Dennis Schwartz'
Short Reviews 
'I'  21

 


I AM CUBA (director: Mikheil Kalatozishvili; screenwriters: Yevgeni Yevtushenko/Enrique Pineda Barnet; cinematographer: Sergei Urusevsky; editor: Nina Glagoleva; music: Carlos Fariñas; cast: Raul Garcia (Enrique), Celia Rodriguez (Gloria), Sergio Corrieri (Alberto), José Gallardo (Pedro), Luz Maria Collazo (Maria Betty), Mario Gonzalez Broche (Pablo); Runtime: 141; MPAA Rating: NR; Criterion Collection; 1964-Cuba/Russia-in Spanish with English subtitles)

If you don't mind the Communist propaganda being spouted, then this epic lesson in the fall of the dictator Batista's corrupt capitalistic government and the success of the dictator Castro's Communist revolution is a beautifully made and photographed movie. It can be enjoyed just for the visual delights it supplies. For me, the most powerful scenes were just viewing the mud road leading to the shack the prostitute took her tourist john home to and the menacing dance and song number in the main street of Havana, as a group of U.S. sailors try to force an unwilling attactive young lady to come with them. It was done with so much panache, that it could have been a Gene Kelly routine that went over-the-edge. Definetly a movie worth seeing. GRADE: B+


I CAN'T SLEEP (J'ai Pas Sommeil) (director/writer: Claire Denis; screenwriter: Jean-Pol Fargeau; cinematographer: Agnès Godard; editor: Nelly Quettier; cast: Katerina Golubeva (Daiga), Richard Courcet (Camille), Line Renaud (Ninon), Béatrice Dalle (Mona), Alex Descas (Theo), Manuela Gourary (Mona's Mother), Sophie Simon (Alice), Patrick Grandperret (Abel), Irina Grjebina (Mina), Vincent Dupont (Raphael); Runtime: 110; Pyramide/New Yorker Films; 1994-Switzerland/France)

There is a series of granny murders taking place in Paris. This is a film that is based on factual events. There was a serial killer in the 1980s who brought fear to the community by murdering old ladies. What this film does is weave a story around those newspaper headlines involving three characters, whose lives crossed paths without them being prepared for what is to eventually take place. Daiga (Katerina) is an attractive Lithuanian visitor to Paris, looking for work; Theo is an African musician, trying to keep custody of his interracial son; and Camille is the gay brother of Theo... . What results is a most engaging film, even if we were kept emotionally detached from any of the characters. GRADE: B-



I SHOT JESSE JAMES (director: Samuel Fuller; cast: Preston Foster, Barbara Britton, John Ireland, Reed Hadley, Tom Tyler; 1949)

Just how many Jesse James films are there? They seem to keep coming. Well, Fuller's film, is as good as any of them. He places an emphasis on the downslide of Bob Ford's (Ireland) life after he killed Jesse. He was emotionally devoid of love and reduced to recreating this role on the stage to earn the money he desperately needed. Well-done flick. GRADE: B



I WALK ALONE (director: Byron Haskin; screenwriters: from the play Beggars Are Coming to Town by Theodore Reeves/Charles Schnee/John Bright/Robert Smith; cinematographer: Leo Tover; editor: Arthur P. Schmidt; music: Victor Young; cast: Burt Lancaster (Frankie Madison), Lizabeth Scott (Kay Lawrence), Kirk Douglas (Noll Turner), Wendell Corey (Dave Madison), Kristine Miller (Mrs. Alexis Richardson), Georges Rigaud (Maurice), Marc Lawrence (Nick Palestro), Mike Mazurki (Dan), Mickey Knox (Skinner), Dewey Robinson (Heinz); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal B. Wallis; Paramount; 1948)

The gangsters in this noir feature are organized like corporations. A bargain between bootleggers goes awry when Douglas refuses to give Lancaster his share of the empire when he gets out of prison, as promised. It is now Lancaster fighting against the injustice he received from his fellow criminals. In the end, Burt goes legit. Solid film. GRADE: B-



IHAKA: BLUNT INSTRUMENT (TV) (director: Peter Fisk; screenwriter: Paul Thomas; cinematographer: Nino Gaetano Martinetti; editor: Shawn Seet; cast: Temuera Morrison (Tito Ihaka), Rebecca Gibney (Kirsty Finn), Linal Haft (Chief Lynch), Olivia Pigeot (Michelle), Steve Jacobs (Brent Rourke), Carmen Duncan (Mrs. Renton), Rachael Carpani (Tara), John Seru (Grant Mountain), Noel Hodda (Wickham), Barry Quin (Andrew); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ian Bradley; Columbia Tri-Star; 2000/Australia) ... Reviewed on 3/5/2003.

