie has learned to accept his heritage with a grace and credibility not befitting most other children. So when a miracle upon miracles happens, and Charlie finds a golden ticket, it just may prove to be a turning point far beyond his wildest dreams.

They say that true love lasts a lifetime, so shall it be the case with Willy Wonka and myself. As a child I was captivated by the colours, the dream of myself being able to visit a magical place where sweets and chocolate roll off the production line purely for my ingestion. Songs that I memorised back in my youth have never left me, and now as a considerably middle aged adult male, I can still embrace, and feel the magic, whilst enjoying the darkly knowing aspects of this fabulous and wondrous black comedy.

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Roald Dahl was quite a writer of note, and thankfully the makers here have brought his astute morality tale to vivid cinematic life. Director Mel Stuart, aided by his screenwriter David Seltzer, even manage to add to Dahl’s wonderful story courtesy of a sinister outsider, who apparently in the guise of a rival corporation, will pay handsomely for a Wonka top secret, morality, greed and power all coming together in one big chocolate explosion. The greatest gift that Willy Wonka gives, tho, is that of the set designs and art direction, where in an almost hypnotically drug induced colourful world, Wonka’s factory is a child’s dream come true, however, peril is at every turn as life’s lessons dolled out courtesy of the scarily cute Oompa Loompas.

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Songs are provided by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricuse, with the sumptuous art coming from Harper Goff. Gene Wilder takes the lead role of Willy Wonka, magnetic and bordering on clued in madness, Wilder takes his rightful place in the pantheon of memorable performances performed in fantasy pictures. But ultimately it’s the story and the way it appeals to every age group that makes Willy Wonka a prize treasure, the kids love it, while the adults watching with them will be wryly nodding and trying to suppress the onset of a devilish grin.

Pure magic is Willy Wonka, see it now in High Definition TV to fully realise the dream/nightmare on offer, oh oh I love it so. 10/10

If this movie sucks, then I’m a vernicious canid. (spoilers)

10/10
Author: Pepper Anne from Orlando, Florida
3 April 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ has withstood the test of time. And though quite dated, it is still a widely enjoyed film (with good reason!).

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This movie had a magnificent performance by Gene Wilder as Wonka, a wonderful story and great art direction for its day as they brought all of the awesome things at the Wonka factory to life (how cool it would be if you could actually go to a place like that), to being a superb musical.

The story is that of a famed chocolate manufacturer, Willy Wonka, who’s factory is a magical secret that was shut down when competing candy companies kept trying to infiltrate the factory with their spies who wanted hold of the ingredients that made Wonka’s candy the most novel and ultimately, the most novel. Of course, Wonka has a change of heart, and decides to hold a contest whereby the people who can find one of the five golden tickets randomly (maybe, all of the winners were conveniently children, four of which had horrible manners) in Wonka candy. It could be anywhere.

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One by one, it seems that the tickets are being found, particularly by obnoxious kids who are all about the same age. (Veruca Salt, the most horrid and funniest of them all, would later inspire a late 90s alternative band). The selfish British brat, the slothy German boy, the record gumchewer with the sleazy car salesman father, and the boy who lives in front of the television. And there’s only one ticket left. Meanwhile, a pathetic, depressed little boy named Charlie Bucket wants nothing more than to get hold of one of those tickets and witness the magic of the Wonka factory. Well, cheer up Charlie, because its about to happen.

The trip in Wonka is more than just an invitation for unrivaled fun, however. It is a test. One of Wonka’s rivals known as Slugworth, has promised a valuable sum to each of the children who steal from Wonka one of his newest inventions — an Everlasting Gobstopper– so that his company might steal the ingredients. Will all remain loyal to Slugworth?

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This is one of Gene Wilder’s best performances, perfectly making the Wonka character his own. This was also the movie that introduced to the world the cautionary cult favorite midgets known as the Oompa Loompas, slaves who were rescued by Wonka to…well serve as his slaves. And, serving as a brief psychedelic inject into the events in the factory, make the lessons learned more obvious than they could have already been.

Charlie Bucket’s character, however, could not be written to be more pathetic, as though the filmmakers were absolutely sure that this was the kid you had the most sympathy for. From the mother working in the laundry hand-washing clothes, to the bare one room house and the enormous bed shared by all of the grandparents with counterpart names, to Charlie’s constantly furrowed brow and curled lip.

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But, aside from this minor flaw, the movie has so many memorable things about it. I particularly like the Dr. Suess-esque setting. I can see why Tim Burton might be asked to be the next to recreate the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as the original looked like his style to begin with (like the foamy float machine or the bizarre sequence where Wonka appears to go momentarily mad). Nonetheless, may the legacy of the first live on for years to come. It is still one of the greatest family films ever made.

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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Taxi Driver (1976)

Cinematography Michael Chapman
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Travis Bickle, a 26-year-old honorably discharged U.S. Marine, is a lonely, depressed young man living on his own in New York City. He becomes a taxi driver to cope with his chronic insomnia, driving passengers every night around the city’s boroughs. He also spends time in seedy porn theaters and keeps a diary. Travis becomes infatuated with Betsy, a campaign volunteer for Senator and presidential candidate Charles Palantine. After watching her interact with fellow worker Tom through her window, Travis enters to volunteer as a pretext to talk to her, and takes her out for coffee. On a later date, he takes her to see a Swedish sex education film, which offends her, and she goes home alone. His attempts at reconciliation by sending flowers are rebuffed, so he berates her at the campaign office, before being kicked out by Tom.

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Travis confides in fellow taxi driver Wizard about his thoughts, which are beginning to turn violent, but Wizard assures him that he will be fine, leaving Travis to his own destructive path. Travis is disgusted by the sleaze, dysfunction, and prostitution that he witnesses throughout the city, and attempts to find an outlet for his frustrations by beginning a program of intense physical training. A fellow taxi driver refers Travis to illegal gun dealer Easy Andy, from whom he buys a number of handguns. At home, Travis practices drawing his weapons and constructs a sleeve gun to hide and then quickly deploy a gun from his sleeve. One night, Travis enters a convenience store moments before an attempted armed robbery and he shoots and kills the robber. The shop owner takes responsibility for the shooting, taking Travis’ handgun. On another night, child prostitute Iris enters Travis’s cab, attempting to escape her pimp Matthew “Sport” Higgins.

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Sport drags Iris from the cab and throws Travis a crumpled twenty-dollar bill, which continually reminds him of her and the corruption that surrounds him. Some time later, Travis hires Iris, but instead of having sex with her, attempts to dissuade her from continuing in prostitution. He fails to completely turn her from her course, but she does agree to meet with him for breakfast the next day. Travis leaves a letter to Iris at his apartment saying he will soon be dead, with money for her to return home.

