Dennis Schwartz'
Short Reviews 
'B'  36

 



BACK FROM ETERNITY (John Farrow; screenwriters: Jonathan Latimer/from a story by Richard Carroll; cinematographer: William Mellor; editor: Edna Warren; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Robert Ryan (Capt. Bill Lonergan), Rod Steiger (Vasquez), Anita Ekberg (Rena), Phyllis Kirk (Louise), Beulah Bondi (Martha), Cameron Prud'homme (Henry), Gene Barry (Jud Ellis), Keith Andes (Joe), Jon Provost (Tommy), Jesse White (Pete), Fred Clark (Crimp), Adele Mara (Maria Alvarez); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John Farrow; RKO; 1956)

An exact remake of John Farrow's other disaster film, Five Came Back (1939). The only difference is the other seemed fresher at the time and was 22 minutes shorter. The plot concerns a small passenger plane, caught in a severe storm, that crash-lands in South America in the heart of headhunter country. All the passengers are cardboard characters. Pilot Robert Ryan is able to repair the plane, but the problem is that only 5 of the 9 survivors can get aboard. The question becomes, who is to be left behind. Steiger, as the criminal with the gun, decides who is to leave on the plane. Anita provided the visual attractions and Ryan, as a despondent ace pilot,  provides the only detectable acting in the film. GRADE: C-



BADGE 373 (director/producer: Howard W. Koch; screenwriter: Pete Hamill; cinematographer: Arthur Ornitz; editor: John M. Woodcock; music: J.J. Jackson; cast: Robert Duvall (Eddie Ryan), Eddie Egan (Scanlon), Verna Bloom (Maureen), Felipe Luciano (Ruben), Henry Darrow (Sweet William); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: R; Paramount; 1973)

Tough, grizzly, obnoxious NYC cop movie. Duvall is kicked off the force after falsely blamed for throwing a Puerto Rican suspect off the roof. When his partner is killed for being involved with gunrunners, Duvall takes it upon himself to go after the syndicate. In the process he turns NYC upside down. The problem with the picture is its lack of feeling and its ethnic insensitivity, everyone is stereotyped. This makes for a flat-footed movie... . See what you get when you start using slurs so casually! GRADE: C-



BEACH BLANKET BINGO (director/writer: William Asher; screenwriter: Leo Townsend; cinematographer: Floyd Crosby; editor: Fred R. Feitshans, Jr.; cast: Frankie Avalon (Frankie), Annette Funicello (Dee Dee), Paul Lynde (Bullets), Harvey Lembeck (Eric Von Zipper), Don Rickles (Big Drop), Linda Evans (Sugar Kane), Buster Keaton (Himself), Earl Wilson (Himself),Tim Carey (South Dakota Slim), Jody McCrea (Bonehead), John Ashley (Steve Gordon), Marta Kristen (Mermaid), Deborah Walley (Bonnie Graham); Runtime: 98; Orion/AIP; 1965)

A dumb and reactionary musical/comedy about surfers in the 1960s, who try sky diving for the thrills. The plot has something to do about Avalon and Funicello being jealous lovers, and a promising singer, Linda Evans, being rescued in a fake publicity set-up and then kidnapped by a comical cycle gang and heroically rescued for real by the surfers. And, if that weren't enough silliness, a character named Bonehead falls in love with a mermaid. It also features catchy expressions used throughout the film: groovy, wow, out of sight, marvie, and super. A barf bag should be required when viewing. Its one saving grace, is that the great silent film comedian Buster Keaton is in it. Just seeing him onscreen was enough not to turn me completely off. The other obnoxious characters are: an always sneering Paul Lynde, the usual insults from Don Rickles, a cartoon-like, bumbling, Harvey Lembeck, and Tim Carey, the only one in the film who seemed to be both obnoxious and funny as a crazed madman. GRADE: C-



BEAU SERGE, LE (director/writer: Claude Chabrol; cinematographer: Henri Decae; editor: Jacques Gaillard; cast: Jean-Claude Brialy (François), Gérard Blain (Serge), Bernadette Lafont (Marie), Michèle Méritz (Yvonne), Claude Cerval (The priest), Edmond Beauchamp (Glomaud), André Dino (Michel, the doctor), Michel Creuze (The baker); Runtime: 97; 1958-France)