A revolting made for the idiot box formulaic cop film from Australia. A black New Zealand detective sergeant, Ihaka, (Temuera Morrison), known for his unorthodox and violent police methods is sent to the Federal Police Academy in Sydney, Australia, in order to keep him out of the way until he's cleared of police brutality charges. A training exercise is being conducted and the class is asked to work on an unsolved case from 3 years ago of a rape/murder of an attractive but wild 20-year-old girl, that has erroneously been attributed to a psycho.The rebellious but seasoned cop is teamed up with a beautiful but uptight and inexperienced blonde public relations inspector (Rebecca Gibney). Their dialogue goes like this Gibney: "So, who are you?" Ihaka: "Iím a card-carrying member of the don't-give-a-shit-party" Gibney: "Rebels without a cause, eh?" These two flaunt the rules, exasperate the chief inspector (Haft), bond, and eventually track down the rich businessman killer (Steve Jacobs). It's all too predictable and mindless.  GRADE: D


ILLTOWN (director/writer: Nick Gomez; screenwriter: based on the book The Cocaine Kids by Terry Williams; cinematographer: Jim Denault; editor: Tracy S. Granger; music: Brian Keane; cast: Michael Rapaport (Dante), Lili Taylor (Micky), Adam Trese (Gabriel), Kevin Corrigan (Francis), Paul Schulze (Lucas), Tony Danza (D'Avalon), Isaac Hayes (George), Saul Stein (Gunther); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: R; producer: David L. Bushell; The Shooting Gallery; 1996)

A bomb. A supposedly metaphysical film about dopers in Miami, seeking redemption from past and current misdeeds. They philosophize as if they were Zen masters. Its philosophy is, "Everybody gets what he deserves." I gave them a C-. GRADE: C-



IMAGES OF THE WORLD (BILDER der WELT und INSCHRIFT des KRIEGES) (director/writer/editor: Harun Farocki; cinematographer: Ingo Kratisch; Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; Facets Video; 1989-W.Ger.-in German with English subtitles-the narration is in English)

A provocative documentary with the narration done in English. Filmmaker Farocki contrasts several ways photographs and images have been looked at throughout time and comes to the bitter conclusion that they are only clearly seen through despair and heroic courage. His three main points of references are the following: 1) Dr. Meydenbauer, who in 1858 came to the conclusion it was safer to do scale measurements for the church he was working on through photography than measurements taken on the spot. 2) That in 1960 the subject came up of how to face a camera for Algerian women who were previously veiled, but were now forced to have their photos taken for identity cards for their colonist government. 3) And, how in April 4, 1944, the U.S. took aerial photos of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp and saw the I.G. Farben chemical plants, where 30 out of every 200 hundred workers died each day; but, it wasn't until 33- years later that the concentration camp itself was noticed. Fascinating insights. GRADE: A-



IMPOSTORS (director/writer/producer/editor: Mark Rappaport; cinematographer: Fred Murphy; editor: Meri Weingarten; cast: Charles Ludlam (Chuckie), Michael Burg (Mikey), Ellen McElduff  (Tina), Lina Todd (Gina),  Peter Evans (Peter),  Randy Danson (Stephanie); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; Planet Pictures; 1980)

Director Mark Rappaport presents a low-budget indie that somehow connects scams, murder, lesbianism and vaudeville. It's a weird comedy about possible murders involving two eccentric nightclub magicians who are also twins--the gay Chuckie (Ludlam) and the heterosexual Mikey (Burg). They are strangely funny, in an asinine plot involving their lesbian assistant Tina (Ellen McElduff) and a stage door Johnny named Peter (Peter Evans). It all takes place in NYC's SoHo district. Not as good as other Rappaports, as the film dragged at times, but still verbally good enough to slash away at American taboos and icons. It is chock full of lines such as, "They don't know spit from Spinoza."  GRADE: B-