After shaving his head into a mohawk, Travis attends a public rally, where he plans to assassinate Senator Palantine, but Secret Service agents notice him with his hand in his coat and chase him. He flees and later goes to the East Village to invade Sport’s brothel. A violent gunfight ensues and Travis kills Sport, a bouncer, and a mafioso. Travis is severely injured with multiple gunshot wounds. Iris witnesses the fight and is hysterical with fear, pleading with Travis to stop the killing. After the gunfight, Travis attempts suicide, but has run out of ammunition and resigns himself to lying on a sofa until police arrive. When they do, he places his index finger against his temple gesturing the act of shooting himself.

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Travis, having recovered from his wounds and returning to work, praised by favorable press reports for hitting the bad guys, receives a letter from Iris’ father thanking him for saving her life and revealing that she has returned home to Pittsburgh, where she is going to school. Later, he also reconciles with Betsy when dropping her off at home in his cab. As she tries to pay her fare, Travis simply smiles at her, turns off the meter and drives off.

An Unforgettable Movie and Lead Character

3 April 2006 | by ccthemovieman-1 (United States) – See all my reviews

“Travis Bickle” has to be one of the most fascinating characters ever put on film, and this has to still rank as one of the best post-film noir era “noirs” ever made.

Yeah the story is a bit seedy but it’s an incredibly interesting portrait of a mentaly unbalanced cab driver (Bickle, played by Robert De Niro) and his obsessions with “cleaning up” New York City.

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In addition to De Niro’s stunning performance, we see a young and gorgeous Cybill Shepherd and a very, very young (12 years old) Jodie Foster. I’ve always wondered what kind of parents would allow their 12-year-old daughter to play a role like this, but that’s another subject. Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel (with shoulder-length hair!) and Peter Boyle all lend good supporting help.

Bickle’s transformation from a “disturbed” cabbie to a fully-deranged assassin is fantastic to watch, and includes one of the classic scenes in all film history: Bickle talking to the mirror and repeating the question, “You talking’ to me?” That scene, and seeing De Niro in a Mohawk haircut later at a political rally are two scenes I’ll never forget.

The more times I’ve watched this, the more I appreciate the cinematography and the music in here. There are some wonderful night shots of the city’s oil and rain-slicked streets. Also, Bernard Herrmann eerie soundtrack is an instrumental part of the success of this film and should never be neglected in discussing this film.

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Director Martin Scorcese has made a number of well-known (but not particularly box-office successful) films, and I still think this early effort of his was his best. He’s never equaled it, although I think he and De Niro almost pulled it off five years later with another whacked-out character, “Rupert Pupkin” In “The King Of Comedy.”

In any case, there is no debate that Scorcese and De Niro are a great team and that Taxi Driver is one of the most memorable movies of the Seventies.

Disturbing, powerful, relevant, important

10/10
Author: Drew (andrew7@erols.com) from New Brunswick, NJ USA
17 November 1999
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A towering classic of American cinematic power. Martin Scorsese teams up with one of the most intense actors of that time to create a masterpiece of urban alienation. Paul Schrader’s magnificent script paints a portrait of loneliness in the largest city of the world. Travis never once enters into a meaningful relationship with any character anywhere in the film. He is the most hopelessly alone person I’ve ever encountered on film.

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He is alone with his thoughts, and his thoughts are dark ones. The film fools you on a first viewing. Is Travis an endearing eccentric? Sure, he’s odd, but he’s so polite, and he’s got a quirky sense of humor. His affection for Betsy is actually rather endearing. But on a second view, you see it for what it is. The audience comes to see Travis’s psychosis gradually, but there’s actually far less development than one might think. When he talks about cleaning up the city, the repeat viewer knows he doesn’t mean some sort of Giuliani-facelift. This is less a film about a character in development as it is a kind of snapshot. To be sure, it takes the stimulus to provoke the response, but does that imply some kind of central change in the character?

Tremendous supporting roles are brought to life through vivid performances by Keitel and Foster especially. Shepard’s character, Betsy, is little more than a foil to highlight Travis’s utter alienation from society, but she is still impeccably portrayed. With only two scenes that don’t center on Travis, it is unavoidably De Niro’s show.

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The life with which the supporting cast imbues their characters is a credit to themselves, and to the director’s willingness to let the film develop from the intersection of diverse ideas and approaches. What would the plot lose by eliminating the Albert Brooks character (Tom)? Nothing at all. He makes almost no impact on Travis’s life, which is where the plot lives. But his inclusion makes the film as a whole much richer and fuller.

As a piece of American cinema history, this film will live forever. But far more important than that, this film will survive as a universal, ever-relevant examination of the workings of the alienated mind. The story doesn’t end when the credits roll. We know Travis will snap again. But the story doesn’t end with Travis either. It continues today in the cities and in the schools. The film is about the brutal power of the disaffected mind.

This film didn’t cause the incidents in Colombine, or Hawaii, or Seattle, or wherever you care to look, even with all of its disturbing images of violence. It didn’t cause those things. It predicted them.

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A story about a lonely man

Author: David Antonio from Spain
16 May 2004

Taxi Driver is one of the best films ever made. This is one of those films that you do not get tired of seeing and every time you watch it you realize a little detail that you have not seen before. Excellent actors, a good director, an impressive soundtrack and a real story are the main appeals of this film.

This film is about loneliness, about the isolation of a man in a society full of scum. His objective is to finish with the scum of the streets.

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The story uses a taxi driver as a metaphor of loneliness and it has some kind of irony because we can see that a city which is full of people can be the most lonely place for a man. The long nights in the city, the night environment full of whores, junkies, pimps and thieves are the main elements of the world in which Travis Bickle lives. Travis is an misunderstood guy who is seeking desperately for some kind of company because as he says ‘loneliness has followed me all my life, everywhere’ but at the same time he seems not to do anything to avoid his situation and it is seen when he goes with Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) to a porn cinema. At the end of the film the character makes real his most violent fantasies, with a look of certain soldiers from Vietnam, and he behaves like this because of his loneliness, his alienation and because he does not find any sense to his life. The violent behaviour becomes Travis into a hero, although he had killed many people and he could do it again. Although he acts with an extreme violence the spectator understand him and the reasons why he acts that way.

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The soundtrack of the film, which is composed by Bernard Herrmann, inspires some kind of loneliness and sometimes it is absolutely terrifying like in a horror film. This music and the slow camera showing the streets help to introduce the spectator into the world of Travis, to know what he is thinking about.

In general I cannot say any negative aspect of this film because I have not found anything bad. Although it is a film of the 70s it is not an old-fashioned movie because the essence of the story, the reality that is shown on it, can be perfectly referred to the current society. This film has the privilege of having made famous the sentence ‘You talking’ to me? You talking’ to me?’ which will remain in the history of cinema. This is an authentic masterpiece.

