Saturday, July 22, 2006


One of the two last remaining 'Twelve Angry Men'- Juror Number 7, has died.
Jack Warden, famous for his supporting roles in films like Shampoo, Heaven Can Wait, Brian's Song and Being There, died at the age of 85. He left behind performances in 153 movies, from his debut in 1951 to his last in 2000.

For movie goers, he will be famous for many supporting roles. For me, he will always be remembered as Juror #7, the salesman who keeps pushing for a quick decision in the murder case in Sidney Lumet's screen version of 'Twelve Angry Men'. And for his performance opposite Peter Sellers in 'Being There', where he portrays the President of the United States. Other performances include the football coach in Brian's Song, and as Doctor Bressner in the all star cast of 'Death on the Nile'

Sadly now, there is only one remaining 'Twelve Angry Men' left- that being Jack Klugman.
Cinema has lost a wonderful supporting actor.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Sorry Wrong Number
Originally uploaded by rhettrospective.
[FOX Classics] [Anatole Litvak 1948]

Bed-ridden hypochondriac Barbara Stanwyck attempts to contact her husband and instead overhears a phone conversation of two people plotting a murder that night.

A film based on a radio play by Lucille Fletcher, plays out better on radio than it does on screen. There is nothing wrong with Barbara Stanwyck, she manages to competently protray the defenseless, innocent lady, destined to discover the murderous plot, but the suspense itself is all but eroded until the last 2 minutes.

Stanwyck herself received the last of her 4 Oscar nominations in her career (Stella Dallas, Ball of Fire, Double Indemnity + Sorry Wrong Number) and maintained a strong presence throughout this film.

I was surprised at the number of flashbacks used in this film to tell the backstory of the characters and their motiviation. Whilst it is imperative to the plot, it diminishes any terror one feels at both the start and the end.

It almost feels that the film fails to reach its 89 minutes, as some of the subplots lumber on and cause confusion amongst the viewer and the film tends to drag in the middle. Stanwyck basically controls this film in the present, whilst Burt Lancaster is the focal point of the flashback.

This film is disappointing, and is such a waste of a brilliant concept. Stanwyck is convincing and in most cases warrants her Oscar Nomincation for Best Actress for that year, and the final two minutes of the film are chilling, terrifying and memorable. But the rest of the film is a shame.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Originally uploaded by rhettrospective.
[Showtime Greats] [John Badham 1995]

To save his daughter's life, Gene Watson (Johnny Depp) must assassinate the Governor within 75 minutes. If he fails, his daughter will die.

Interesting concept, flawed by the casting of both Christopher Walken ('Deer Hunter') and Johnny Depp. Walken's performance is over the top, a killer who just always happen to be in every place at once. Because of his distinct acting style, the focus of the film is shifted from Depp's character to him, which for the viewers makes us care less and less about the film outcome.

Depp as well is out of his league. He can't pull off the 'father tortured by grief' acting, and in several scenes , his acting comes across as staged (ie: in the elevator when he first meets the Governor). This film came at an interesting time for Depp, who had yet to hit the big time as he has now (circa 2005-2006), as he was in the midst of a string of serious performances (Dead Man, Donnie Brasco ) before finding his feet in future years as a light- hearted hero ('Ninth Gate', Sleepy Hollow')

This film interestingly plays out in real time, and with the potential to capitilse on the time factor, manages to squeeze only random moments of suspense. For the majority of the film you can feel the actor going through the motion and can pick the twists ahead of time. A film which had potential but failed to deliver in performance, casting, and direction.

Film Fact: The writer Patrick Sheane Duncan wrote 'Mr Holland's Opus' in the same year.

Film Title: References the short amount of time Depp has to fulfill the murderous wishes of Christopher Walken.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Fortune Cookie - #849

Fortune Cookie
Originally uploaded by rhettrospective.
[Movie Greats] [Billy Wilder 1966]

At a football game, CBS camerman Harry Hinkle (Jack Lemmon) is injured when he collides with football player Luther 'Boom Boom' Jackson (Ron Rich). But his injuries are exagerrated when Hinkle's brother-in-law (Walter Matthau) lawyer realises the potential lawsuit on offer against CBS.

This is the film that won Walter Matthau is Oscar, and deservedly so. He is scintillating, literally tearing the screen apart with his cynical, conniving performance of a man realising the potential to sue. All future Matthau performance pale into significancy as he profoundly impact this film with strong presence, smart dialogue and fake emotion. Of course where this film succeeds is in the script- brilliantly written by I.A.L Diamond and
Billy Wilder-
with its biting humour and behind the back tricks. Jack Lemmon himself, succeeds in maintaining screen presence ammongst the script and Matthau. His performance exhibits the confusion and many emotions his character feels and throughout the film he is both fragile and independant.

The story is told in scenes, each numbered (ie: 1. The Accident ), and this gives a real novel, carnival atmosphere throughout the film. Ron Rich as the depressed football player who genuinely feels remorse is a strong performance, yet his character and its motives gets lost amongst the remainder of the film.
Highly recommended.

