Dennis Schwartz'
Short Reviews 
'C'  24


CANARY SEASON (SEZONAT NA KANARCHATATA) (director: Koreyoshi Kurahara; screenwriter: Nikolai Valchinov; cinematographer: Eli Yonova; editor: Yordanka Bachvarova; music: Kiril Dontchev; cast: Michail Alexandrov (Malin), Mikhael Dontchev (Young Malin), Plamena Getova (Young Lily), Paraskeva Djukelova (Old Lily), Ani Vulchanova (Margi); Runtime: 133; MPAA Rating: NR; Boyana Film; 1993-Bulgaria-in Bulgarian with English subtitles)

If you want to see a glum film, then catch this one. If you aren't depressed just by the film's location in communist Bulgaria in the period between 1960-1990, then you will be after catching hold of the grim story and how heavy-handed it is and that the production qualities of the film were poor. GRADE: C-

CAPTAIN BLOOD (director: Michael Curtiz; screenwriters: Casey Robinson/the book by Rafael Sabatini; cinematographers: Ernest Haller/Hal Mohr; editor: George J. Amy; music: Erich Wolfgang Korngold; cast: Errol Flynn (Captain Peter Blood), Olivia de Havilland (Arabella Bishop), Lionel Atwill (Col. Bishop), Basil Rathbone (Capt. Levasseur), Ross Alexander (Jeremy Pitt), Guy Kibbee (Hagthorpe), Henry Stephenson (Lord Willoughby), Robert H. Barrat (Wolverstone), George Hassell (Governor), Ross Alexander (Pitt); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Harry Joe Brown/Ahsi N. Eslid; Warner Brothers; 1935)

First starring role for the 25-year-old Flynn. He is an Irish doctor who is falsely arrested, but finds success when he escapes to become a pirate and then governor of Jamaica.This swashbuckler includes a romance between Olivia and Errol. Robert Donat and Jean Muir were originally cast for the roles, but Donat got sick. The current stars went on to make seven more films together. Curtiz's direction is sure-handed. GRADE: B

CAPTIVE CITY, THE (director: Robert Wise; screenwriter: Karl Kamb/story by Alvin M. Josephy; cinematographer: Lee Garmes; editor: Ralph Swink; music: Jerome Moross; cast: John Forsythe (Jim Austin), Joan Camden (Marge Austin), Harold J. Kennedy (Don Carey), Ray Teal (Chief Gillette), Majorie Crossland (Mrs. Sirak), Victor Sutherland (Murray Sirak); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Theron Warth/Maurice Zuberano; United Artists; 1952)

Wise uses the expose format picking up the Senator Kefauver's hearings investigating the Mafia, as Forsythe is the crusading editor of a small-town newspaper. The result is an effective and much imitated noir/documentary style film. GRADE: B+

CARNEGIE HALL (director/writer: Edgar G. Ulmer; screenwriters: Karl Kamb/story by Seena Owen; cinematographer: William Miller; editor: Fred Feitshans; music: Russell Bennett; cast: Marsha Hunt (Nora Ryan), William Prince (Tony Salerno Jr.), Frank McHugh (John Donovan), Martha O'Driscoll (Ruth Haines), Harold Dyrenforth (Walter Damrosch); Runtime: 144; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: William Le Baron/Boris Morros; Federal Films/United Artists; 1947)

A goofy story that is nicely surplanted by a mixture of serious classical music, opera and some pop songs. The story is about Marsha Hunt coming to America from Ireland, becoming a cleaning lady in Carnegie Hall, marrying a concert pianist, and forcing her son to follow his father's footsteps when he dies. She, in the meantime, works her way up to be concert organizer for Carnegie; the son becomes famous as a pop piano player, after arguing with her and going out on his own. Any film that has the likes of Artur Rubinstein, Jan Peerce, Ezio Pinza, Rise Stevens, Jascha Heiftz, and Leopold Stokowski, can't be a complete bomb. GRADE: C

CARO DIARIO (director/writer: Nanni Moretti; cinematographer: Giuseppe Lanci; editor: Mirco Garrone; cast: Nanni Moretti (himself), Renato Carpentieri (Gesardo),Giovanna Bozzolo(actor in Italian film), Sebastiano Nardone(actor in Italian film), Antonio Petrocelli (actor in Italian film), Giulio Base (Car Driver), Italo Spinelli (On the Wall at Spinaceto ), Carlo Mazzacurati (Film Critic), Jennifer Beals (Herself), Alexandre Rockwell (Himself), Conchita Airoldi (Inhabitant of Panarea); Runtime: 100; 1994-It.)

