Dennis Schwartz'
Short Reviews 
'M'  31


M (director: Joseph Losey; sc: Norman Reilly Raine/Leo Katcher/based on the 1931 screenplay by Thea von Harbou; cinematographer: Ernest Laszlo; editor: Edward Mann; cast: David Wayne, Howard da Silva, Martin Gabel, Luther Adler, Steve Brodie, Glen Anders; Runtime: 87; Columbia; 1951)

Remake of Lang's M. This time it's L.A. instead of Germany, and because of this the child murderer is drawn into an American noir setting. One of the creepiest scenes shows the maniac M fondling his child victim's shoelaces, his insanity is transfixed to the screen in an odd expression that is hard to forget. This film compares fairly well with Lang's masterpiece, though it was difficult to believe that the underworld here could be so united in going after the child molester. Nevertheless, it was still an absorbing film. But I would never make another version of a film that was great. What's the point? GRADE: B

MAD MAGICIAN, THE (director: John Brahm; screenwriter: Crane Wilbur/story by Mr. Wilbur; cinematographer: Bert Glennon; editor: Grant Whytock; music: Art Lange/Emil Newman; cast: Mary Murphy (Karen Lee), Vincent Price (Don Gallico), Eva Gabor (Claire Ormond), Don Randolph (Ross Ormond), Patrick O’Neal (Lieutenant Alan Bruce), Lenita Lane (Alice Prentiss), John Emery (The Great Rinaldi), Jay Novello (Frank Prentiss); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Bryan Foy; Columbia Pictures; 1954)

Vincent is a psychopath who goes over the edge when his magical act is ripped-off by his boss, who also stole his wife. Clever story. Excellent Vincent. Loved his buzzsaw and crematorium. GRADE: B

MADADAYO (NOT YET) (director/writer/editor: Akira Kurosawa; screenwriter: based on the book by Hyakken Uchida; cinematographers: Takao Saito/Masaharu Ueda; music: Shinichiro Ikebe; cast: (Tatsuo Matsumara (Professor Hyakken Uchida), Kyoko Kagawa (Professor's Wife), Hisashi Igawa (Takayama), George Tokoro (Amaki); Runtime: 134; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hisao Kurosawa; Winstar Cinema; 1993-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)

Akira Kurosawa's (1910-1998) 30th and last film in a career that spans 50 years in which he has received all kinds of accolades as well as some criticism. I find, for the most part, that his films are dull and conventional (there are noteworthy exceptions such as his Seven Samurai/Rashomon/Throne of Blood). This over two-hour long, overly sentimental film about a retired university professor in 1943 and the annual celebrations he receives from his grateful students is an example of his humanistic approach toward films turning into mush and boredom. They drink and tell stories and sing songs and the big joke is that he was a man of 60 when he retired, but for the last 17 years he is teasing his death by drinking a big glass of beer and saying "not yet." The highlights to the film are: his first birthday celebration after retirement, his reclusive period when he earns money writing, and the war years when his excellent house is bombed in an air raid and he is forced to live in a shack. On his 77th birthday he gives his students' grandchildren advice: "Find something you treasure, work hard at it and make a career of it." GRADE: D

MALE AND FEMALE (director: Cecil B. De Mille; screenwriter: Jeannie Macpherson/from a novel "The Admirable Crichton" by J.M. Barrie; cinematographer: Alvin Wyckoff; editor: Anne Bauchens; cast: Thomas Meighan (Crichton, A Butler), Gloria Swanson (Lady Mary Lasenby), Lila Lee (Tweeny, A Maid), Bebe Daniels (The King's Favorite), Theodore Roberts (Lord Loam), Raymond Hatton (Honorable Ernest Walley), Robert Cain (Lord Brockelhurst), Mildred Reardon (Lady Agatha Lasenby); Runtime: 110; Paramount/Kino International Release; 1919-silent) ... Reviewed on 7/16/2001.

Unadulterated horsefeathers. This lightweight farce is a 'Comedy of Manners,' as adapted from Peter Pan writer J.M. Barrie's novel "The Admirable Crichton." It's a drawn out melodrama that makes its point emphatically that the king and the slave are reversible figures in history. It promotes a poem by William Ernest Henley: 'If I was a king of Babylon, then you were a Christian slave.' The film is set in England where the noble Loam family are haughty and used to being served. When they go on a yachting excursion to the South Seas, their yacht crashes against a rock and they are marooned on a jungle island. The roles get reversed, as the butler Crichton (Meighan) takes command and the Loam survivors--Lord Loam, his two daughters Mary (Swanson) and the younger Agatha, must learn to work for their food with Crichton now in charge of them. Also marooned are the maid Tweeny and Mary's fiance Lord Brockelhurst. Mary who could never imagine falling for the butler, now does. Noteworthy scenes are Swanson taking a bath and a lion looking over her shoulder. She said that the pointless dream scene, that De Mille added to the film, taking liberties by having an active lion was the scariest, even if a lion trainer was nearby with a pistol. De Mille, afterwards, rewarded her with a surprise gift of jewelry. Once the castaways are rescued and brought back to England, however, the original class distinctions are restored. Lady Mary marries her uptight fiance Lord Brockelhurst as scheduled. Meanwhile, Crichton  marries the scullery maid Tweeny (Lila Lee), who has loved him all along. De Mille has, nonetheless, proven his point: that nature levels the classes. GRADE: C-

