Dennis Schwartz'
Short Reviews 
'F'  22


FAHRENHEIT 451 (director/writer: Francois Truffaut; screenwriter: Jean-Louis Richard/based on the novel by Ray Bradbury; cinematographer: Nicolas Roeg; editor: Thom Noble; music: Bernard Herrmann; cast: Oskar Werner (Montag), Julie Christie (Linda/Clarisse), Cyril Cusack (Captain), Anton Diffring (Fabian), Bee Duffell (Book Woman), Jeremy Spenser (Man with the Apple), Alex Scott ("The Life of Henry Brulard"), Michael Balfour (Machiavelli's "Prince"); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lewis M. Allen; Universal; 1966-UK)

Ray Bradbury's novel about a fascist-like society that bans books. What is memorable are the fire and book burning scenes, and the heroes memorizing each masterpiece so that they will be preseved. Truffaut succeeds in capturing the mood of a repressive society.  GRADE: B

FAMILY VIEWING (director/writer/editor/producer: Atom Egoyan; cinematographer: Robert MacDonald; editor: Bruce MacDonald; music: Michael Danna; cast: David Hemblem (Stan), Aidan Tierney (Van), Gabrielle Rose (Sandra), Arsinee Khanjian (Aline), Selma Keklikian (Armen), Jeanne Sabourin (Aline's mother); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; Cinephile/Zeitgeist; 1987-Canada)

The father says "He hasn't been himself." The next response is by the son  "Then who has he been?" Such dialogue underlines this strange film about sexual perversions and voyeurism. Egoyan touches base with issues such as, care for the elderly and the right to privacy. He gives us a unique look at family relations, probably not the way we might want to see it. Nevertheless, the film has a mesmerizing quality that makes the bizarre seem plausible.. GRADE: B+

FARGO(director/writer: Joel Coen; screenwriter: Ethan Coen; cinematographer: Roger Deakins; editor: Ethan & Joel Coen; music: Carter Burwell; cast: Frances McDormand (Marge Gunderson), Steve Buscemi (Carl Showalter), Peter Stormare (Gaear Grimsrud), William Macy (Jerry Lundegaard), Harve Presnell (Wade Gustafson), Kristen Rudrud (Jean Lundegaard), John Carroll Lynch (Norm Gunderson), Steve Park (Mike Yanagita); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Eric Fellner/Tim Bevan/Ethan Coen/John Cameron; Gramercy Pictures; 1996)

In 1987, a failed kidnapping takes place in the heavily Swedish part of Minnesota. The inept kidnappers are the subject of ridicule. This kind of absurd comedy is what audiences have come to expect from the Coen brothers. They have taken a sitcom situation and made it zany by parodying the characters into stereotypes that go further than the stereotypes are meant to go. Frances plays the slow-talking, pregnant cop who is called on to solve this messy case, a case that gets even messier as murder 1,2, and 3 are added on to the original caper. A classic. GRADE: A

FAST, CHEAP AND OUT OF CONTROL (director/producer: Earl Morris; cinematographer: Robert Richardson; editors: Shondra Merrill/Karen Schmeer; music: Caleb Sampson; cast: Dave Hoover (lion tamer), George Mendonca (topiary gardener), Ray Mendez (mole-rat specialist, Rodney Brooks (robot specialist); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: PG; Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment; 1997)

A uniquely interesting documentary about four different occupations and why the men who chose these occupations are so passionate about what they do and what made them do what they are doing and still continue doing it. It, might, also, have touched on what purpose life has; that is, what evolution means. Worth a look. GRADE: B-

FAUST (director/writer: Jan Svankmajer; screenwriters: from the play by Johann Wolfgang Goethe/from the novel by Christian Dietrich Grabbe; cinematographer: Svatopluk Maly; editor: Marie Zemanova; music: Johann Sebastian Bach/Charles Gounod; cast: Petr Cepek (Faust), Andrew Sachs (English voices); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jaromir Kallista; Kino International; 1994-Czech/Fr-in English)