Three-part documentary type of film, with the first two parts taking a lighthearted and satirical pose. Moretti rides around the suburbs of Rome in his Vespa taking note of the architecture, the changing trends of the city, and the American movies showing there. There is also a visit to the spot the filmmaker/poet Pasolini got killed. He then journeys to the contrasting southern Italian islands of Stromboli and Panarea. The most heartfelt part is saved for last, where he undergoes chemo-therapy for his cancer. He also suffers from an itch and tries to get the right doctor to treat him showing how frustrating and futile it can be to get proper treatment, even in an up-to-date country like Italy. A rather engaging though egocentric film. GRADE: C

CASABLANCA (director: Michael Curtiz; screenwriters: Jules J. Epstein/Philip G. Epstein/Howard Koch/ play "Everybody Comes to Rick's" by Murray Burnett; cinematographer: Arthur Edeson; editor: Owen Marks; music: Max Steiner; cast: Humphrey Bogart (Rick Blaine), Ingrid Bergman (Ilsa), Claude Rains (Capt. Louis Renault), Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo), Conrad Veidt (Maj. Heinrich Strasser), Peter Lorre (Senor Ugarte), Sydney Greenstreet (Senor Ferrari), S.Z. Sakall (Carl, Headwaiter), Dooley Wilson (Sam), ; Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating:NR; producer: ; Warner Brothers; 1942)

Bogie is the world-weary American nightclub owner stuck in French Morocco, who heroically allows his love (Ingrid) to escape the Nazis with her husband. The film deserves all the praise it has gotten over the years. It is pure schmaltz, but very entertaining. GRADE: A+

CASTLE KEEP (director: Sydney Pollack; screenwriters: from a book by William Eastlake/Daniel Taradash/David Rayfiel; cinematographer: Henri Decaë; editor: Malcolm Cooke; cast: Burt Lancaster (Maj. Abraham Falconer), Patrick O'Neal (Capt. Lionel Beckman), Jean-Pierre Aumont (Henri Tixier, Comte de Maldorais), Peter Falk (Sgt. Orlando Rossi), Scott Wilson (Cpl. Ralph Clearboy), Tony Bill (Lieutenant Amberiack), Al Freeman, Jr. (Pfc. Alistair Benjamin), Astrid Heeren (Therese), Bruce Dern (Ex-soldier Gone Religious); Runtime: 107; Columbia; 1969) ... Reviewed on 8/30/2001.

A one-eyed major, Lancaster, leads his tired eight men left from his platoon into Belgium and settles into a medieval castle, Maldorais, which is filled with art treasures. He's welcomed by the French castle owner, Aumont, who is married to his attractive niece, Astrid Heeren. Being impotent and wanting a child to inherit the castle, he allows his wife to sleep with the major. The other men, in this film that plays like an allegory, take advantage of the break in the war and go to the local whorehouse, a baker (Falk) falls in love with a widow of the town's local baker and moves in with her, one dude falls in love with a Volkswagen, another wants to be a writer and names his book Castle Keep, one officer is an art historian, and they all act like oddballs. In the end they are called on by their major to stop the Germans from advancing by using the castle as a place to halt the German's progress. But this goes against the wishes of the castle owner, who only wants to save the irreplaceable art work and his beautiful castle. The point made is that the Europeans have different values than the Americans: they wish to preserve their traditions. The film never makes up its mind if it wants to be an art-house film or a typical action war movie or a fantasy film, and as a result has an unusual look to it. But it's still a bomb, as it couldn't be more boring. Yet it could appeal to some because it is a curio. Grade: C-