Chabrol's first feature, in a film career that will span over 40-years of mostly outstanding successes. It is an intriguing first effort, though flawed by a bleak story that is too obvious in its religious symbolism. François (Brialy) is a sickly student who after a number of years away from the small rural village of Sardent, where he was raised, returns to seek rest for his TB ailment. This was the actual village Chabrol spent his early years in. His childhood friend, someone he looked up to, Serge (Blain), has become a dissolute drunk, unhappily married, and very antagonistic toward the more genteel and by now, citified, François. François puts all his will and energy into helping Serge; even though, Serge does not want his help. What remained interesting for me was not, necessarily, this psychological transference/redemption motif about their relationship, as I found François to be too annoying and effeminate to be worth saving, but Chabrol's simple way of creating the atmosphere of the quaint village and the attitude of the villagers toward life. Chabrol painted a pretty grim picture of the scenically beautiful village and its reactionary life style. GRADE: B-



BEAUTY FOR THE ASKING (director: Glenn Tryon/B.F. Fineman; screenwriters: Doris Anderson/Paul Jarrico/story by Edmund L. Hartmann; cinematographer: Frank Redman; editor: George Crone; cast: Lucille Ball (Jean Russell), Patric Knowles (Denny Williams), Frieda Inescort (Flora Barton-Williams), Donald Woods (Jeffrey Martin); Runtime: 68; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: B.P. Fineman; RKO; 1939)

Written by Paul Jarrico, who later on would be blacklisted. It is loosely based on Helena Rubinstein, the cosmetic maven. Lucy is dumped by no-good Knowles. She invents a successful beauty cream and he comes courting her again. Average film. Of interest, mostly, to Lucy fans. GRADE: C-



BETTY (director/writer: Claude Chabrol; screenwriter: from the book by Georges Simenon; cinamatographer: Bernard Zitzermann; editor: Monique Fardoulis; music: Matthieu Chabrol; cast: Stéphane Audran (Laure), Marie Trintignant (Betty), Jean-François Garreaud (Mario), Yves Lambrecht (Guy Etamble), Christiane Minazzoli (Madame Etamble); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Marin Karmitz; New Yorker Videos; 1992-France-in French with English subtitles)

A plotless character study of an alcoholically depressed bourgeois woman. The beautiful Betty (Trintignant) is running away from her failed marriage and from the demons plaguing her. She is first seen driving away from Paris to a bar in Versailles called "The Hole" with a strange man she has just picked up in a bar, who says he is a doctor. At this bar, an older, wealthy widow, Laure (Audran), befriends her, takes her back to her hotel and the two women begin a friendly relationship, with each telling their life story. Chabrol uses flashback to show the deceits in Betty's life and what went wrong for her. Mario (Garreaud) provides the love interest. This pic is for the most part, a huge bore. Probably, because I couldn't feel any sympathy for Betty and her problems. What I liked about the film was the dark mood it set, with a rainy Paris at night contrasted with the neon from the bars. I also like seeing Stéphane Audran onscreen; I think she has aged well and still looks fabulous. She is 49-years-old. GRADE: C



BIG BROADCAST OF 1938, THE (director: Mitchell Leisen; screenwriters: Russel Crouse/Walter de Leon/Ken Englund/Howard Lindsay/Francis Martin/from story by Frederick Hazlitt Brennan; cinematographer: Harry A. Fischbeck; editors: Chandler House/Edna Warren; cast: W.C. Fields, Dorothy Lamour, Martha Raye, Bob Hope; Runtime: 94; Paramount; 1938)

Hope's theme song "Thanks For The Memory" comes from this film. The thin film plot allows Fields a chance to perform his usual antics, and is probably the only reason this film is worth seeing. The story takes place aboard a ship, as a radio review of skits offers some entertainment. The plot centers around a race with another ship. GRADE: C-


BIG CARNIVAL, THE (director/writer: Billy Wilder; screenwriters: Lesser Samuels/Walter Newman; cinematographer: Charles B. Lang; editor: Arthur Schmidt; music: Hugo W. Friedhofer; cast: Kirk Douglas (Charles Tatum), Jan Sterling (Lorraine), Robert Arthur (Herbie Cook), Porter Hall (Jacon Q. Boot), Frank Cady (Mr. Federber), Richard Benedict (Leo Minosa), Ray Teal (Sheriff); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Billy Wilder; Paramount; 1951)

Douglas is the brash journalist fallen from being a star big city reporter to a drunken has-been. He is now in Albuquerque, New Mexico, looking for a way back to the top with a backwater daily. He finds his ticket in a story of a man trapped in a cave. He exploits the story, counting on his own cynicism and the peoples' hypocrisy to make his ambition come true. It is only the victim who is left in complete darkness and cold, not the gawkers who came from far away to see the tragedy. GRADE: B -