Faust as refigured by surrealist Czech animator Jan Svankmajer, who at one time was banned by the communist regime. His Faust borrows from the texts of Goethe, Marlowe, the obscure novelist Christian Dietrich Grabbe, Charles Gounod's opera, and an old Czech puppet version. He tells the familiar tale about the man who sold his soul to the Devil, which he imaginatively interprets in his own style. It is set in modern Prague as Faust is an ordinary man, seen coming out of the subway and being handed a mysterious map. He decides to go to where an X-spot is marked on the map and winds up in a theater. The film is in English and goes from live action to animation, puppeteering, and claymation. In the theater he will read from Goethe's Faust, conjure up Mephisto, make his bargain with the Devil, and the magic in the film is in the surprising imagery. A treat for the eyes, though the film had many dramatic flat spots and didn't always work it, nevertheless, succeeds in bringing out the world of alchemy, magical spells, and a host of other themes. Most of all, it is unique. Grade: B

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (director/writer: Terry Gilliam; screenwriters: Tony Grisoni/Tod Davies/Alex Cox/based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson; cinematographer: Nicola Pecorini; editor: Lesley Walker; music: Ray Cooper; cast: Johnny Depp (Raoul Duke), Benicio Del Toro (Dr. Gonzo), Donald Morrow (Narrator), Christina Ricci (Lucy), Ellen Barkin (Waitress), Tobey Maguire (Hitchiker), Harry Dean Stanton (Judge), Gary Busey (Highway Patrolman); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Patrick Cassavetti/Laila Nabulsi; Universal Pictures; 1998)

A bad trip druggie film about the writer Hunter S Thompson's visit in the late 1960s to Vegas to cover a car racing event for a sports magazine and to cover a Drug Enforcement conference in Las Vegas dealing with anti-drug issues. This is the kind of view of druggies that gives them a low consciousness rating among the public. GRADE: C-

FELLINI'S ROMA (director/writer: Federico Fellini; screenwriter: Bernardino Zapponi; cinematographer: Giuseppe Rotunno; editor: Giuseppe Rotunno; music: Nino Rota; cast: Peter Gonzales (Fellini at age 18), Gore Vidal (himself), Federico Fellini (himself), Anna Magnani (herself), Fiona Florence (Young Prostitute), Renato Giovanneli (Cardinal Ottaviani), Marne Maitland (Underground Guide),  Stefano Mayore (Mussolini); Runtime: 128; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Turi Vasile; MGM; 1972-Italy-in Italian with English subtitles)

The master director in his decline still comes up with a wonderful mess...a visual delight. It's Fellini's self-indulgent love affair with his adopted city of Rome, showing us the city's warts and grandeur while filming the city with his camera crew. The film starts with him as a child growing up in Rimini and imagining what Roma would be like, to visiting it as a young man and staying at a colorful boarding house. The film is highly symbolic, some of it real and some of it imagined, seemingly shot on the run and without a storyline. The bizarre visuals were sometimes powerful and sustained an interest in the chaotic travelogue presented. The ecclesiastical fashion show was sheer madness as was the scene in the brothel. It touches base with the hippie influx into the Rome of 1970, and ends with the filming of a madcap motorcycle race. Grade: B

FILM (director: Alan Schneider; screenwriter: Samuel Beckett; cinematographer:Boris Kaufman; cast: Buster Keaton (The Man), Jim Karen, Nell Harrison, Susan Reed; 1966)

Beckett's only movie venture is this strange philosophical 22-minute film. Buster Keaton, dressed in the same garb he wore for his comedy films of the '20s and '30s, climbs the stairs to his sparsely decorated apartment and he precedes to get rid of every remaining object there: pet cats, photos from his past, and the mirror he covers-up. He is left with only someone watching him from behind the camera, who is a witness to his existence. The film is completely silent: no dialogue and no background music. GRADE: B+ 

FIRE WITHIN, THE (director/writer: Louis Malle; screenwriter: from the book by Pierre Drieu LaRochelle; cinematographer: Ghislain Cloquet; editors: Suzanne Baron/Monique Nana; music: Erik Satie; cast: Maurice Ronet (Alain Leroy), Lena Skerla (Lydia), Yvonne Clech (Mademoiselle Farnoux), Hubert Deschamps (D'Avereau), Jeanne Moreau (Jeanne), Alexandra Stewart (Solange), Jean-Paul Moulinot (Dr. La Barbinais), Bernard Noel (Dubourg); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alain Queffelean; Nouvellis editions de Films; 1963-France-in French with English subtitles)