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A wonderfully engaging and convincing slide into a modern madness from a director and actor showing some of their best form

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
13 February 2006

Travis Bickle is a Vietnam veteran who cannot sleep at night and just ends up travelling around. To try and use the time effectively he becomes a taxi driver. Things start to look up for him as he works nights and slowly starts to live a little bit. He meets a girl, Betsy, and arranges to see her a few times despite the fact that he is a little bit out of the ordinary – a quality that seems to interest her. His connection to the night allows him to see young prostitute Iris being bullied by her pimp Matthew and he begins to see his role to perhaps save her – him playing his part in cleaning up the sewer that he feels New York has become. However when his view of normal life puts Betsy off him he starts to retreat more and more into the night, looking for meaning in his life and growing more and more outraged by the world he is part of.

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Hardly the most uplifting of films it is engaging and impressive and truly deserves the reputation it has. Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader have produced a film that convincingly portrays a man cut out of society who has the slightest connection to normality before finding it eroded away. The script is brilliant because the detail is engaging but it is this descent into a very modern type of madness that drives the film forward. Travis has just enough about him that is recognisable that it makes it so easy to go along with the rest of his madness. A major part of this is getting the feeling right about living in a cesspit; a city that seems to have forgotten its way morally – New York is the strongest example but elements of it could be parts of any city I suspect. In painting this world in such a real way, Scorsese has made Travis all the more convincing and, to a point, all the easier to follow in his fall. Like I said it is not a film to morally uplift you but one that is depressingly fair. There is no redemption in this modern world and although it appears that the violence at the end somehow redeems Travis in reality by showing “society” accepting his action it drags the rest of us down nearer the world that he hates and has become part of. I love King of Comedy for the same reason albeit in a different world.

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Scorsese injects a real understanding of the place and a real sense of foreboding into even the earliest scenes. He inserts clever and meaningful shots into scenes that other directors might just have filmed straight and his choice of scene and shot compliments the script is depicting Travis descending into madness. What makes the film even better is De Niro showing the type of form that makes his recent form such a major disappointment. He is outstanding as he moves Travis from being relatively normal to being eaten up from the inside out. His eventual implosion is impressive but it is only as impressive as the gradual slide he depicts over the course of the film. Although he dominates it, others impress as well. Foster stands out in a small role, while Keitel makes a good impression as the pimp. Shepherd is not quite as good but her character was not as well written as the others so it isn’t all down to her. Regardless, the film belongs to De Niro and although the quotable scenes are the ones that are remembered it is in the quieter moments where he excels and shows genuine talent and understanding.

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Overall an impressive and morally depressing film that deserves its place in cinematic history. The portrayal of a city and a man slipping into moral insanity is convincing and engaging and it shows how well to “do” modern madness and the effects of the moral void of parts of society. Scorsese directs as a master despite this being at an early stage in his career and De Niro is chillingly effective as he simply dominates the film in quiet moments and quotable moments alike. I rarely use phrases like “modern classic” because I think they are lazy but this is one film that certainly deserves such a label.

Scorsese’s dark masterpiece of urban alienation

10/10
Author: TomC-5 from Jersey City, NJ
2 November 1999

Despite what some might see as limited by technical flaws and/or as an overly simplistic plot, Taxi Driver deserves its critical reputation as a cinematic masterpiece. Some 23 years later, the existential plight of Travis Bickle, “God’s lonely man,” continues to pack a hard emotional punch. In fact, it’s hard to know where to begin when praising the elements of this film – such elements as the dark location shots of a (now gone) seedy Times Square, the cinema verite settings of the cabbies and campaign workers, the magnificent Bernard Hermann score, Paul Schrader’s fine script, the memorable performances of Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, and Peter Boyle all must be mentioned. However, the brilliance of this film is primarily a result of the brilliance of De Niro and Scorsese, one of the greatest actor-director teams in movie history. This is an unforgettable film and rates a 10 out of 10, in my estimation.

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Diary of a madman

10/10
Author: francois chevallier (francheval@noos.fr) from Paris, France
13 February 2006

The script of “Taxi Driver” is built like a diary, the diary of a very ordinary guy who gets hired as a night taxi driver back from Vietnam, because he can’t sleep at night. A very ordinary guy who tries to break his isolation, but can’t, while violence accumulates inside him. One of those unnoticed people with dark things on their mind, one of those who break up the news one day with some extraordinary outburst of rage, to fall back immediately into anonymity.

The gradual transformation of man into beast in this movie is chilling. It’s still funny and pathetic when the hero threatens himself in front of the mirror (“you’re talking to me?”), but when he comes out with a mohawk hairdo and dark glasses, it is obvious that nasty stuff is going to take place. As in “A Clockwork Orange”, violence is recuperated by society depending on what purpose it is used for. Whereas he was about to murder the candidate for presidency, “god’s lonely man” fails and instead kills a vicious pimp who exploits teenage prostitutes. The potential criminal becomes a hero for a day.

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Such stories happen everywhere of course, but it seems that the bewildering atmosphere of New York City’s summer night was the best choice. “Taxi Driver” gives us a very realistic approach of New York, in a way that is not seen on screen so often, at least not anymore, whilst that city is probably the one in the world that has been filmed the biggest number of times.

Most of the movie takes place at night. The credits open on the blazing lights of the yellow taxi cab moving slowly in the dark rainy streets. A kaleidoscope of neonlight appears through the dripping windows as the driver’s eyes blink in the front mirror. The night is the hero’s universe, it’s the time when “all the animals come out”, as he says. By contrast, the few daylight scenes look somewhat off-key, but this was definitely intentional.

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The final scene still appears today as extremely violent, but at least, it shows murder for what it is. Brutal, ugly, crude. It is something one tends to forget about after seeing so many police series where people get shot so often that it gets casual. Real violence is not casual when you face it, and here is a film that makes you face it.

The directing is first class and deservedly made path for Scorsese as a world renowned artist. Some techniques he used here are unusual for American cinema, like focusing on details for a few seconds. The movie is enhanced by an excellent music soundtrack by jazz composer Bernard Herrman who died before the picture was even released.

Two of the actors also deservedly made it to stardom. Robert de Niro plays a very unglamorous character, but his presence on screen is so intense that it’s no wonder it made such an impression. As for Jodie Foster, she already appeared in films as a child, but playing a teenage prostitute was certainly not an easy challenge, and probably it was that role that really turned her into a major actress.

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“Taxi Driver” was a big hit when it came out, both for the public and the critics. It won the Palme d’Or in Cannes, and served as a trend setter for many later films, like for instance Quentin Tarantino’s and Abel Ferrara’s. But even today, the original model seems difficult to emulate, probably because achieving a masterpiece is a rare thing, by definition.

Ladies and gentlemen: Mr. Robert De Niro!