BIG CLOCK, THE (director: John Farrow; screenwriters: Jonathan Latimer/from the novel by Kenneth Fearing; cinematographer: John F. Seitz; editor: Gene Ruggiero; music: Victor Young; cast: Ray Milland (George Stroud), Charles Laughton (Earl Janoth), Maureen O'Sullivan (Georgette Stroud), George Macready (Steve Hagen), Rita Johnson (Pauline York), Elsa Lanchester (Louise Patterson); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Richard Maibaum; Paramount; 1948)

Milland is the brilliant editor of a crime magazine one of many publications owned by Milland's boss, the dictatorial tycoon Laughton. Their gimmick is that they have a system for tracking down criminals in their 'zine. Milland's wife gets him to quit his job, objecting to Laughton's treatment of her husband. By chance, while waiting for his wife at the train station, he picks up Laughton's mistress, not knowing who she is. Laughton's jealousy overtakes him as he kills his mistress. Fascinating story. GRADE: A



BIG NIGHT, THE (director/writer: Joseph Losey; screenwriters: Stanley Ellin/from his novel Dreadful Summit by Ellin; cinematographer: Hal Mohr; editor: Edward Mann; music: Lynn Murray; cast: John Barrymore Jr. (George La Main), Preston Foster (Andy La Main), Joan Lorring (Marion Rostina), Howard St. John (Al Judge), Dorothy Comingore (Julie Rostina), Philip Bourneuf (Dr. Cooper), Howland Chamberlain (Flanagan), Myron Healey (Kennealy), Emil Meyer ( Peckinpaugh), Mauri Lynn (Singer, Terry Angeleu); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Philip A. Waxman; United Artists; 1951)

The shy 17-year-old, Barrymore, is picked on by the other kids. His widowed dad gives him a birthday party at the bar he owns, as they promise to make a night out of it at the fights. But this does not pan out, as he watches in disbelief as the father he idolizes gets horse-whipped by St. John. The kid grows up that night, wandering the city with a gun in his hand. This is Losey's last film in America before his semi-forced European exile. A powerful film, with undertones of his opinion on America's repressive society coming through loud and clear. GRADE: B



BIG SLEEP, THE (director: Howard Hawks; screenwriters: William Faulkner/Leigh Brackett/Jules Furthman/from the novel by Raymond Chandler; cinematographer: Sid Hickox; editor: Christian Nyby; music: Max Steiner ; cast: Humphrey Bogart (Marlowe), Lauren Bacall (Vivian), John Ridgely (Eddie Mars), Martha Vickers (Carmen), Regis Toomey (Bernie Ohis), Charles Waldron (Gen. Sternwood), Charles D. Brown (Norris), Bob Steele (Canino), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Harry Jones), Sonia Darrin (Agnes), Louis Jean Jeydt (Joe Brody), Peggy Knudsen (Mona Mars), Theodore Von Eltz (Arthur Geiger); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Howard Hawks; Warner Bros./RKO; 1946)

No one in there right mind should be able to figure out exactly what happens in this rambling story, which is a classically great noir film; in fact, one of the best made. It relies solely on star appeal and the terrific chemistry between Bogie's Marlowe and Lauren's femme fatale role, to tell the story of General Sternwood's (Waldron) two daughters. He is the one who hires Marlowe to put an end to his being blackmailed because of his daughter Carmen's (Martha) indiscretions. There is plenty of darkness in all the characters and in the general atmosphere of the film, so that it includes double-crosses, murder, vice, cover-ups, blackmail, gambling, insanity, and love. Marlowe sifts through all these complexities in his own steadfast way, with a flippant honesty that is reserved only for a noir protagonist. GRADE: A



BIRDS, THE (director: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriter: Evan Hunter; cinamatographer: Robert Burks; editor: George Tomasini; cast: Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Tippi Hedren; Runtime: 120; Universal; 1963)

Hitch at the top of his game, poking fun at the stuffed shirts, the animal eaters, the bird lovers, and all Freudian repressions covered in society's list of no - no's. It builds in volume and the ending of the film leaves the light comedy behind, as it becomes apocalyptic. GRADE: A