It is based on the life of surrealist poet Jacques Rigaut, who killed himself in 1929. The author of the novel, Drieu La Rochelle, committed suicide in 1945. Ronet is the alcoholic writer, receiving treatment for his problem in a private sanitarium. He is looking for answers as to why he should live, and finds he is bankrupt inside. He can't touch anyone and no one can touch him. He is a very handsome man who has lived a very active sexual life, and is currently married to an American woman. She remains estranged from him in New York. A grim tale, but one of Malle's better films. GRADE: A-

FLAMING FEATHER (director: Ray Enright; cast: Victor Jory, Barbara Rush, Forrest Tucker, Sterling Hayden, Edgar Buchanan, Ian MacDonald; Runtime: 77; 1952)

Jory leads a band of renegade Indians that rancher Hayden and the cavalry pursue in this well directed Western. It's a vintage '50s Hollywood type of film: a white women is rescued from those savages. GRADE: C

FLOWER OF MY SECRET, THE (director/writer: Pedro Almodovar; cinematographer: Affoso Beato; editor: Jose Salcedo; music: Alberto Iglesias; cast: Marisa Paredes (Leo Macias), Juan Echanove (Angel), Imanol Arias (Paco), Carmen Elias (Betty), Chus Lampreave (Mother), Manuela Vargas (Blanca), Joaquin Cortes (Antonio), Rossy de Palma (Rosa); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Augustin Almodovar/Esther Garcia; Sony Pictures Classics; 1995-Spain-In Spanish with English subtitles)

A juicy role for Marisa. This is an Almodovar film with depth and honest emotions. We witness the anguish of a possessive woman's love gone sour. Paredes is Leo, a middle-aged woman writer of romantic fluff who is on the edge, trapped by a bad marriage and an unsatisfying literary career. We get to see her vulnerabilities, her loneliness and pain. Her relationships with other family members and a suitor, who happens to be the editor of a newspaper she seeks employment with. This makes for an uncompromising film that has the good sense to combine humor with pathos. GRADE: B

FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK (director: Lloyd Bacon; screenwriters: Lester Cole/John Wexley/from the play by Jeffrey Dell &  Ladislas Fodor; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Owen Marks; music: Frederick Hollander; cast: Errol Flynn (Francis Warren), Brenda Marshall (Rita Warren), Ralph Bellamy (Dr. Davis), Alan Hale (Inspector Mason), Lee Patrick (Blondie White), William Frawley (Hopkins), Lucile Watson (Mrs. Archer); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Warner Brothers; 1941)

Can you imagine Flynn in a light comedy/suspense story, wearing suits and ties? He plays an investment broker for the upper class, but secretly writes detective novels under a pen name. This results in Flynn helping the cops track down a jewel thief ring and a murderer. The comedy comes from his efforts to hide his secret life from his wife and her mother, who when she discovers what he is doing bemoans that she will be dropped from the social register. The film was a box office flop, preventing him from returning to this type of a role for many a moon. Nevertheless, this is a palpable, genial movie, that is easy to take for those whose demands are not that demanding. GRADE: C

FORT DOBBS (director: Gordon Douglas; cast: Virginia Mayo (Celia Gray), Brian Keith (Clett), Clint Walker (Garth Davis), Richard Eyer (Sheriff); 1958)

Clint Walker, a former sheetmetal worker and nightclub bouncer and TV star, tries his hand at movies. He will have a long career doing mostly Westerns. Here he plays a wanted man, who killed someone who his wife said beat her. He redeems himself by helping a handsome widow and her son escape from Comanches. The film is watchable because Clint is tough and lean and silent. This B/W Burt Kennedy scripted version has the bad guy really be the good guy. It is a typical Western, derivative from the 1950s B-movie formula. GRADE: C

FOUR FEATHERS, THE (director: Don Sharp; screenwriters: from the book "Sun Never Sets" by A.E.W. Mason/Gerald Di Pego; cinematographer: John Coquillon; editor: Eric Boyd-Perkins; music: Allyn Ferguson; cast: Beau Bridges (Harry Feversham), Robert Powell (Jack Durrance), Simon Ward (William Trench), Richard Johnson (Abou Fatma), Jane Seymour (Ethne Eustace), Harry Andrews (David Feversham); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Norman Rosemont; NBC television; 1977-USA/UK)

A remake of the 1921 and 1938 classic. Fancifully done in color. The story of a dishonored British officer who redeems himself at the battle in Sudan. Plenty of wholesome action amid exotic desert locales, as the action is fast and furious. This is an old-fashioned military movie about the 'code of honor.' GRADE: B -

FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (Furankenshutain tai chitei kaijû Baragon) (director: Ishiro Honda; screenwriters: Reuben Bercovitch  (story)/Takeshi Kimura; cinematographer: Eiji Tsuburaya; editor: Ryohei Fuji; cast: Nick Adams (Dr. James Bowen), Tadao Takashima (Dr. Yuzo Kawaji), Kumi Mizuno (Dr. Sueko Togami), Yoshio Tsuchiya (Mr. Kawai), Koji Furuhata (The Frankenstein Monster); Runtime: 87; Toho Studios; 1965-Jap.)