10/10
Author: Kristine (kristinedrama14@msn.com) from Chicago, Illinois
20 November 2003
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Taxi Driver, the classic that made Robert DeNiro Robert DeNiro. It’s amazing to see how far this man has come in cinema, some of my friends ask me questions about films and advice, one of my friends had asked if they wanted to see where Bobby got the big notice I usually recommend Taxi Driver, granted he was in The Godfather Part 2 and was incredible, but Taxi Driver made him stand out as a strong lead actor. Taxi Driver is just all together a great film that is absolutely perfection. Martin Scorcesse who also was just really starting out made this movie that brought us back to the film noir genre. He made this great classic and I don’t even think he realized how much it would stand against the test of time, to this day we still know this film and even if you don’t know it, you know the infamous speech “You talking’ to me?”. This is a film about isolation, loneliness, and self destruction at it’s worst.

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Travis Bickle who claims to be an honorably discharged Marine it is implied that he is a Vietnam veteran is a lonely and depressed young man of 26. He settles in Manhattan, where he becomes a night time taxi driver due to chronic insomnia. Bickle spends his restless days in seedy porn theaters and works 12 or 14 hour shifts during the evening and night time hours carrying passengers among all five boroughs of New York City. Bickle becomes interested in Betsy, a campaign volunteer for New York Senator Charles Palantine. She is initially intrigued by Bickle and agrees to a date with him after he flirts with her over coffee and sympathizes with her own apparent loneliness. On their date, however, Bickle is clueless about how to treat a woman and thinks it would be a good idea to take her to a sex film. Offended, she leaves him and takes a taxi home alone. The next day he tries to reconcile with Betsy, phoning her and sending her flowers, but all of his attempts are in vain. Rejected and depressed, Bickle’s thoughts begin to turn violent.

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Disgusted by the petty street crime that he witnesses while driving through the city, he now finds a focus for his frustration and begins a program of intense physical training. He buys a number of pistols from an illegal dealer and practices a menacing speech in the mirror, while pulling out a pistol that he attached to a home-made sliding action holster on his right arm “You talking’ to me?”. Bickle is revolted by what he considers the moral decay around him. One night while on shift, Iris, a 12-year-old child prostitute, gets in his cab, attempting to escape her pimp. Shocked by the occurrence, Bickle fails to drive off and the pimp, Sport, reaches the cab. Later seeing Iris on the street he pays for her time, although he does not have sex with her and instead tries to convince her to leave this way of life behind. But after her rejection as well, Travis decides to take things into his own hands, “Pow!”.

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This is one of the most memorable movies of all time and has really stood it’s ground. It’s personally one of my favorites and made me fall in love with Robert DeNiro all over again. The script to Taxi Driver is just so incredibly powerful and the performances were just perfect. Jodie Foster, this little girl at the time was such a presence on screen, she pulls in what was a very tricky performance and was hauntingly beautiful. Cybill Sheppard was also very beautiful and I was absolutely in love with her character and felt so bad for her. Everything about Taxi Driver is just great, I don’t know how much I could go on about the love I have for this film. It’s a film that you will never forget and trust me, if you haven’t seen it, go out and rent it immediately, you won’t regret it. It’s bloody, it’s twisted, it’s crazy, but it’s one of the best films of all time.

10/10

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A Triumph of Pure Filmaking

10/10
Author: johnpaulz (johnpaulzpt@yahoo.com) from los angeles, CA
13 April 2002
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Despite having an unsurpassed shoot-out bloodbath and despite having a timeless and touching storyline, the aspect that I like most about Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver is the music. Bernard Herrmann, who died shortly after completing the score, provides a melancholy feeling to the movie. This is perfect because Travis Bickle’s loneliness is the heart of the story.

Robert DeNiro’s performance in Taxi Driver as Travis Bickle is one of the best I have ever seen. DeNiro does every pause, smirk, and stare in exactly the right time. He transformed a despicable and psychotic character into a lonely and desperate man, who the audience can relate and understand. His scenes talking to himself in the mirror is entertaining, at the same time, terrifying.

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Travis Bickle is a Vietnam veteran who cannot sleep at nights, so he decided to work long shifts at night driving a taxicab. As Travis drives around New York City, his feelings and emotion soon show: he is disgusted and angry at sleaze in the world, he hates pimps, and he is prejudiced against blacks.

Travis then falls to a beautiful campaign worker named Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), and he persuaded her to go on a date with him. Betsy is clearly intrigued by Travis’ character, so she agreed. Their relationship is going well, but when Travis made a mistake on bringing her to an X-rated movie, she decided to ignore him.

In a later conversation with a fellow cab driver named Wizard (Peter Boyle), it is shown that Travis is on verge of going psychotic. The next sequences show Scorsese’s genius. We clearly see how Travis slowly creates his plans and how he prepares himself. DeNiro’s narration shows signs of breakdown, saying things like `here is a man who cannot take it anymore’ and `loneliness has followed me all my life.’

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Travis also befriends a twelve-year-old prostitute named Iris, played by a young Jodie Foster. Travis tries to convince her that she is hanging out with scums, and that she should be at school and making friends. One of the best acting scenes I have seen is when Travis talks with Iris in a restaurant. As Travis tries to convince Iris to give up prostitution, she manages to keep a steady face but clearly is suffering inside. Travis’ emotion is clearly anger but he tries to hold it because he does not want to scare Iris. Foster and DeNiro play the scene with wonderful realism and emotion.

Taxi Driver is a good example of how great a film can be if it was made by talented persons. Paul Schrader’s script is intense, Martin Scorsese’s direction is watertight, Bernard Herrmann’s music is beautiful, and the actors’ acting is superb. Taxi Driver can relate to a lot of people and clearly is one of the greatest movies of all time.

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Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Directed by George Seaton
When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.

Holiday Combination That Works Well

8 December 2004 | by Snow Leopard (Ohio) – See all my reviews

Still among the most worthwhile of the familiar holiday movies, this classic version of “Miracle on 34th Street” has a combination of cast, story, and production that works well. Maureen O’Hara, young Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn would probably have carried it pretty well by themselves, and they are joined by a very good supporting cast. The screenplay is nicely done, bringing out the fantasy elements of the story without letting it become trite.

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Gwenn, who played many solid character roles, gets the chance here to play a role for which he was ideally suited, and it works very well. O’Hara and Wood make a good pair to balance him out. The supporting cast gets some very good moments of their own, especially Gene Lockhart and William Frawley, whose scenes are entertaining while also offering some occasionally pointed commentary.

The style of the production is well-suited to the material, offering an innocently upbeat story without overdoing it on sentimentality. For all that this style of the production and acting are out of fashion, they are able to capture a theme like this in a worthwhile way that is simply not possible with the kind of false “sophistication” that permeates so many present-day movies.

That’s not to say that this is some kind of masterpiece, which it is not and did not try to be. Instead, it’s a light, enjoyable, positive movie that does make a worthwhile point or two. That kind of feature will always find an appreciative audience somewhere.

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Sweet movie not without social comment

Author: whitey54 from San Jose, CA
15 September 2004

This is certainly a lovely warmhearted movie, but since other reviewers have described the plot in detail, I’ll move on to other topics.