IMPOSTORS, THE (director/writer/producer: Stanley Tucci; cinematographer: Ken Kelsch; editor: Suzy Elmiger; music: Gary DeMichele; cast: Oliver Platt (Maurice), Stanley Tucci (Arthur),Alfred Molina  (Jeremy Burtom), Lili Taylor (Lily), Tony Shalhoub (First Mate), Steve Buscemi (Happy Franks), Allison Janney (Maxine/Maxi), Isabella Rossellini (Queen/Veiled Woman), Campbell Scott (Meistrich), Teagle Wrougere (Sheik), Billy Connolly (Sparks), Dana Ivey (Mrs. Essendine), Hope Davis (Emily), Richard Jenkins (Johnny, the Frenchman); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Beth Alexander; Fox Searchlight; 1998)

A not funny enough farcical comedy to be sustained for a full-length feature film. Two unemployed actors, Tucci and Platt, become impostors aboard a ship, hiding out from an actor they got into a fracas with when he overheard them thrashing his performance as Hamlet. It reminds me most of a Laurel and Hardy kind of comedy. GRADE: C



IN AND OUT (director: Frank Oz; screenwriter: Paul Rudnick; cinematographer: Rob Hahn; editors: Daniel Hanley/John Jympson; music: Marc Shaiman; cast: Kevin Kline (Howard Brackett), Joan Cusack (Emily Montgomery), Tom Selleck (Peter Malloy), Matt Dillon (Cameron Drake), Debbie Reynolds (Berniece Brackett), Wilford Brimley (Frank Brackett), Bob Newhart (Tom Halliwell), Shalom Harlow (Sonya); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Scott Rudin; Paramount Pictures; 1997)

This benign spoof on the bias people have against gays, plays like a TV sitcom comedy. It is about a small-town high school teacher (Kline), who is thought to be gay after his former student (Dillon) wins an Oscar and in his acceptance speech thanks his English teacher for helping him; then adds, "and he is gay." This shocks this mainstream town where he was so popular and puts a new light into his upcoming marriage to Joan Cusack. The idea for the film came when producer Rudnick heard Tom Hanks do the same after winning an Oscar for The Philadelphia Story. The satire is all too obvious.The sugary ending to the film was unbelievable. GRADE: C



INNOCENT SLEEP, THE (director/producer: Scott Michell; screenwriter: Ray Villis; cinematographer: Alan Dunlop; editor: Derek Trigg; music: Mark Ayres; cast: Rupert Graves (Alan), Annabella Sciorra (Billie Hayman), Struan Rodgers (Peter Samson), Graham Crowden (George), Michael Gambin (Det. Inspector Matheson), Franco Nero (Adolfo Cavani), John Hannah (James); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Matthew Vaughn; Peachtree Entertainment Group, Inc.; 1996-UK)

A London derelict (Rupert) witnesses a banker's execution and tries to get the reporter (Sciorra) to believe him. A watchable movie. It has a good view of a fake cardboard skid row to contrast a fake middle-class London. GRADE: C



IN OLD COLORADO (director: Howard P. Bretherton; cinematographer: Russell Harlan; screenwriter:J. Benton Cheney/Russell Hayden/Norton S. Parker; cast: William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy), Andy Clyde (California), Russell Hayden (Lucky Jenkins), Maggie Hayes (Myra Woods), Sarah Padden (Ma Woods), Stanley Andrews (George Davidson), Morris Ankrum (Joe Weller), Morgan Wallace (Sheriff Collins ); 1941)

A superior Hoppy Western, of the B variety-type, number 33 in the series. This time Hoppy and his two cohorts, Lucky and California, are called to Ma Woods' ranch to help her keep the ranch from debt. Hoppy after getting robbed of the money he brought to buy her cattle figures the battle she is having with another rancher, Davidson, is being instigated by an outsider, who wants them to kill each other off so he can take over both their ranches. The heavy is Joe (Morris Ancrum), he wants their water rights and is willing to do anything with his large gang to get it. The final scene is a shootout overlooking the mountain ranges. Harlan's sparkling cinematography is in B & W which adds a sense of beauty to all the action scenes. GRADE: C



INTERSECTION (director: Mark Rydell; screenwriters: David Rayfiel/Marshall Brickman/based on the film Les Choses de la Vie by Claude Sautet/from the novel Les Choses de la Vie by Paul Guimard; cinematographer: Vilmos Zsigmond; editor: Mark Warner; music: James Newton Howard; cast: Richard Gere (Vincent Eastman), Sharon Stone (Sally Eastman), Lolita Davidovich (Olivia Marshak), Jennifer Morrison (Meaghan Eastman), Martin Landau (Neal); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Bud Yorkin/Mark Rydell; Paramount Pictures; 1994)