BIRTH OF A NATION, THE (director/writer: D.W. Griffith; screenwriters: from the book "The Clansman" by Thomas Dixon/Frank E. Woods; cinematographer: Billy Bitzer; editor: James Smith; music: D.W. Griffith/Joseph Carl Breil; cast: Lillian Gish (Elsie, Stoneman's daughter), Mae Marsh (Flora Cameron, the pet sister), Henry Walthall (Col. Ben Cameron), Miriam Cooper (Margaret Cameron, elder sister), Mary Alden (Lydia, [Brown] Stoneman's mulatto housekeeper), Ralph Lewis (Hon. Austin Stoneman, leader of the house), George Siegmann (Silas Lynch, mulatto Lieut. Governor), Walter Long (Gus, a renegade Negro), Wallace Reid (Jeff, the blacksmith), Jos. Henabery (Abraham Lincoln), Elmer Clifton (Phil, Stoneman's elder son), Robert Harron (Tod Stoneman), Maxfield Stanley (Duke Cameron); Runtime: 187; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: D.W. Griffith; Kino International; 1915-silent)

There is no denying the power and raw emotion of this epic film and the influence it had on white and black culture. For one thing, it showed the need for blacks to make their own films to depict their American experience.The film is based on the racist book by the Rev. Thomas Dixon, The Clansman. The film remains controversial because of its glorification of the KKK. But as pure cinema, it is certainly one of the more impressive films ever made. GRADE: A+ 



BLACK AND WHITE AND RED ALL OVER (director/writer: Demane Davis, Harry McCoy, Khari Streeter; cinamatographer: Jonathan Bekemeier ; editor: Peter Barstis; cast: Thomas Braxton Jr., Lord Harrison, Naomi Ramsey; Runtime: 97; Caballeros; 1997)

A violent urban flick, about a group of young blacks living in Boston who get revenge on a gang that mistakenly killed one of their friend's entire family. The youths smoke blunts, listen to rap, play video games, watch TV, curse, express anger against whites, talk about their life, and commit violence. A gritty, somewhat realistic drama, raw on the edges, directed by former ad execs. It packs a wallop because of the intensity of the non-professional actors. The story itself, though, is a bit on the lame side. GRADE: C



BLAST OF SILENCE (director/writer: Allen Baron; cinematographer: Erich Kollmar; editors: Peggy Lawson/Merrill S. Brody; music: Meyer Kupferman; cast: Allen Baron (Frank Bono), Molly McCarthy (Lorrie), Larry Tucker (Big Ralphie), Peter Clume (Troiano), Dean Sheldon (Nightclub singer), Danny Meehan (Petey), Milda Memonas (Troiano's Girl), Charles Creasap (Contact man), Lionel Stander (Narrator/Voiceover); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Merrill Brody; Universal-International; 1961);

A hit man (Baron) is brought into Manhattan by the syndicate to waste one of their own. Baron takes his time doing the job, which annoys the mobsters. He, also, meets his ex-girlfriend whom he is still desirous of. Due to a misunderstanding he kills Big Ralphie (Tucker), a minor hood who questions him about the gun he used. He satisfactorily completes the job, but this does not satisfy his boss. Film noir at its best. A low-budget independent film with nonprofessional actors. GRADE: A



BLIND CHANCE (PRZYPADEK) (director/writer/producer: Krzysztof Kieslowski; cinematographer: Krzysztof Pakulski; editor: Elzbieta Kurkowska; music: Wojciech Kilar; cast: Jacek Borkowski (Marek), Irena Burska (Aunt), Adam Ferency (Priest), Zbigniew Zapasiewicz (Adam), Tadeusz Lomnicki (Werner), Boguslaw Linda (Witek); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jacek Szeligowski; Film Polski; 1987-Poland-in Polish with English subtitles)

Three times Witek (Boguslaw) runs through a Lodz railway station to catch the train to Warsaw. Three times we see him run down the platform and reach out his hand for the door (future). In one interpretation he catches the train and is befriended by a Party member and joins the Communist Party, only to be disillusioned by what he sees; in another, he knocks down a guard and is arrested, makes connections with a dissident student movement and becomes a Catholic; in the third, he misses the train and returns to his studies, marries and becomes a successful doctor. In all the versions, there is nothing good to say about the Communist Party or about the future in Poland, which is a reason this film was at first suppressed under Poland' martial law. In any case it is a ponderous and gloomy film, one in which the filmmaker has not developed all the skills that he will later acquire for his future masterpieces. GRADE: B