Film Fact: The first time Lemmon and Matthaus appear in the same film. It would begin their 11 movie partnership.

Film Title: References the message Lemmon receives in whilst eating his Chinese Food


[ABC TV] [Anthony Pelisser 1950]

Rocking Horse Winner
Originally uploaded by rhettrospective.
A struggling British family celebrate Christmas, where the young son receives a Rocking Horse as a gift. Upon riding it he discovers he can correctly predict the winning horse of future races. From a short story by D.H.Lawrence

Probably one of the most unique narratives I have seen on film. A little British film which lures you in with it's sexual undertones (a young kid flogging the Rocking Horse and riding faster and faster) and it's unpredicatable devastating ending.
Couple that with angled camera shots, abruptly edited close ups and shrieking music, and you have yourself a handy little British thriller.
Starring John Mills (Ryan's Daughter 1970) , who also produced the film, the young kid is played by John Howard Davies, whose gangly physique and unqiue look matches this slightly askew film.
It works on the level as a small time horror film, and as an exponent of a family torn apart from greed and ignorance. Mills is quite good as 'Bassett' (pictured) the stable hand who urges Davies on , and teaches him how to ride the Rocking Horse. But it is Davies who you will remember for a long time, a young innocent boy, gracefully unaware of the terror he causes and of the undertones he enacts. Not a film that will be considered a classic, but one which remains with you long after viewing it.
Also starring Valerie Hobson ('Bride of Frankenstein' 1935) who had made a good career choice two movies earlier by playing the lead female role in the brilliant British comedy 'Kind Hearts and Coronets'

Film Fact: John Howard Davies would go on to direct Fawlty Towers and Mr Bean TV Series.

Film Title: Named for the fact that upon riding the Rocking Horse, Davies correctly predicts winning races.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Farewell Red Buttons

Red Buttons
Originally uploaded by rhettrospective.
The man known as Red Button, who won the 1958 Best Supporting Actor for his role in Sayonara has died.

His real name was Aaron Chwatt, but audience would know him simply as Red Buttons though his self titled comedy show in the 1950's, and his supporting appearances in the original Poseidon Adventure , and They Shoot Horses Don't They ?. He was 87.

He is pictured here receiving his Oscar from Lana Turner.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Titanic- The Director Commentary

Titanic Special Edition contains 3 separate audio commentaries. So consider, you have to put aside 9 hours of your time to listen to them all.
Commentary One: Director James Cameron
Commentary Two: Remaining cast and crew
Commentary Three: Two Titanic Historians.

This review is simply for Commentary One.
I always thought the sub story of Jack and Rose was weak, and historically incorrect admidst a powerful , historical film. So I was interested in the thoughts of Cameron about his film.
He starts interestingly by noting that he doesn't believe in audio commentaries because he believes a film should speak for himself, however viewers will be most surprised by his refreshing commentary.
Not only does Cameron come across as extremley intelligent on the Titanic subject, but also passionate toward historical accuracys- so much so many times he identifies alteration to his model ship which he should change but can't as he can't reshoot the scene.
Throughout the film Cameron provide relevant information about on screen action, as well as behind the scene information and speaks for the entire length of the film.
He is fair in his commentary, both correcting common errors assumed by movie viewers (the paintings depicted were early versions of finished paintings) whilst also acknowledging errors in his production
He correctly identifies unanswered questions (what happened to the captain?), whilst at the same time, submitting his answer on the screen (he dies at the wheel of the ship).
You appreciate as the viewer the many special effects used and the intricate details Cameron and his team took to ensure accuracy across the film.
One of the best commentaries heard- worth listening too, which enhances the enjoyment of viewing.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Farewell Kasey Rogers

Strangers on a Train
Originally uploaded by rhettrospective.

Wikipedia announced that Kasey Rogers, who played Louise Tate on the TV Show 'Bewitched' has died.
But movie fans will know Kasey for one very important role- that of Miriam Haines in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Strangers on a Train'.(1951)
Yes, she was the actress who was killed in the famous carnival grounds scene by Robert Walker.
In a great cinematic moment, Walker follows Miriam into the carnival , as part of his supposed murder deal with Farley Granger. He slowly walks up to Miriam and lights a cigarette lighter on her face, 'Excuse me, but are you Miriam Haines' he casually ask. 'Yes' she replied, before he strangles her to death. The remainder of the murder is played out in the reflection of Miriam's glasses which have fallen on the ground.
For Hitchcock fans who love this film (like me), and will always be left with the indelible image in their mind, Kasey Rogers' passing is very sad indeed.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Inherit the Wind
Originally uploaded by rhettrospective.
[Movie One] [Stanley Kramer 1960]

Evolution is on trial, with Spencer Tracy defending Dick York's (B.T.Cates) right to teach Darwin's Theory of Evolution . A court case ensues, based largely on the real life trial from 1925. Frederic March argues that 'man' comes from the bible, whilst Gene Kelly portrays the smarmy newspaper reporter, wrestling with his prejudice.