CAUGHT (director: Max Ophuls; cast: Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Ryan, James Mason, 1949)

A noir classic. Believing she must marry a rich man, Bel Geddes marries the disturbed millionaire, Ryan, despite his shrink's objections. It's a domestic nightmare, with the good doctor (Mason) also caught in this web of confusion. Only the film's ending is restrained, keeping out the rage that seemed imminent. GRADE: B

CHAN IS MISSING (director/writer/editor/producer: Wayne Wang; screenwriters: Isaac Cronin/Terrel Seltzer; cinematographer: Michael Chin; music: Robert Kikuchi; cast: Wood Moy (Jo), Marc Hayashi (Steve), Lauren Chew (Amy), Peter Wang (Henry the Cook), George Woo (George); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: R; New Yorker Films; 1981)

A detective story taking place in San Francisco's Chinatown. A Chinese business associate of two cab drivers disappears and they search for him. He has $4,000 that he owes them. Instead of being your typical detective story, the film's point seems to be that the search is what counts not the end result. The search is for a perspective on what it means to be Chinese-American. This is a provocatively diverting look at that community, while amusing and very touching to watch how all these types of characters interact with each other. Independent filmmaking at its zenith. GRADE: B

CHANG (director/writer/editor/cinematographer: Merian C. Cooper/Ernest B. Schoedsack; cast: Kru (Farmer), Chantui (Farmer's Wife), Nah (Couple's Child); Runtime: 70; Milestone; 1927-silent) ... Reviewed on 1/7/2002.

A documentary about the life of a rice-grower in the jungle of Siam (Thailand) and how his family survives. Chang means elephant in the language of Thailand. The film's highlight is an attack on the village by a Great Herd of elephants. It was staged, as the village crushed was a miniature one and the stampede used baby elephants. The film's theme was brains over brawn, as the villagers set traps when the herd charges and captures the elephants for domestication. Hollywood at the time had two awards for the Best Film category and this one was nominated in the category of Unique and Artistic Picture. It lost to Murnau's Sunrise. I found the film not terribly interesting, a bit overrated. It was this production's crew dry run for King Kong. GRADE: C

CHILDREN OF NATURE (director/writer/producer: Fridrik Thór Fridriksson; screenwriter: Einar Gudmundsson; cinematographer: Ari Kristinsson; editor: Skule Eriksson; music: Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson; cast: Gísli Halldórsson (Thorgeir), Sigridur Hagalín (Stella), Bruno Ganz (Angel); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Wolfgang Pfeiffer/Skule Hansen; Metro Films/Northern Arts Entertainment; 1991-Iceland-in Icelandic with English subtitles)

A magical fable, intelligently and unsentimentally done. It reflects on the need for an elderly farmer and widower, Thorgeir (Gisli) and the 79-year-old widow, Stella (Sigridur), to meet again. They knew each other as youths but lost track, now meet in a home for old people and decide to runaway on the insistence of Stella. She wants to go back to the country place of her roots and die in peace.This road film has the most stunning scenery of Iceland. A refreshingly beautiful tale.

CHINATOWN (director: Roman Polanski; screenwriter: Robert Towne; cinematographer: John A. Alonzo; editor: Sam O'Steen; music: Jerry Goldsmith; cast: Jack Nicholson (J.J. Gittes), Faye Dunaway (Evelyn Mulwray), John Huston (Noah Cross), Perry Lopez (Lt. Lou Escobar), John Hillerman (Yelburton), Darrell Zwerling (Hollis Mulwray), Diane Ladd (Ida Sessions), Roman Polanski (Man With Knife), Richard Bakalyan (Det. Loach), Joe Mantell (Walsh), Roy Jenson (Claude), Nandu Hinds (Sophie), Belinda Palmer (Katherine), James Hong (Kahn); Runtime: 130; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Robert Evans; Paramount; 1974)

Nicholson is a private eye in 1930s L.A. who investigates land deals and water rights and the suspicious death of Dunaway's husband. One of the best detective/noir films ever made. GRADE: A

CIRANO DI BERGERAC (director: Augusto Genina; screenwriters: Mario Camerini/from the play "Cyrano de Bergerac" by Edmond Rostand; cinematographer: Ottavio De Matteis; music:Kurt Kuene;cast: Alex Bernard (Rageuneau), Pierre Magnier (Cirano di Bergerac), Linda Moglie (Roxanne), Angelo Ferrari (Christian deNeuvillette); Runtime: 113; Atlas; 1923-silent-Italy/France)...Reviewed on 7/10/2002.