A special effect film from Japan about Frankenstein, which features a terrible dubbing job and dialogue only a monster can understand. Frankie's heart is removed by scientists in Germany's Third Reich and delivered to Japan. The Japanese receive the heart of the man-made monster who can never die, in order to study immortality. Nick Adams is a research scientist living in postwar-Japan and treating some of the victims of the A-bomb in Hiroshima. Radiation from the bomb causes Frankenstein to grow as a young boy. He soon shoots up to be 60-feet tall and can regenerate his limbs. A manhunt is organized to get him, despite a cutey-pie scientist saying he's just a boy and shouldn't be harmed. Here he is shown as a kindhearted soul, who kills animals because he needs proteins to sustain his rapid growth. The climax comes when Frankenstein battles another monster called Baragon, who is dolled up in a rubber suit to look like a dinosaur. This one is evil, he kills people. One observes that Frankenstein eats a lot. A campy film, one that is so wretched that it sort of grows on you and you can't help watching it though you should know better. Grade: C-

FRANTIC (director/writer: Roman Polansky; screenwriter: Gérard Brach; cinematographer: Witold Sobocinski; editor: Sam O'Steen; music: Ennio Morricone; cast: Harrison Ford (Dr. Richard Walker), Betty Buckley (Sondra Walker), Emmanuelle Seigner (Michelle), John Mahoney Gaillard (Gerard Klein); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tim Hampton/Thom Mount; Warner Brothers; 1988)

Ford flys to Paris with his wife; accidently she gets the wrong suitcase at the airport. Tension builds as we move into a surreal world of terrorists and unimaginable dangers. Ford hunts for his kidnapped wife throughout Paris. The film is effective as a Hitchcock-like thriller. GRADE: B

FRENCH LINE, THE (director: Lloyd Bacon; screenwriters: Isabel Dawn/Matty Kemp/Mary Loos/Richard Sale; cinematographer: Harry J. Wild; editor: Robert Ford; music: Walter Scharf; cast: Jane Russell (Mary Carson), Gilbert Roland (Pierre DuQuesne), Arthur Hunnicutt (Waco), Mary McCarty (Annie Farrell), Joyce Mackenzie (Myrtle Brown); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edmund Grainger; RKO Pictures; 1954)

This musical comedy had nothing going for it. It's a bomb. The stars couldn't sing, the dialogue wasn't funny, and the story was stupid. Jane is a Texas oil millionaire who gets jilted by potential mates because of her money. She goes on a cruise to Paris, where the French musical comedy star Gilbert Roland courts her. The film was originally made for 3-D as an excuse to show off Jane's anatomy. GRADE: D

FRENZY (director: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriters: from the book Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square by Arthur La Bern/Anthony Shaffer; cinematographer: Gilbert Taylor; editor: John Jympson; music: Ron Goodwin; cast: Jon Finch (Richard Blaney), Alec McCowen (Chief Inspector Oxford), Barry Foster (Bob Rusk), Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Brenda Blaney), Anna Massey (Barbara "Babs" Milligan), Vivien Merchant (Mrs. Oxford), Billie Whitelaw (Hetty Porter); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Alfred Hitchcock; Universal; 1972-UK)

The "necktie murderer" has violent urges and homo-erotic needs; and, his crimes reflect the shocking stories we read daily in the tabloids. It is a competent Hitchcock work, with a few of his splendid tidbits and wry humor thrown into the mix for some wicked fun. The wrestling scene in the truck of potatoes is better than eating French fries at the local 'Fish & Chips'. This film should not be totally dismissed, as some critics have. It has its moments, and these moments are Hitchcock's sweet melons. GRADE: B

FRIEDEMANN BACH (director: Traugott Mullerer; cast: Gustaf Gundgrens, Eugen Klopfer, Leny Marenbach, Johannes Riemann, Camilla Horn; 1941-Ger.)