BLONDIE (director: Frank Strayer; screenwriter: Richard Flournoy; cinamatographer: Henry Freulich; editor: Gene Havlick; cast: Penny Singleton, Arthur Lake, Larry Simms, Gene Lockhart, Ann Doran; Runtime: 68; Columbia; 1938)

Based on the Chic Young comic strip from the 1930s. Dagwood (Lake) is fired from his office sales job. Blondie (Penny) thinks he is seeing another woman. Their fifth wedding anniversary seems to be in jeopardy, as Dagwood finds himself in jail over a car mishap. It all adds up to good clean fun, by a cast that looks just like they do in the comics. This is the first and best of all the Blondies. GRADE: C



BLUE DAHLIA,THE (director: George Marshall; screenwriter: Raymond Chandler; cinematographer: Lionel Lindon; editor: Arthur P. Schmidt; music: Victor Young; cast: Alan Ladd (Johnny Morrison), Veronica Lake (Joyce Harwood), William Bendix (Buzz Wanchek), Howard Da Silva (Eddie Harwood). Hugh Beaumont (George Copeland), Tom Powers (Capt. Hendrickson), Doris Dowling (Helen Morrison), Howard Freeman (Corelli), Don Costello (Leo), Will Wright (Dad Newell); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: John Houseman/George Marshall; Paramount; 1946)

Ex-bomber pilot Ladd, home from the war, tracks down his wife's killer. He's the leading suspect. A good Raymond Chandler story. Ladd has the perfect existential poker face for the part. The picture would have made more sense if those in charge (studio heads) had allowed Chandler to have his way, allowing the war injured Bendix to be the killer. GRADE: B



 BLUE GARDENIA, THE (director: Fritz Lang; screenwriter: Charles Hoffman/from the short story"Gardenia" by Vera Caspary; cinamatographer: Nicholas Musuraca; editor: Edward Mann; cast: Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, Ann Sothern, Raymond Burr; Runtime: 90; Warner Brothers; 1953)

Norah (Baxter) gets a 'Dear Jane' letter from her fiancé in Korea and at the same time gets a phone call from Harry (Burr) who thinks it is Crystal (Sothern) he is speaking to. He asks her to meet him at the Blue Gardenia, a Hollywood nightclub. Nat King Cole sings the title song... . Norah tries to forget her disappointment by getting drunk, only to awaken to find Harry's dead body. The reporter (Conte) tries to clear her name and find the real killer. The gray images on the screen infuse a noir atmosphere that complements Lang's ability to tell a dark story. Even if this is not an original one it is, nevertheless, one that is evocative and mesmerizing; especially, since it excellently portrays the middle-class sense of alienation during the 1950's. GRADE: B



BONNIE AND CLYDE (director: Arthur Penn; screenwriter: David Newman/Robert Benton; cinamatographer: Burnett Guffey; editor: Dede Allen; cast: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman; Runtime: 111; Warner; 1967)

A true 1930s bank robber story that was very well received by audiences. It plays lightheartedly, casting its beguiling cameras over run-down towns and begrudging criminals. I thought it was an overrated film. This gang actually broke out of a Texas death row cell, which was not an easy thing to do. GRADE: C+



BORDER RADIO (director/writer/cinamatographer: Allison Anders; screenwriter: Kurt Voss/Dean Lent; cast: Chris D., John Doe, Luana Anders; Runtime: 88; Coyote Films; 1988)

An offbeat b/w indie punk rocker film. This one is a tongue-and-cheek farce, about some rockers ripping off a radio station; at least, that's what I think it is about. It is stupidly funny; but, you really have to be in the mood for this sort of nonsense to sit through it. That is, unless you're on drugs, then you could probably handle it without any sweat. But it has some life to it. I liked that bit where one of the rockers is eating Mr.T cereal. I was also amused by the song called, "I'm going to ring the bells that tie me down." This is an easy film to watch and an even easier film to forget. GRADE: C


BOSTON STRANGLER, THE (director: Richard Fleischer; screenwriters: from the book by Frank Gerold/Edward Anhalt; cinamatographer: Richard Kline; editor: Marion Rothman; music: Lionel Newman; cast: Tony Curtis (Albert De Salvo), Henry Fonda (John S. Bottomly), Sally Kellerman (Dianne Cluny), George Kennedy (Phil Di Natale), Mike Kellin (Julian Soshnick), Hurd Hatfield (Terence Huntley), Murray Hamilton (Frank McAfee), Jeff Corey (John Asgiersson); Runtime: 115; producer: Robert Fryer; 20th Century-Fox; 1968)