I love movies like this for the insight they provide into the customs of a lost era. Watch the clothing – everybody is so dressed up! – women in dresses, gloves, and hats, men in hats and suits. Notice that when O’Hara enters a room filled with Macy’s executives, even though they are the bosses and she is lower management, they all stand up instantly.

The social satire, most on display in the courtroom scenes, also is very 1940s. Apparently audiences of that era took a kind of genial corruption in the judicial system in stride. Business leaders, like “Mr. Macy” were expected to be sharp and profit-oriented, but also decent people like the rest of us. It’s a much more nuanced view than the “businessman as criminal villain” so common in today’s movies.

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The character played by Maureen O’Hara probably needs explanation for modern viewers. Late 1940s audiences knew that the social and economic situation of a divorced working woman with a child was much more precarious than it is now. Divorce was still somewhat shocking – this is brought out neatly in the movie when her would-be lover does a double take when he learns from her daughter about the divorce – he probably had assumed she was a war widow. Divorced moms were still rare in the middle classes. Society universally agreed that women should stay home to raise their children. Economically, women in management positions were still very rare, couldn’t expect promotion, and were last hired, first fired. I think O’Hara’s performance brings out these qualities in a way that the audience of the 1940s would have understood easily. The character’s stiffness, fear of losing control, and anxiety about her job make a great deal of sense. It would have been nice to see a few scenes showing her loosening up, perhaps at dinner with her boyfriend; no doubt those got left on the cutting room floor.

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I really like the scene where Santa talks to the little Dutch orphan. First, this scene also must have resonated with the audience; in 1947 the western European countries had only started to recover from World War II, and probably many Americans were familiar with the idea of adopting a war orphan, just as many sent CARE packages. Second, by making Santa fluent in Dutch, the writer cleverly left the viewer thinking that hey, he might really be Santa Claus (isn’t Santa Claus fluent in all languages)?

Some reviewers don’t like the acting and think that modern actors are “better”. I think the older actors aren’t better or worse, just different. The audiences of the 1940s expected a certain style of acting, and the directors and actors gave that to them. Then as now, Hollywood paid top dollar and got very talented people, but like all of us they were shaped by their own time and place, more particularly the requirement to make movies that audiences would like. Move Maureen O’Hara to 2004, or Tom Cruise to 1947, and you’d see them acting in the style of that decade.

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Classic holiday fare

10/10
Author: Boyo-2
21 November 2001

Its very easy to see why this movie won the Oscar for Screenplay that year. Its very intelligent and has a lot to say about several topics – how to raise a child, how a person of questionable sanity gets treated, how greedy businessmen are, how politics play out in a courtroom..and what to do with all that damn mail addressed to Santa Claus!

Its also very mature in some ways – Doris (Maureen O’Hara) is divorced and the mother of Susie (Natalie Wood). Doris has raised Susie to be very practical and to think for herself, but she neglected to teach Susie one thing – how to be a child, when you ARE a child. Enter Mr. Gayley (John Payne), a struggling lawyer who befriends Susie as a way to get to know her Mom better.

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Doris works at Macy’s and is organizing their Thanksgiving Day Parade, when the Santa they’ve hired is intoxicated. In a pinch they hire the REAL Kris Kringle to appear in the parade. He ends up being such a big hit that he gets hired to work at Macy’s also. He is not the traditional employee, however, and this comes to light when he sends a customer (the venerable Thelma Ritter) to ANOTHER STORE! Schoenfeld’s, he says, has what she’s looking for. Then he is overheard, by the store manager no less, sending another customer to GIMBELS!

Don’t want to give away any more, but the movie is touching, dramatic and hysterical – Doris on the phone with her co-workers’ wife, who has been given too much liquor, is worth a million bucks alone. Whenever I want to make my sister laugh, I do a pretty decent imitation of her saying “HELLO?” Also, I can sing the song Kris sings to the girl from Rotterdam..the girl who is so thrilled that Kris can communicate with her in her language. Susie overhearing this is beginning to think that Kris might be the real thing, and she’s a pretty hard nut to crack, for a little kid.

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See it, own it, memorize it..and pity the 31 souls in ‘User Ratings’ who gave this a ‘1’, which is ridiculous but it takes all kinds I guess.

Santa is in New York!

10/10
Author: Eric G Lunneborg from Fairview, Oregon
9 December 2003

The movie starts out in a festive atmosphere. It is Thanksgiving and the employees of Macy’s department store are busy with preparations for the annual Thanksgiving day parade. Doris. Walker (Maureen O’Hare) is in charge of the parade. She anxiously hires Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) to replace the man she hired to play Santa Claus when she discovers the original Santa is too intoxicated to even get on the float. Kris does such a good job that Mrs. Walker asks him to stay on in the role and be the department store’s Santa. She soon has serious doubts about her decision when she discovers that her new Santa really believes he is Santa Claus.

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Mrs. Walker is working, single mother, who works for Macy’s Department Store in New York City. Natalie Wood plays her daughter, Susan. As the result of a failed Marriage, Doris raises her daughter to accept reality. There is no room for fantasy or make believe in her life. Susan is a quiet, child who acts more like a grown up than a 6 year old. She has difficulty using her imagination, and has become just as skeptical as her mother.

Since Kris, believes that “the important thing is to make children happy,” winning the affection of Susan and her mother is his main objective.

Whether or not Kris is the real Santa Claus, there is no doubt that he seem to have an influence on almost everyone he meets–except for Macy’s staff psychologist .Mr. Sawyer believes that Kris is delusional, and has him committed to thrown into a mental institution. In order to get out, Kris must face a court hearing, where not only is his sanity questioned, but the state of New York will decide if there really is a Santa Claus. Fred Gailey (played by John Payne) a neighbor of Doris Susan Walker agrees to represent Kris. The predictable end to the story is that Fred and Doris become attracted to each other, and as Fred works hard to secure Kris’ freedom, Doris finds herself not only believing in Kris, but also in believing in fantasy.

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Maureen O’Hara portrays Doris Walker with poise and sophistication. Although the movie is over 55 years old, the idea of a single working mom trying to raise her daughter after a bitter divorce, tells a story that is relevant by today’s standards. Natalie Wood does such a good job at playing as the bright six year old, Susan, that you can almost imagine her going straight from being a baby to being an adult. John Payne, as Fred Gailey, predictably plays the handsome attorney who falls in love with Mrs. Walker. Even though it seems a bit unbelievable, this movie is all about fantasy, so we’ll allow a bit of romance. Finally, Edmund Gwenn’s portrayal of Santa Claus is so believable, that you almost believe that truly is the jolly old elf himself!