A film , which I largely had stayed away from for many months, mainly because I expected this film to be very technical in it's explanation of Darwin's Theory of Evolution. however it is anything but, more so, a fiery battle of opinions and wits between Tracy and March.
Tracy is superb, totally convincing, in his laid back, matter of fact, deeply honest and humourous delivery. March's over the top, exaggerated performance of a lawyer - minister complements the story, and although at times he seems to overact his performance, it is always within the scope of the character he is playing.
Gene Kelly's appearance is quite surprising (he wouldn't appear in another movie for 4 years: 'What a Way To Go! (1964) . For me he is always associated with musicals, (in particular Singin In The Rain)- but his turn here as the brash talking, sarcastic newspaper reporter has shades of his Singin In The Rain character. At times you feel maybe he is out of his depth, and that his role is mainly to add humour to the film- but Kelly's power in this film lays at the end, when he questions Tracy's motive,and is on the receiving end of the moralistic Tracey's understanding of who we are.
'A giant once lived in that body, but Matt Brady got lost because he looked for God too high up and too far away' Tracy says about his courtroom opposition.
And it's this sincerity to humans, and Tracy's ongoing quest to urge the right to learn how you want to learn, by whatever means, and to be yourself, that is at the heart of this film.
'When you go to your grave there won't be anyone to pull the grass up over your head, nobody to mourn you, nobody to give a damn. Your all alone' Tracy assures the emotionless Kelly.
Kelly's responds : ' Your wrong Henry, you'll be there. Who else will defend my right to be lonely'

The film is also layered with the haunting song 'Give Me That Old Time Religion'- provocatively played at the film's startling crisp beginning and throughout in many musical guises. A song that remains with you long after the film.
Highliy Recommended and relevant today as it was in 1960.

Film Fact: In Spencer Tracy's previous film, and subsequent 3 films, he would play, a Mayor ('The Last Hurrah'), a Lawyer ('Inherit the Wind'), a Priest ('Devil at 4 O'clock) and a Chief Judge ('Judgement at Nuremberg')

Film Title: 'Inherit the Wind' is from Book of Proverbs 11:29 ' He that troubleth his own house shal;l inherit the wind'

Friday, July 07, 2006

Farewell John Hinde

John Hinde
Originally uploaded by rhettrospective.
I read on Wikipedia the passing of 92yr old movie critic John Hinde.
For those old enough to remember him, I have fond memories of Hinde on the ABC, previewing old scratchy black and white British films in the late evening.

Infact, his voice was so unique, this whiny scratchy sound, that it was one of televisions most recognisable. So much so, that I used to, and still do , to this day, impersonate him.

I have vivid memories of being introduced to the 1939 version of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' on ABC by the inimitable tones of John Hinde.
Sadly Missed.

Movie Moments 1.1 -FAIL SAFE

''In films, what everyone is striving for is to produce moments'' - Jimmy Stewart

Fail Safe
Originally uploaded by rhettrospective.
Sidney Lumet's stunning nuclear film, made the same year as Doctor Strangelove, about the same idea contains one of the most chilling cinematic moments.
It's rare that I react strongly to a scene enough to let out an audible gasp, but I did so near the end of Fail Safe.

With Henry Fonda as the American President, he must convince the Russia Prime Minister that the 'bombers' heading for his country are an error caused by an electrical error and that they can't be called back as no contact can be made. With the accidental bombing of Moscow imminent, Fonda decides on an extraordinary course of action, both courageous and savage.

You must, under all circumstances, witness this film, to see the decision Fonda makes. It is a decision that reverberates so much through the film, into the viewer, that you are left shuddering and shaky , long after the film ends.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Movie Moments 1.0- GROUND HOG DAY

''In films, what everyone is striving for is to produce moments'' - Jimmy Stewart

And so it is with that quote, that profoundly impacted me, that I begin posting what I believe are these 'moments' that Stewart talks about. Those Cinematic Moments which remain with you , long after the film is over.

GroundHog Day
Originally uploaded by rhettrospective.
So , here is my first entry, from the comedy GROUNDHOG DAY.

In the alleyway shown in the picture, Bill Murray befriends a homeless man, who is struggling to survive day to day.
Knowing that each day is simply repeating itself, Murray takes the old man to a shelter and feeds him - thereby performing a good samaritan act, even though he is becoming tried of the same 'groundhog day' experience. However, once the old man has been fed, he collapses and dies in the alleyway.
What is profound about this scene, is what happens next.
Because he knows the same thing will happen tomorrow, Murray attempts to change the future, but taking the old man to the shelter, feeding him, and then trying to resuscitate him. But he fails again. And his despair and anger overwhelms him.
It is in this scene that we as the viewer are reminded, that we cannot escape death.