This film makes use of the split-screen technique to give it a documentary look. Schizoid strangler Curtis, who plays the real-life confessed killer (Albert Desalvo), gives one of his best performances. But the film just offers a second-hand look at what psychological reasons drove this killer.The film, also, lacks a proper tension, though it does show us how a Boston neighborhood looked in the '60s. For that I am grateful. GRADE: C+ 



BOTTLE ROCKET (director: Wes Anderson/writer; screenwriter: Owen C. Wilson; cinamatographer: Robert Yeoman; editor: David Moritz; cast: Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Robert Musgrave, Lumi Cavazos, James Caan, Andrew Wilson; Runtime: 95; Sony Pictures; 1996)

Yeah, all those Wilsons are brothers. In this comedy, Owen and Luke are friends who are just losers. Andrew is the brother who bullies Robert, who joins the other two screw ups in a series of failed robberies around the Dallas area. Caan is the master thief, who rips off the screw ups. The characters are flippant, ridiculous, and irreverent. Luke falls for a Paraguayan housekeeper whose English is limited. The small aims of the main characters are what this film is about, and it captures their humor and desperation and pathos of their situation in an original and delightful way. GRADE: C+



BRAKHAGE (director/writer: Jim Shedden; cinematographer: Gerald Packer; editor: Alexa-Frances Shaw; cast: Stan Brakhage, Jane Brakhage, Marilyn Brakhage, Philip Solomon,  P. Adams Sitney, James Tenney, 1998-Canada)

Brakhage is little known to the general movie public but in the world of the avant-garde, he is the leading exponent of the Abstract Expessionist Movement. His revolutionary method results in the scratch-and-stain films; he often scratched or painted on the film himself. This was to represent the colors and lines that he saw when he viewed the images under his eyelids. Shedden's film is accompanied by the lively music composed by James Tenney; the Canadian director gives one a very rough idea of the Colorado-based filmmaker's life in film. The film makes use of talking heads such as, fellow experimental filmmaker Philip Solomon, art critic P. Adams Sitney, and film critic Bart Testa, to explain the man and the phenomenal opus he created. Solomon tells of his radical techniques he developed, of how a film no longer needs an actor to stand between the film and the audience. Sitney says that Brakhage will be remembered as one of the great filmmakers, along with Dreyer and Tarkovsky, after the entertainment value in the other films begins to fade and what remains will be what film is. Though Brakhage may indeed be a genius, his films are mysterious and hard to watch, and it doesn't help matters that most of them are silent. Brakhage was born in 1933 and married Jane, a film student. He was living with her in Colorado while commuting annually to New York to show his films or to Chicago, where he taught film at the university. He is most noted for his Dog Star film (62-64). Early on he shot his films on 16mm but after 1964 switched to less expensive 8mm to reach an audience that would find that film more affordable to own. This is a good film to see to begin to explore the Brakhage mystique, especially for those who don't know much about the maverick filmmaker. Grade: B



BRANDON TEENA STORY, THE (director/editor/writer/cinematographer: Susan Muska; director/editor/screenwriter: Greta Olafsdottir; 1998)

Hate is alive and well in America's heartland. This is a true-story, told in a riveting documentary-style about a girl born as Teena Brandon in Lincoln, Nebraska, who was undergoing hormone therapy in anticipation of a possible sex change operation. Brandon acted as a man, dating girls and not telling them he was a girl. He developed a reputation as a great kisser and a very considerate person. But when word in Lincoln got out that he was a girl, he moved to an all-white rural town, in southeastern Nebraska, Falls City. The last girl he dated was Lana Tisdel, who was not upset when she eventually found out that he was a girl. But two ex-felons, Thomas Nissen and John Lotter, were upset. On Christmas Eve they raped Brandon and when she pressed charges against them Sheriff Laux, responding to the crime in a bigoted way against the victim, did not act quickly to put them behind bars. He said that she was a check forger and had a reputation for lying, and that he delayed the investigation because he was following up on the charges to check on them more thoroughly. On New Year's Eve, looking to get away from her attackers, Brandon went to a farmhouse with Lisa Lambert, Lisa's baby, and Lisa's friend, a Negro, Philip Devine. They were all executed there, except for the baby, by Nissen and Lotter. They did it because they didn't like freaks. The two were found guilty of first-degree murder, with Lotter to get the chair and Nissen a reduced life-sentence for offering evidence against his buddy. GRADE: B