This reviewer would give the movie a 5 out of 5 rating. It is a Christmas classic that will be remembered for years to come as one of the best Christmas movies ever filmed. The message of the movie is not about the real meaning of Christmas, nor is it about the commercialism that has overshadowed the holiday for years. The message of the movie is that make believe and fantasy play an important role in our live. Without them we would have no basis for our hopes and dreams.

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“You’d Better Watch Out, You’d Better Not Cry………………”

9/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
22 October 2007

……………Santa Claus has come to town. Or at least that’s what a gentlemen appropriately named Kristopher Kringle played by Edmund Gwenn complete with full white beard is claiming. He makes his appearance at the Thanksgiving Day Parade as sponsored by R.H. Macy’s Department Store and finds the Santa hired for the occasion, Percy Helton, full of a little too much Christmas cheer already. In charge of the parade is one of Macy’s middle level executives, Maureen O’Hara, who fires Helton and hires Gwenn right then and there.

Gwenn’s obvious sincerity makes him an ideal Santa Claus for Macy’s and for us. He spreads the real meaning of Christmas around even has Macy’s declaring a holiday truce with its rival Gimbel’s. That’s a part of Miracle on 34th Street that might be lost to viewers today. Gimbel’s was Macy’s big department store rival and it’s flagship store in New York stood across 34th Street at the time. Gives a meaning to the title that is lost on today’s audience.

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But wiser and more sophisticated folks like the majority of us know there ain’t no such thing as Santa Claus. Even Maureen O’Hara knows that and imparts it to her daughter Natalie Wood. Gwenn’s just a kind old man in a white beard. But when his sanity is questioned, Gwenn’s belief becomes a matter for the courts where Gwenn is ably defended by O’Hara’s boyfriend, lawyer John Payne.

Like that other holiday classic It’s A Wonderful Life, Christmas is never complete without seeing Miracle on 34th Street. Though New York has changed considerably since 1947 the year I made my earthly debut, the film has lost absolutely none of its charm.

Edmund Gwenn won the Best Supporting Actor of 1947 and in doing so, beat out his best friend, Finlay Currie, who was up that year for playing Magwitch in Great Expectations. The two had met in stock companies in their native Scotland and were friends right up to when Gwenn passed away in 1959. The Oscar was the high point of his career.

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Maureen O’Hara in her memoirs says that Miracle on 34th Street holds a special place in her affections. In fact until Gwenn died, she had hopes of doing some kind of sequel. She bonded on stage with young Natalie Wood who later played her daughter in Father Was A Fullback also and kept in contact with her right up to her death in 1981.

Maureen also had a deep affection for John Payne who she made four films with and says was one of the nicest men in the world. One story she related was on the set of another film they made, Payne was served with divorce papers right on the set from his then wife, Anne Shirley. She said he broke down and cried like a baby. If it weren’t for the fact she was married, she said she definitely could have gotten something going with Payne.

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In the supporting cast note the presence of one grinch in the person of Porter Hall who played one of his patented nasty little meanies. His meddling and general misanthropy cause Gwenn to have that trial in the first place. Look for a bit role from Jack Albertson as the postal employee who inadvertently saves the day. Also making her film debut is Thelma Ritter as the mother of a child looking to meet Santa Claus, the one official Santa Claus, courtesy of Macy’s Department Store.

Although Miracle on 34th Street has been remade several times over the years, this one is the genuine article. As genuine as the fact that Macy’s has the official Santa Claus as certified by a higher authority.

One thing has always puzzled me though. How long did it take Edmund Gwenn to grow that beard for the part?

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The Genuine Article, Still A Miracle

Author: Paul Dana (bigpurplebear@aol.com) from San Francisco, CA USA
25 December 2001

There’s a “legend” connected with this film, one which has recently gained new life via AMC: Supposedly, upon completion of principle filmmaking, 1947’s “Miracle On 34th Street” then had to be submitted to the heads of Macy’s and Gimble’s department stores who — had either man withheld approval — could have cost 20th Century Fox a small fortune in rewrites and reshootings.

Frankly, in view of the fact that much of “Miracle” had already been shot on location in Macy’s New York City store (to say nothing of the fact that studio heads of that era — or any era, for that matter — were notoriously prone not to take such financial risks), this “legend” is likely just so much “hype,” otherwise known as “nonsense.”

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Thankfully, this is the only trace of phoniness attached to this jewel of a movie. “Miracle On 34th Street” is just that, in every sense of the word: a miracle.

Take a perfectly-crafted, thoughtful screenplay. Add an impeccable cast (from top-to-bottom, by the way; catch, just as one example, Thelma Ritter’s uncredited turn as “Peter’s Mother”). Throw into this mix an on-location “shoot” (along with Macy’s, there’s the store’s actual 1946 Thanksgiving Parade, footage in a post office facility and a courthouse) which gives this film a nice sense of verisimilitude . . . just in case you’re not already prepared (courtesy of Edmund Gwenn, in a totally-deserved Oscar-winning performance) to recapture your belief in Santa Claus.

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“Miracle On 34th Street” is many things: a celebration of the Christmas spirit, a heartfelt plea against the “over-commercialism” (even in 1947)of Christmas, an examination of faith itself . . . just to name a few.

It works on every level. Every bit as well today, 54 years after its initial release, as then. Don’t waste your time with the remakes — both on TV as well as theatrical productions (and the less said about an abortive 1963 Broadway musical adaptation, “Here’s Love,” the better.)

Go for the original film. Go for the genuine article. Again and again and again.

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Although the film is set during the Christmas season, studio head Darryl F. Zanuck insisted that it be released in May, arguing that more people go to the movies in warmer weather. The studio rushed to promote it while keeping its Christmas setting a secret. Fox’s promotional trailer depicted a fictional producer roaming the studio backlot and encountering such stars as Rex Harrison, Anne Baxter, Peggy Ann Garner, and Dick Haymes extolling the virtues of the film. In addition, the movie posters prominently featured O’Hara and Payne, with Gwenn’s character kept in the background. The film opened in New York City at the Roxy Theatre on June 4, 1947. By contrast, modern home video packaging has Gwenn and Wood dominating the imagery, with the DVD release having Kringle in his Santa Claus costume.

The Christmas window displays seen in the film were originally made by Steiff for Macy’s. Macy’s later sold the window displays to FAO Schwarz in New York. FAO Schwarz then sold the windows to the Marshall & Ilsley Bank of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they are on display every December in the bank’s lobby on North Water Street.

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The house shown at the end of the film is a 1703 square foot single family home built in 1943 at 24 Derby Road, Port Washington, New York. The home looks practically the same as it did in 1947, except that the roof line has been altered by the addition of a window.

Vanishing Point (1971 )

Directed by Richard C. Sarafian

 

Distributed by 20th Century Fox

Vanishing Point is a 1971 American action road movie directed by Richard C. Sarafian and starring Barry Newman, Cleavon Little, and Dean Jagger.

The film is notable for its scenic film locations across the American Southwest and its social commentary on the post-Woodstock mood in the United States.