A romantic melodrama, done in flashback, as a deadly car accident is about to happen. The successful architect Gere must choose between his talented wife (Stone) and his more sensual mistress (Lolita). Beautifully shot and directed. This Hollywood version is a remake of the arty French film, Les Choses de la Vie. The ending is very clever, plus it makes for powerful soap opera melodrama. GRADE: C+



INTOLERANCE (director: D.W. Griffith; screenwriters: cinematographer: Billy Bitzer; editor: James/Rose Smith; cast: Lillian Gish (The Woman Who Rocks the Cradle), Mae Marsh (The Dear One), Robert Harron (The Boy), Miriam Cooper (The Friendless One), Tully Marshall (High Priest of Bel), Josephine Crowell (Catherine de Medici); 1916-silent)

The film first began as a medium-budget feature entitled The Mother and the Law, wherein the lives of a poor but happily married couple are disrupted by the misguided interference of a "social reform" group. Receiving many protests for the racist content of Birth of a Nation, Griffith wanted to demonstrate against such bias throughout history. He, thusly, enlarged the story into epic proportions, by intercutting four parallel tales from history into one to make a statement about personal tragedy and political and social oppression through the ages (turn-of-the-century American reform, Christ's Judea, Reformation in France, and Babylon). This thematic approach seems like a museum piece now, as the acting is wooden and the presentation comes over as largely pedantic. What still has a great effect are some of the visual re-creations which are very poetic, such as the Babylon harem scenes and the St. Bartholomew's day massacre of the Huguenots.
GRADE: C+



INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (director: Don Siegel; screenwriters: from the book The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney/ Daniel Mainwaring/Sam Peckinpah (uncredited); cinematographer: Ellsworth Fredericks; editor: Robert S. Eisen; music: Carmen Dragon; cast: Kevin McCarthy (Dr. Miles J. Bennell), Dana Wynter (Becky Driscoll), Larry Gates (Dr. Dan 'Danny' Kauffman), Carolyn Jones (Theodora 'Teddy' Belicec), King Donovan (Jack Belicec), Virginia Christine (Wilma Lentz), Tom Fadden (Uncle Ira Lentz), Jean Willes (Sally), Sam Peckinpah (Meter Reader-cameo); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Walter Wanger; Criterion Collection; 1956)

A small town is being taken over by emotionless aliens. A classic. It is done with subtlety and skill. GRADE: A



INVISIBLE BOY, THE (director: Herman Hoffman; screenwriters: Cyril Hume/from the story by Edmund Cooper; cinematographer: Harold E. Wellman; editor: John D. Faure; music: Les Baxter; cast: Richard Eger (Timmie Merrinoe), Philip Abbott (Dr. Merrinoe), Diane Brewster (Mary Merrinoe), Dennis McCarthy (Colonel Machlin), Harold J. Stone (General Swayne), Robert H. Harris (Professor Allerton), Robbie the Robot (Robbie); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Nicholas Nayfack; MGM; 1957)

When a man makes a mistake in his work he must destroy it--Or must man be a servant to knowledge and reason together? As "the invisible boy" says, "You have to learn all you can." This sci-fi film, is quite the sleeper. It is perceptive of the '50s scene, its cold war paranoia, suburban concerns and parental responsibilities. It is also a wonderful film about a young boy who befriends the robot his father works with. GRADE: B



IPCRESS FILE, THE (director: Sidney J Furie; screenwriter: Bill Canaway/James Doran/based on the novel The Ipcress File by Len Deighton; cinematographer: Otto Heller; editor: Peter Hunt; music: John Barry; cast: Michael Caine (Harry Palmer), Nigel Green (Dalby), Guy Doleman (Major Ross), Sue Lloyd (Jean), Gordon Jackson (Jock Carswell), Aubrey Richards (Radcliffe); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harry Saltzman; Rank/Universal Pictures; 1965-UK)

Caine is Harry Palmer. It is based on a Len Deighton novel, as the film version exploits Caine's brashness and Cockney accent. Harry is looking for a missing scientist and runs into a torture chamber. It's delightfully filmed. GRADE: B



IT! (director/writer: Herbert J. Leder; cinematographer: Davis Boulton; cast: Roddy McDowall (Arthur Pimm), Paul Maxwell (Jim Perkins), Jill Haworth (Ellen Grove), Noel Trevarthen (Inspector White), Richard Goolden (Rabbi), Ernest Clark (Harold Grove), Oliver Johnston (Trimingham), Alan Sellers (The Golem); 1967-UK)