BRASSED OFF! (director/writer: Mark Herman; cinamatographer: Andy Collins; editor: Michael Ellis; cast: Pete Postlethwaite, Ewan McGregor, Tara Fitzgerald, Jim Carter, Philip Jackson, Peter Martin, Stephen Tompkinson; Runtime: 109; Film Four Distributors; 1996-GB)

A "feel good" picture in the same vein as The Full Monty, but with a little more bite to it. It features a bravo performance by Postlethwaite as the erstwhile leader of the miner's brass band. It also names those who are responsible for the miner's plight: the Tory Party and Margaret Thatcher's government.This gives this tale considerably more credibility than many other films of this ilk. What annoyed me, was the use of contrivances and often tried formulas to make its point.
GRADE: C


BREAKING POINT (director: Bob Clark; screenwriter: from story by Roger Swaybill/Stanley Mann; cinamatographer: Marc Champion; editor: Stan Cole; cast: Bo Svenson, Robert Culp, John Colicos, Jeffrey Lynas, Belinda Montgomery; Runtime: 92; 20th Century-Fox; 1976-Can)

Bo witnesses a murder and is pursued by mobsters. Plenty of violence, well-suited for those who don't mind having their emotions tweaked. The theme of the film is that you can't count on the police for help, so you might as well get the bad guys and break their necks (after all, everyone must have a breaking point).
GRADE: C+



BREAKING THE WAVES (director/writer: Lars Von Trier; cinamatographer: Robby Muller; editor: Anders Refn; cast: Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgard, Adrian Rawlins, Katrin Cartlidge; Runtime: 159; Zentropa; 1966-Danish)

A simple-minded, God-fearing Scottish woman marries an oil-rig worker during the 1970s. He is absent a great deal but returns after an accident paralyzes him. She reluctantly takes on lovers at his request in order to save his life. An emotionally charged study of religion and what love is. It reminds one of a Dreyer film, but is a bit more animated. The story is scintillating and touching. It is a movie experience that will not be easily forgotten. GRADE: B+



BREATHING ROOM (director/writer: Jon Sherman; cinamatographer: Jim Denault; editor: Sabine Hoffman; cast: Susan Floyd, Dan Futterman, Nadia Dajani, Edie Falco, Saverio Guerra, David Thornton; Runtime: 90; Arrow Releasing; 1996)

Arguing lovers agree to split on Thanksgiving Day to get some breathing room in their relationship. A contemporary NYC dating scene film about a couple trying to decide if they love each other and what kind of careers they want. The film has a bite to it, as the free spirited couple battle with their inner demons and the voices of reason from family and friends. Guess who wins out? GRADE: B



BREATHLESS (director/writer: Jean-Luc Godard; cinamatographer: Raoul Coutard; editor: Cecil Decugis; cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Jean-Pierre Melville; Runtime: 90; SNC; 1959-Fr)

Belmondo shoots a cop and goes on the run in Paris, teaming up with the intellectual Seberg. The use of jump-cut images invigorates the film with the kind of  frenetic energy not often seen in the '50s. It was overrated as a New Wave phenomenon; but, it is a solid film, having stood the test of time as well as could be expected. GRADE: B+ 



BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, THE (director: David Lean; screenwriters: Michael Wilson/Carl Foreman, based on the novel by Pierre Boulle; cinematographer: Jack Hildyard; editor: Peter Taylor; music: Malcolm Arnold; cast: William Holden (Cmdr./Maj. Shears), Jack Hawkins (Maj. Warden), Alec Guinness (Colonel Nicholson), Sessue Hayakawa (Col. Saito), James Donald (Maj. Clipton), Geoffrey Horne (Lt. Joyce), Andre Morell (Col. Green); Runtime: 160; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Sam Spiegel; Columbia Pictures; 1957-UK)

Guinness is the moralistic British officer who is tortured in a Japanese prison camp during WW11. To keep up prison morale, he has his fellow prisoners build a perfect bridge. Holden is the hero who escapes and then returns to explode the bridge. The film is intense and, as in all Lean films, beautifully filmed; but it is lacking in depth. GRADE: B