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A car delivery driver, Kowalski (Barry Newman), arrives in Denver, Colorado late Friday night with a black Chrysler Imperial. The delivery service clerk, Sandy (Karl Swenson), urges him to get some rest, but Kowalski insists on getting started with his next assignment to deliver a white 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum to San Francisco by Monday. Before leaving Denver, Kowalski pulls into a biker bar parking lot around midnight to buy Benzedrine pills to stay awake for the long drive ahead. He bets his dealer, Jake (Lee Weaver), that he will get to San Francisco by 3:00 pm “tomorrow”, even though the delivery is not due until Monday. (Distance between the towns is approximately 1,200 miles (1,900 km) by road).

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Kowalski is a Medal of Honor Vietnam War veteran and former race car driver and motorcycle racer. He is also a former police officer, who was dishonorably discharged in retaliation for preventing his partner from raping a young woman. Haunted by the surfing death of his girlfriend, Vera, Kowalski now exists on adrenaline.

Driving west across Colorado, Kowalski is pursued by two motorcycle police officers who try to stop him for speeding. Recalling his days as a motorcycle racer, he forces one officer off the road and eludes the other officer by jumping across a dry creek bed. Later, the driver of a Jaguar E-Type convertible  pulls up alongside Kowalski and challenges him to a race. After the Jaguar driver nearly runs him off the road, Kowalski overtakes him and beats the Jaguar to a one-lane bridge, causing the Jaguar to crash into the river. Kowalski checks to see if the driver is okay, then takes off, with police cars in hot pursuit.

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Kowalski drives across Utah and into Nevada, with the police unable to catch him. During the pursuit, Kowalski listens to radio station KOW, which is broadcasting from Goldfield, Nevada. A blind black disc jockey at KOW, Super Soul (Cleavon Little), listens to the police radio frequency and encourages Kowalski to evade the police. Super Soul seems to understand Kowalski and seems to see and hear Kowalski’s reactions. With the help of Super Soul, who calls Kowalski “the last American hero”, Kowalski gains the interest of the news media, and people begin to gather at the KOW radio station to offer their support.

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During the police chase across Nevada, Kowalski finds himself surrounded and heads into the desert. After he blows a left front tire and becomes lost, Kowalski is helped by an old prospector (Dean Jagger) who catches snakes in the desert for a Pentecostal Christian commune. After Kowalski is given fuel, the old man redirects him back to the highway. There, he picks up two homosexual hitchhikers stranded en route to San Francisco with a “Just Married” sign in their rear window. When they attempt to hold him up at gunpoint, Kowalski throws them out of the car and continues on.

Saturday afternoon, a vengeful off-duty highway patrolman and some local racist thugs break into the KOW studio and assault Super Soul and his engineer. Near the California state line, Kowalski is helped by a hippie biker, Angel (Timothy Scott), who gives him pills to help him stay awake. Angel’s girlfriend (Gilda Texter), who rides a motorcycle nude, recognizes Kowalski and shows him a collage she made of newspaper articles about his police career.

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Kowalski suspects that Super Soul’s broadcast is now being directed by the police to entrap him. Confirming that the police are indeed waiting at the border, Angel helps Kowalski get through the roadblock with the help of an old air raid siren and a small motorbike with a red headlight strapped to the top of the Challenger, simulating a police car. Kowalski finally reaches California by Saturday 7:12 pm. He calls Jake the dealer from a payphone to reassure him that he still intends to deliver the car on Monday.

On Sunday morning, California police, who have been tracking Kowalski’s movements on an electronic wall-map, set up a roadblock with two bulldozers in the small town of Cisco, where Kowalski will be passing. A small crowd gathers at the roadblock. As Kowalski approaches at high speed, he smiles as he crashes into the bulldozers in a fiery explosion. As firemen work to put out the flames, the crowd slowly disperses.

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A great ’70s movie

7 March 2006 | by mikey_editor (Paris) – See all my reviews

This is the essential 1970s anti-hero movie. It is not supposed to make sense and I have often wondered if it were not meant to be someone’s psychedelic dream. Nudity when nudity would not seem to fit; bad cops; beaten people out of sync with plot line. Sounds like a trip. The cast is excellent and this is one of Cleavon Little’s last main roles as well as the last main role for the early love interest. John Amos is so underplayed he is almost unrecognizable, I’d love to see his commentary on the movie. And one guy is so ripping off James Dean (though as a racist) that it is unintentionally funny. I’d recommend it as an addition to any American tape library. A true cult classic.

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A Dirge For A Dying America

10/10
Author: AdamKey (teslaman62@yahoo.com) from San Diego, Calif., USA
21 February 2004

Richard Sarafian’s 1971 film “Vanishing Point” is, for starters, a fascinating study of those persons anthropologists sometimes term “marginal men”–individuals caught between two powerful and competing cultures, sharing some important aspects of both but not a true part of either, and, as such, remain tragically confined to an often-painful existential loneliness. Inhabiting a sort of twilight zone between “here” and “there,” a sort of peculiar purgatory, these restless specters cannot find any peace or place, so they instead instinctively press madly on to some obscure and unknown destination, the relentless journey itself being the only reason and justification.

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Disc jockey Super Soul (Cleavon Little) and delivery driver Kowalski (Barry Newman) are two of these specters, marginal but decent, intelligent men who can’t or won’t live in burgeoning competing cultures which in reality have offered them very little of worth or substance, despite their own personal sacrifices. Kowalski himself had tried to “fit in” with the Establishment as a soldier and police officer and later, attempted to do the same with the blossoming 1960s counterculture, but soon disappointingly found that they both were ridden with their own various forms of dishonesty and insincerity. Personal honor, self-reliance and genuine respect–Kowalski’s stock in trade–were tragically valued very little by either, despite each one’s shrill and haughty claims to the contrary.

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Moreover, it’s no accident Newman’s character has a Polish surname; the Poles throughout their history have created a very rich and unique Slavic culture largely based upon just such a “marginality”–being geographically jammed between powerful historic enemies, Germany and Russia, and never being able to fully identify with either one, at often great cost to themselves. It’s also no accident Little’s character is blind and black, the only one of his kind in a small, all-Caucasian western desert town–his sightlessness enhancing his persuasiveness and his ability to read Kowalski’s mind, the radio microphone his voice, his race being the focus of long simmering and later suddenly explosive disdain–all of the characteristics of a far-seeing prophet unjustly (but typically) dishonored in his own land.

The desert environment also plays a key role in cementing the personal relationship between and respective fates of these two men–to paraphrase British novelist J.G. Ballard, prophets throughout our history have emerged from deserts of some sort since deserts have, in a sense, exhausted their own futures (like Kowalski himself had already done) and thus are free of the concepts of time and existence as we have conventionally known them (as Super Soul instinctively knew, thus creating his own psychic link to the doomed driver.) Everything is somehow possible, and yet, somehow nothing is.