A lavish production done in color, one that is faithful to the play it is based on. Cyrano de  Bergerac is one of the greatest swordsmen of 17th century Paris, but his long, grotesque nose gives him an inferiority complex around women despite his courage in battle, his wit, his poetry, and good manners. He keeps his love for his cousin Roxanne to himself because he doesn't think she'll be attracted to him.The handsome Christian, however, states his love for Roxanne, but since he doesn't have the gift for words that Cyrano does de Bergerac offers to help him write her letters, and Christian wins her. Both men go to war, and Christian, who discovers that Cyrano loves Roxanne, dies in battle. Cyrano, however, still does not confess the truth, even though for many years he visits her regularly. When Cyrano shows up late for the first time and dies of wounds he has  received in a fight with his enemies, she realizes that he's the letter writer and it was his words that wooed her. It was a competent production, but one that was outdated. GRADE: C + 

CITIZEN KANE (director/writer: Orson Welles; screenwriter: Herman J. Mankiewicz; cinematographer: Gregg Toland; editors: Robert Wise; music: Bernard Herrmann; cast: Orson Welles (Charles Foster Kane), Joseph Cotten (Jedediah Leland), Everett Sloane (Mr. Bernstein), George Coulouris (Walter Parks Thatcher), Agnes Moorehead (Mary Kane), Dorothy Comingore (Susan Alexander Kane), Ruth Warrick (Emily Monroe Norton Kane), Paul Stewart (Raymond), Ray Collins (James W. Gettys), Erskine Sanford (Herbert Carter), Buddy Swan (Charles Kane), William Alland (Jerry Thompson); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Orson Welles; RKO; 1941)

A terrific movie, but not the best film of all time. This is Welles' first movie. It is about the life of publisher William Randolph Hearst, who is disguised in the movie as Kane. It is purely an American movie, depicting Kane's rise to fame, wealth, and power. The problem for Kane is that after he realizes his dream, he doesn't know what to do with his gains. We witness his castle go to weed and hear him cry out "Rosebud" (his sled as a child) as he dies. GRADE: A+

CLERKS (director/writer/producer/editor: Kevin Smith; cinematographer: David Klein; editor: Scott Mosier; music: Scott Angley; cast: Brian O'Halloran (Dante Hicks), Jeff Anderson (Randal Graves), Marilyn Ghigliotti (Veronica), Lisa Spoonhauer (Caitlin Bree), Jason Mewes (Jay), Kevin Smith (Silent Bob); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Scott Mosier; Miramax; 1993)

An indie, made as cheaply as you can make a film - it was made for under 30 grand. This film delivers the goods, it's a scream if you are into the endless chatter and childish games between a store clerk (Brian) and a video clerk (Jeff). GRADE: B-

CLUB EXTINCTION (director: Claude Chabrol; cast: Alan Bates (Doctor Marsfeldt/Guru), Jennifer Beals (Sonja Vogler), Jan Niklas (Hartmann),  Hanns Zischler (Moser), Andrew McCarthy (Assassin), 1990-Fr.)