BROTHER OF SLEEP (director/cinematographer/producer: Joseph Vilsmaier; screenwriter: Robert Schneider/based on the novel by Mr. Schneider; editor: Alexander Berner; music: Norbert J. Schneider/Hubert von Goisern; cast: Andre Eisermann (Elias Alder), Dana Vavrova (Elsbeth), Ben Becker (Peter), Angelika Bartsch (Bruga), Peter Franke (Peter), Detlef Bothe (Lukas), Jochen Nickel (Koehler Michel), Paulus Manker (Oskar); Runtime: 135; MPAA Rating: R; Sony Pictures Classics; 1995-in German with English subtitles)

In a remote 19th century alpine village in Germany, a young boy whom the superstitious peasants say has the Devil in him, is blessed with extra-ordinary senses. He lives only to play the church organ.This he beautifully does, substituting it for a woman's love. This film is a religious allegory, evincing the inner conflicts Andre goes through living in such a backward village, while wrestling with his doubts and purposes in life. It is a well told but rather somber and drawn out tale, that touches on too many subjects (ranging from homo-eroticism to crucifixion) for its own good. It is most successful when it parodies the church's inaneness and inhibitions. GRADE: C+



BRUTE FORCE (director: Jules Dassin; screenwriters: story by Robert Patterson/Richard Brooks; cinematographer: William H. Daniels; editor: Edward A. Curtiss; music: Miklos Rozsa; cast: Burt Lancaster (Joe Collins), Hume Cronyn (Capt. Munsey), Charles Bickford (Gallagher), Yvonne De Carlo (Gina Ferrara), Ann Blyth (Ruth), Ella Raines (Cora Lister), Anita Colby (Flossie), Sam Levene (Louie Miller), Howard Duff (Soldier), Roman Bohnen (Warden Barnes), Richard Gaines (McCollum), Sir Lancelot (Calypso), John Hoyt (Spencer), James O'Reare (Wilson), Whit Bissell  (Tom Lister), Ray Teal (Prison Guard, Jackson), Art Smith (Dr. Walters); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Mark Hellinger; Universal; 1947)

Hume is in charge of a prison, where he runs an inhumane campaign against the inmates. Parallels are drawn between him and the fascists. It is Dassin's most violent film. It emphasizes the view that no escape is possible from such conditions. The cons are united by their hatred for Hume. There is a raw power in this outdated prison film that gives it its rough edge. GRADE: B



BURNZY'S LAST CALL (director: Michael De Avila; screenwriter: George Gilmore; cinematographer: Scott St. John; editor: Shannon Goldman; music: Crispin Cioe; cast: David Johansen (Andre), Sam Gray (Burnzy), James McCaffrey (Sal), Sherry Stringfield (Jackie), Frederique Van Der Wal (Gertrude); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Tessa Blake; The Asylum; 1995)

A likable urban movie, featuring an assorted group of characters (lush, chiseller, disgruntled worker, single female, recovering alcoholic, etc.). All the characters in the film drink at Burnzy's bar at some point, during this one long day and night bar scene. It happens to coincide with Burnzy's (Gray) birthday. Not much to dislike about it, it reminded me of many a bar I drank in. At least, this time I didn't have to worry about drinking and driving. GRADE: C+


BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (director: George Roy Hill; screenwriter: William Goldman; cinamatographer: Conrad Hall; editor: John C. Howard/Richard C. Mayer; cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross; Runtime: 110; 20th Century-Fox; 1969)

The film ends on a freeze frame shot, so we don't really know if  Butch and the Kid die in this slick Western. Audiences apparently loved it despite its weak story. In any case, there was a good spontaneity between the stars in this buddy film about hold-up men. From here on, the bad guys could be the good guys; or, at least, they didn't have to get caught. GRADE: C+



BWANA DEVIL (director/writer: Arch Oboler; cinematographer: Joseph Biroc; editors: M.L. (3-D Super) Gunzburg/John Hoffman; cast: Robert Stack (Bob Hayward), Barbara Britton (Alice Hayward), Nigel Bruce (Dr. Angus Ross), Ramsay Hill (Maj. Parkhurst), Paul McVey (Commissioner), Hope Miller (Portuguese girl); Runtime: 79; United Artists; 1952) ... Reviewed on 6/14/2001.

A true story set at the turn of the 20th-century. It's about the building of the first railway across Africa and the stoppage problems the builders ran into as two man-eating lions scared the workers away from doing their job. The film is notable only because it's the first 3-D movie made. Bwana Devil is also remembered for the now-famous advertising blurb "What do you want? A good picture, or a lion in your lap?" Its best 3-D shot was a lion jumping at a native with a spear, as the lion appeared to be jumping right into the theater. GRADE: C-



Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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