A most interesting biopic of the Bach family. It shows the interaction between the patriarchal music master Johann Sebastian and his children. The film tells the story of his favorite son Friedemann and how he failed to live up to his father's expectations of him and died in obscurity and penury, suffering unduly because he refused to give up the pursuit of his own musical goals rather than imitate the great master, as others wanted and demanded that he do. GRADE: B

FRIENDLY PERSUASION (director/writer/cinematographer/editor: Jamsheed Akrami; cinematographers: Dan Nocera/Shahram Asadi/Albert Xavier; editor: Dah Nan Kou; cast: Sara Nodjoumi (narrator); interviews with Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Majid Majidi, Jafar Panahi, Dariush Mehrjui, Richard Peña; Runtime: 100; Cowboy Booking International; 2001) ... Reviewed on 8/20/2001.

Film critic Jamsheed Akrami has shot basically a promotional film about why Iranian film is doing so well since the 1979 Islamic revolution. He interviews many of the leading directors (15 in total), especially those that the west has embraced. They offer their views on government censorship and how they must deal with it as daunting as that might be, plus they talk about their creative experiences. The consensus among them is that Iranian films have succeeded because they are anti-cliche and humanistic. They have created an art-house cinema. That their children films created a metaphor for discovering the wonder of the world. That they can make films cheaply. They also believe they thrived because all Hollywood films were banned, therefore they eliminated the competition. They also went into the pettiness and absurdity of censorship, where there can be no touching between the sexes, a woman must have her hair covered indoors or outdoors with a scarf, and there are social and political issues you can't comment on. The main flaw in their films is that they are lifeless, as an honest way of loving can't be presented. Nevertheless, it is a testament to their skills as creative filmmakers that their films are so rich and meaningful, as they best reflect what life in modern Iran is like. The filmmaker is the weatherman, he will tell you which way the wind is blowing. Some of the more familiar filmmakers to a western audience were Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and Jafar Panahi. Without these creative filmmakers, Iranians would have little chance to contribute any art to the world. The documentary is very conventional, not visually interesting, but because of its intense subject matter it might be of interest to those not familiar with Iranian cinema and might be reinforcing to those like myself who appreciate this New Wave cinema coming from such a repressive country and marvel at how good it is considering the difficulty with censorship. Grade: B-

FRIENDS AND LOVERS (director: Victor Schertzinger; screenwriters: from Maurice de Kobra's book "The Sphinx Has Spoken"/Jane Murfin/Wallace Smith; cinematographer: Roy Hunt; editor: Willaim Hamilton; cast: Lili Damita (Alva Sangrito), Laurence Olivier (Lt. Nichols), Adolphe Menjou (Captain Roberts), Erich Von Stroheim (Victor Sangrito), Blanche Frederici (Lady Alice), Hugh Herbert (McNellis), Frederick Kerr (Gen. Armstrong); Runtime: 68; 1931)

A film with a great cast in name only and a lousy script. Menjou and Olivier are upper-crust British officers serving in India, both unexpectedly find they are in love with the sultry, married Damita. The film asks the silly question, "Is friendship more important than love?"  If this film is supposed to be a satire it never shows as its direction is so facile and stuffy, that the film looks like a parody of itself. The only one who earns his paycheck is Von Stroheim, as the manipulative and conniving husband. Damita is a horrible actress. GRADE: C-

FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (director: Fred Zinnemann; screenwriters: from the book From Here to Eternity by James Jones/Daniel Taradash; cinematographer: Burnett Guffey; editor: William Lyon; music: George Duning; cast: Burt Lancaster (Sgt. Milton Warden), Deborah Kerr (Karen Holmes), Frank Sinatra (Angelo Maggio), Montgomery Clift (Robert E. Lee Prewitt), Donna Reed (Alma Lorene), Ernest Borgnine (Sgt. "Fatso" Judson), Mickey Shaughnessy (Sgt. Leva), George Reeves (Sgt. Maylon Stark); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Buddy Adler; Columbia Pictures; 1953)

From the James Jones novel. It's a film about prejudice and lust. It takes place on a base near Pearl Harbor just before the attack. The film is certainly good enough, even with lackluster direction; but, think if someone like Nicholas Ray directed it how much better it would have been. Fine acting by Frank, Monty, and Burt. GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"