Berliners, East and West, are faced with a massive suicide problem that the authorities are calling accidents. Dr. Marsfeldt is the media tycoon and travel agent who is arranging for these suicides through the unwitting actions of his travel spokeswoman, Sonja Vogler. The film provides a few campy jokes, but is limp as far as being a thriller. This is one of Chabrol's duds. GRADE: C-

COCKFIGHTER (director: Monte Hellman; screenwriters: Charles Willeford/from a novel by Mr. Willeford novel; cinematographer: Néstor Almendros; editor: Lewis Teague; music: Michael Franks; cast: Warren Oates (Frank Mansfield), Harry Dean Stanton (Jack Burke), Patricia Pearcy (Mary Elizabeth), Richard B. Shull (Omar Baradinsky), Troy Donahue (Randall Mansfield), Millie Perkins (Frances Mansfield), Laurie Bird (Dody White), Ed Begley, Jr. (Tom Peeples), Charles Willeford (Ed Middleton, referee); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Roger Corman; New World Pictures; 1974)

Oates is the obsessive handler of cockfighters, who has taken on a vow of silence after losing a cockfight by talking too much. The world we are taken into is grim and Darwinian. The authentic locations give us a sense of how stark and barren are the lives of those trying to make something violent into a badge of honor. A cult favorite, but largely neglected by the public. This film is deserving of a larger audience. GRADE: B+

CONDITION RED (director: Mika Kaurismäki; screenwriter: Andre Degas; cinematographer: Ken Kelsch; editor: Suzanne Pillsbury; music: Mauri Sumén; cast: James Russo (Dan Cappelli), Cynda Williams (Gidell) Paul Calderon (Angel Delgado), Victor Argo (Victor Klein), Verrone Romeoletti (Malone), Joey Perillo  (Asst. D.A.), Andre Degas (Bishop), Dierdre Lewis (Rose); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Hank Blumenthal/Ken Schwenker; Oak Island Films; 1996-USA/Finland)

Good performances, but an illogical story mars this flawed film about a confused prison guard (Russo) who is seduced by an inmate (Williams). She is a professional singer doing time while protecting her rotten boyfriend by not ratting him out. GRADE: C

CONGO MAISIE (director: H.C. Potter; cast: Ann Sothern, John Carroll, Rita Johnson,Shepperd Strudwick; Runtime: 70; 1940)

Stowaway chorus girl (Sothern) and doctor (Carroll) are in the middle of a witch doctor uprising in the Congo. Remake of Red Dust. Plenty of fluff. The Maisie role was originally made for Jean Harlow, who turned it down because of ill health. GRADE: C

CONSPIRATOR (director: Victor Saville; screenwriters: Gerald Fairlie/Sally Benson/from book by Humphrey Slater; cinematographer: Freddie Young; editor: Frank Clarke; music: John Wooldridge; cast: Robert Taylor (Maj. Michael Curragh), Elizabeth Taylor (Melinda Greyton), Robert Flemyng (Capt. Hugh Ladholme), Honor Blackman (Joyce), Thora Hird (Broaders), Marjorie Fielding (Aunt Jessica), Karel Stepanek (Radek); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arthur Hornblow, Jr.; MGM; 1949-UK)

A dreadful spy/romance tale about the Cold War. Film's main asset is having the 16-year-old Elizabeth Taylor play the 18-year-old American new bride of a respected British major, Robert Taylor (he was 38 at the time). It was her first starring role as a grown-up. Liz is startled to find out hubby is a Communist spy and wants to kill her. What's a girl to do!. A propaganda film that is dry, humorless, and heavy-handed. Grade: D

CORONER CREEK  (director: Ray Enright; screenwriter: Kenneth Gamet/based on a novel by Luke Short; cinematographer: Fred H. Jackman; editor: Harvey Manger; cast: Randolph Scott (Chris Danning), Marguerite Chapman (Kate Hardison), George Macready (Younger Miles), Sally Eilers (Della Harms), Edgar Buchanan (Sheriff O'Hea), Wallace Ford (Andy West), Forrest Tucker (Ernie), Barbara Read (Abbie Miles), Joe Sawyer (Frank Yordy); Runtime: 90; Columbia; 1948) ... Reviewed on 8/6/2001.