It's a bad film and fails to be funny or even thrilling, just nonsensical and trite and leaden. The acting was more stone-like than the statue of The Golem and the story was sillier than a gaggle of geese. This remake of the silent classic had none of that film's energy or creativeness to it. Roddy McDowall is Arthur Pimm, assistant museum curator, a meek, ambitious, insane Norman Bates (Psycho) type, who keeps his dead mother preserved at home. When the museum's warehouse burns, the statue of The Golem is discovered there, but it mysteriously crushes the curator, Mr. Grove (Clark), to death. When the statue is placed in the museum and Primm is upset that he is not promoted to curator he investigates the origins of the statue very closely, discovering Hebrew writing on it. A rabbi translates the inscription telling him this is the 16th Golem created in Prague to be a force of God to protect its master, that it can't be destroyed by fire, water, or any force. To be its master one has to find a certain scroll with the Hebrew name God on it and place it under the Golem's tongue. That it should only be used for good and for protection or else it will get out of control. When Pimm learns how to control The Golem he murders the next curator and topples a bridge to show off how powerful he is to a girl he is sweet on. Thank God, the Golem decides to destroy itself. I don't think I could have watched the film much longer. There was also a Mr. Perkins (Maxwell), an American trying to buy the Golem for a New York museum. He's an expert on the significance of the statue and helps the police track down Pimm. GRADE: D



 IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (director: Frank Capra; screenwriters: Robert Riskin/from the book Night Bus by Samuel Hopkins Adams; cinematographer: Josph Walker; editor: Gene Havlick; music: Louis Silvers; cast: Clark Gable (Peter Warne), Claudette Colbert (Ellie Andrews), Walter Connolly (Alexander Andrews), Roscoe Karns (Oscar Shapeley), Alan Hale (Danker), Jameson Thomas (King Westley), Arthur Hoyt (Zeke), Ward Bond (Bus Driver); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harry Cohn; Columbia Pictures; 1934)

A love story between a runaway heiress and an unemployed news reporter. Good chemistry between the stars, who have a flare for both the comic and the romantic. There are two scenes from this film that are most notable: Colbert baring her legs to hitch a ride and Gable hanging a blanket across the room to separate their sleeping quarters. GRADE: B +



IT'S A DATE (director: William Seiter; screenwriters: story by Ralph Block & Jane Hall & Frederick Kohner/Norman Krasna; cinematographer: Joseph A. Valentine; editor: Bernard W. Burton; music: Charles Previn; cast: Deanna Durbin (Pamela Drake), Walter Pidgeon (John Arlen), Kay Francis (Georgia Drake), Eugene Pallette (Governor), Henry Stephenson (Capt. Andrews), S.Z. Sakall (Cuddles, Carl Ober), Samuel S. Hinds (Sidney Simpson); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joe Pasternak; Universal; 1940)

Deanna was 18 when she made this film. She is animated playing the part of an aspiring actress on Broadway, daughter of a famous stage star (Francis). She gets her break by getting the starring role her mother wanted. In the bargain, she is courted innocently by Pidgeon, who in reality is interested in her mother. Everything flows amusingly along, with the picture climaxing when Deanna sings "Ave Maria". GRADE: B -



IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (director/writer/producer: Frank Capra; screenwriters: Frances Goodrich/Albert Hackett/Jo Swerling/based on "The Greatest Gift" by Philip Van Doren Stern; cinematographers: Joseph Biroc/Joseph Walker; editor: William W. Hornbeck; music: Dimitri Tiomkin; cast: James Stewart (George Bailey), Donna Reed (Mary Hatch Bailey), Lionel Barrymore (Mr. Potter), Henry Travers (Clarence), H.B. Warner (Mr. Gower), Gloria Grahame (Violet Bick), Frank Faylen (Ernie), Ward Bond (Bert), Todd Karns (Harry Bailey), Beulah Bondi (Mrs. Bailey), Thomas Mitchell (Uncle Billy); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: NR; RKO Radio Pictures; 1946)

A Christmas story classic about the suicidal Stewart who is redeemed by the good cheer of his small-town friends. A feel good picture about how Americans would like to think of themselves. Too much sugary praise has been heaped on it as far as I'm concerned. GRADE: B



Dennis Schwartz: " Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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