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Finally, VP is also a “fin de siecle” story, a unique requiem for a quickly dying age- a now all-but-disappeared one of truly open roads, endless speed for the joy of speed’s sake, of big, solid no-nonsense muscle cars, of taking radical chances, of living on the edge in a colorful world of endless possibility, seasoned with a large number and wide variety of all sorts of unusual characters, all of which had long made the USA a wonderful place–and sadly is no longer, having been supplanted by today’s swarms of sadistic, military-weaponed cop-thugs, obsessive and intrusive safety freaks, soulless toll plazas, smug yuppie SUV drivers, tedious carbon-copy latte towns, and a childish craving for perfect, high-fuel-efficiency safety and security.

The just-issued DVD contains both the US and UK releases of the film; the UK release, I believe, is a much more satisfying film, as it has the original scenes deleted from the US version. As an aside, Super Soul’s radio station call letters, KOW, are in fact the ones for a country & western station in San Diego.

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The road can work on your mind.

Author: L_Miller from United States
8 July 1999

Kowalski transports cars across the western US in 1970. He gets a gig transporting a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T from Denver to San Francisco and sets out at maximum warp, stopping only for gas and strategy. He commits no crime outside of speeding, and fleeing the cops who are trying to stop him simply because he will not stop. He finds allies along the way, including an old prospector, a DJ named Super Soul, and a hippie who seems to me to be an alternate ending to the life of Peter Fonda’s character Wyatt in “Easy Rider”. He drives and drives and drives until he meets his destiny in a tiny town on the California-Nevada border at 10:04 AM on some unnamed Sunday.

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Why? Is it because of his past; ex-cop, ex-racer, tragically bereaved? Is it because of the truckload of speed he takes at the beginning of the movie (draw your own metaphors between Kowalski’s internal use of the noun and external use of the verb)?

Or is it the road, the infinite expanses of the Southwest, the silence, the freedom, the sound of the motor surging, the tires spinning, the wheels gobbling up and sitting out the black asphalt? Who knows? Kowalski seems indifferent as to why he drives, only that he must drive, must evade, must get to where he is going and will not – can not – be stopped.

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Do yourself a favor. Rent the original, don’t see the ’97 made for TV movie (it has some high points, but it’s like watching the ’99 “Psycho” before seeing the Alfred Hitchcock original). In fact, rent this and “Two Lane Blacktop” from Monte Hellman, and “Mad Max” and/or “The Road Warrior”. Watch all of them in as close to one sitting as you can get.

If after watching these movies, you don’t understand how they’re expressions of the same call to the open road, return them and give up. Not everyone was meant to hear it, just like not everyone has perfect pitch or the ability to wiggle their ears.

This movie drove me (pun intended) to take the handle kowalski and buy a Challenger of my own (flame red, 1973, you see the 1970 R/Ts are very hard to get).

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It probably won’t do the same for you, but if you’ve ever been driving down the open road and wondered what would happen if you _didn’t_ get off at the next exchange, in fact if you never got off at all, then this film is for you.

And I hope the next ignoramus who compares this masterful film to “The Dukes of Hazzard” loses his brakes and plows into a line of parked Harleys outside some bar with a name like Whiskey Junction or the Dew Drop Inn.

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Author: pullgees
15 October 2003

The best road movie ever made. To appreciate it you have got to try and see it from the culture of that era. It is totally anti establishment as was the mood of half of America. So the police are all idiots, the ‘good ol boys’ are either violent rednecks or passive disapproving onlookers. Kowalski is going to give those mid west conservatives something they won’t forget, he’s going to shake things up for a day or two.

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Kowalski is simply the symbol of the many disenfranchised at the time. The story starts at the end. We hear a boring stifling radio news item on the price of grain. We see dreary looking bystanders who need to be turned on. Then Super Soul takes over the airwaves with his wild DJ antics and hippy music trying to jolt these people out of their fixed ways. The old and the new are clashing. This sets the mood we know from then it is rebellious. Other aspects the stunts the music the characters have been well covered below so there is no need to say more on that. Some have said that there is no point to this story or Kowalski’s motives and have interpreted the title meaning that. But all a vanishing point is an artist name for the phenomena of perspective where two parallel lines seemingly meet and in the long straight roads of the journey we see plenty of vanishing points.

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The car

According to Sarafian, it was Zanuck who came up with the idea of using the new 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T. He wanted to do Chrysler a favor for their long-time practice of providing 20th Century Fox with cars on a rental basis for only a dollar a day. Many of the other cars featured in the film are also Chrysler products. Stunt Coordinator Carey Loftin said he requested the Dodge Challenger because of the “quality of the torsion bar suspension and for its horsepower” and felt that it was “a real sturdy, good running car.”

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Five Alpine White Dodge Challenger R/Ts were lent to the production by Chrysler for promotional consideration and were returned upon completion of filming. Four cars had 440 engines equipped with four-speeds; the fifth car was a 383 with automatic. No special equipment was added or modifications made to the cars, except for heavier-duty shock absorbers for the car that jumped over No Name Creek.The Challengers were prepared and maintained for the movie by Max Balchowsky, who also prepared the Mustangs and Chargers for Bullitt (1968). The cars performed to Loftin’s satisfaction, although dust came to be a problem. None of the engines were blown. Loftin remembers that parts were taken out of one car to repair another because they “really ruined a couple of those cars” while jumping ramps between highways and over creeks. Newman remembers that the 440 engines in the cars were so powerful that “it was almost as if there was too much power for the body. You’d put it in first and it would almost rear back!”The Challengers appear in the film with Colorado plates OA-5599.

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Filming

Principal photography began in the summer of 1970 with a planned shooting schedule of 60 days.  Financial troubles plaguing the studio at the time forced Zanuck to shorten Sarafian’s shooting schedule by 22 days. In response, the director decided not to film certain scenes rather than rush through the rest of the shoot. An average day of filming involved the actors and the crew of 19 men spending many hours traveling to the remote locations, shooting for an extended period of time and then looking for a motel to spend the night.  The shoot had a few mishaps, including Newman driving a Challenger equipped with three cameras into the bushes in order to avoid a head-on collision when a “civilian” driver ignored the traffic blocks installed to ensure the safety of the crew.

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The film’s cinematographer John Alonzo used light-weight Arriflex II cameras that offered a great deal of flexibility in terms of free movement. Close-up and medium shots were achieved by mounting cameras directly on the vehicles instead of the common practice of filming the drivers from a tow that drove ahead of the targeted vehicle. To convey the appearance of speed, the filmmakers slowed the film rate of the cameras. For example, in the scenes with the Challenger and the Jaguar, the camera’s film rate was slowed to half speed. The cars were traveling at approximately 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) but when projected at normal frame rate, they appeared to be moving much faster.

Vanishing Point was filmed on location in the American Southwest in the states of Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California.

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