Scott's fiancée is attacked in a stagecoach raid by Indians and dies by knifing herself rather than submit to the Indians. The raid was planned by bad guy Macready to get an army payroll. Scott tracks him down in Coroner Creek 18 months later and seeks revenge. Macready is now a solid citizen and a wealthy rancher thanks to the stolen money, but is still a bad dude trying to force honest rancher Eilers out. Scott gets the villain by having him fall on the same knife his wife used. The theme being 'An eye for an eye.' This changes at the end, as all the hatred pours out of Scott and he finds love with Chapman. Best scene in the film was the fight between Tucker and Scott, where Scott's shooting hand is stomped on by Tucker. When Scott recovers, he does the same to Tucker. This is a tough, no-nonsense western, with Scott single-minded in purpose. Grade: B

CRASH DIVE (director: Archie Mayo; screenwriters: Jo Swerling/story by W.R. Burnett; cinematographer: Leon Shamroy; editors: Walter Thompson/Ray F. Curtiss; music: David Buttolph; cast: Dana Andrews (Lt. Commander Dewey Connors), Tyrone Power (Lieutenant Ward Stewart), Anne Baxter (Jean Hewlitt), James Gleason (McDonnell), Harry Morgan (Brownie), Minor Watson (Adm. Bob Stewart), Dame May Whitty (Grandmother); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Milton Sperling; Fox Video; 1943)

A WW11 propaganda film, more or less, hiding behind special effects and a love story to soften its glorifications of war and heroics. Andrews and Power both fall for school teacher Baxter, though they do not know this. Andrews is captain of the the sub, Power is his executive officer. The two form a good relationship until Andrews learns that Power has stolen his girl, then the friendship sours. Not a bad film, considering the restraints of its story. GRADE: C

CROOKED HEARTS (director/writer: Michael Bortman; screenwriter: from Robert Boswell's novel; cinematographer: Tak Fujimoto; editor: Richard Francis-Bruce; music: Mark Isham; cast: Vincent D'onofrio (Charley Warren), Peter Berg (Tom Warren), Peter Coyote (Edward Warren), Noah Wyle (Ask Warren), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Marriet), Cindy Pickett (Jill Warren), Juliette Lewis (Cassie Warren); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Rick Stevenson/Dale Pollock/Gil Friesen; MGM; 1991)

A serious family drama unfolds focusing on an adulterous father and his family; and, the trouble this causes for the older, girl-crazy brother (Vincent). He can't get up enough courage at the age of 26 to leave home. Peter Berg is his brother. He can't stay in college after almost finishing his freshman year. Noah is the youngest brother who is loyal to the family and tries to live a just life by adhering to his own book of rules. Juliette is their basket case of a sister who wants to withdraw from life, and who goes to sleep whenever there is a conflict that she can't handle. Cindy is the perfect matriarch for this slightly unbalanced family, offering them acceptance and hope. We get a chance to see the pain and hurt that all the characters go through as they try to grow up or to find warmth and love in their life. They are not unlike many modern American middle-class families, who when faced with unsatisfactory career opportunities just pick up and move. They often get a dog to help them pull the family together, like this family does. But in the end, this family doesn't shy away from what they can't resolve. They bring their wounds out in the open, which is their saving grace. The result is a low-keyed drama that fortunately keeps its head above the sitcom bar, which it could have easily stooped to if it wasn't so well-written and directed by Bortman. GRADE: C+

CYCLIST, THE (director/writer: Mohsen Makhmalbaf; cinematographer: Ali Reza Zarin Dast; music: Majid Entezami; cast: Moharram  Zeynalzadeh (Nasim), Edmail  Soltanian (Son), Mohamad Reza Maleki (Promoter); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; Facets Video; 1987-Iran-in Farsi with English subtitles)

Nassim is the cyclist. He is an Afghan refugee in need of money to pay his wife's medical bills. A sleazy promoter gets him to go on a bicycle marathon; he is to go around in circles for seven days without sleeping. Venders, bookies, and hustlers take advantage of his situation, as they make money off his arduous efforts. This colorful film is more interested in delivering its message about how man makes man suffer than it is in being dramatic. It falls short of being anything but an interesting look at modern Iran. GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus'  World Movie Reviews"