MALTESE FALCON (director/writer: John Huston; screenwriter: from the novel by  Dashiell Hammett; cinematographer: Arthur Edeson; editor: Thomas Richards; music: Adolph Deutsch; cast: Humphrey Bogart (Sam Spade), Mary Astor (Brigid O'Shaughnessy), Gladys George (Iva Archer), Peter Lorre (Joel Cairo), Barton MacLane (Det. Lt. Dundy), Sydney Greenstreet (Kasper Gutman), Elisha Cook Jr. (Wilmer), Ward Bond (Det. Tom Polhaus), Jerome Cowan (Miles Archer), Lee Patrick (Effie Perine); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Henry Blanke; Warner Bros; 1941)

A great first film for Huston, accentuating the oddness about this diverse cast of characters in this noir film. The bizarre is the norm, as is intrigue and betrayal. Bogie, as Sam Spade, goes after his partner's killers. When asked why ... he clamors, "When your partner gets killed, you gotta do something about it." Well, you gotta love this kind of common man dialogue. The story becomes more convoluted when he meets up with the attractive but disarming Astor, who hires him to help her get the Falcon. Greenstreet and Lorre and Cook are wonderfully eccentric. In the end you realize the story doesn't matter, it's about great interplay among the characters. GRADE: A+

MAN IN THE DARK (director: Lew Landers; cast: Edmond O'Brien (Steve Rawley), Audrey Totter (Peg Benedict), Ted de Corsia (Lefty), Horace McMahon (Gangster), Nick Dennis (Cookie), Dayton Lummis (Dr. Marston); 1953)

Steve Rawley (Edmond O'Brien) has been sentenced for 10 years on an armed robbery conviction. After only serving one year he is inexplicably turned over to the private clinic of Dr. Marston (Lummis) for brain surgery to remove a piece of his brain that is responsible for his criminal instincts. What results is that he loses all of his memory. The insurance company and his fellow gangsters want to get to him so he can reveal where he hid the money. This film was part of the movie industries attempt to lure people into the theaters with their gimmick of 3-D. Therefore expect to see plenty of shots of things hurled in the direction of the audience; such as, a cigar, a bird, and the roller coaster ride. This B movie is pure drivel. The best line is when an informer comments on Steve's girlfriend Peg (Totter): "You wouldn't be ashamed walking down the street with her on your arm." GRADE: D

MANIAC (director/producer: Dwain Esper; screenwriter: Hildegarde Stadie/based on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat"; cinematographer: William C Thompson; editor: William Austin; cast: Bill Woods (Don Maxwell), Horace B. Carpenter (Dr. Meirschultz), Ted Edwards (Buckley), Phyllis Diller (Mrs. Buckley), Thea Ramsey (Alice Maxwell), Marian Blackton (Female in Male Drag); Runtime: 67; MPAA Rating: NR; Sinister Cinema; 1934)

A horror, exploitation film about a mad scientist who brings people back to life by brain experiments. His assistant is a failed actor who assumes the scientist's identity and, eventually, his psychotic persona as well. Filmed almost entirely in what looks like a basement, but is supposed to be the laboratory. It is loosely based on Poe's "The Black Cat." It has nudity, necrophilia, a catfight, the pulling out of a cat's eye and the eating of it, and a running commentary explaining what madness is. Not for everyone but for the right ones, this could be a real funny screamer. GRADE: C

MAN OF FLOWERS (director/writer/producer: Paul Cox; screenwriter: Bob Ellis; cinematographer: Yuri Sokol; editor: Tim Lewis; music: Gaetano Donizetti; cast: Norman Kaye (Charles Bremer), Alyson Best (Lisa), Chris Haywood (David), Sarah Walker (Jane), Julia Blake (Art teacher), Bob Ellis (Psychiatrist); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jane Ballantyne; International Spectrafilm; 1983-Australia)

A unique film. It is about a middle-aged art collector (Kaye) who pays for a beautiful stripper to entertain him on a weekly basis. Their strange relationship blossoms in an atmosphere of pure art and subtle humor. It handles the theme of loneliness as well as it ever has been handled on the screen. Like all Cox films, the classical music is stimulating. A terrific film. GRADE: A

MAN ON A TIGHT ROPE (director: Elia Kazan; cast: Fredrick March, Terry Moore, Gloria Grahame, Cameron Mitchell, Adolph Menjou; 1953)

In Czechoslovakia a circus owner (March) flees the communists while he dotes over his younger wife (Moore) and his adopted, love-smitten daughter (Grahame). March gives a virtuoso performance. The film, based on factual events, captures the rigidity of living behind the Iron Curtain. Kazan's direction is deftly handled, but the film lacks character development. GRADE: C

MAN WITH A CROSS (UOMO DELLA CROCE, L') (director/writer: Roberto Rossellini; screenwriters: from the story by A. Gravelli/ Giovanni D'Alicandro/Alberto Consiglio; cinematographer: Guglielemo Lombardi; editor: Eraldo Da Roma; music: Renzo Rossellini; cast: Alberto Tavazzi (Padre), R. Schmidth (Irina), Attilio Dottesio (Il carrista ferito), Doris Hild (Una contadina russa); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR;  Stacchini; 1943-Italy, in Italian with English subtitles)

This is the third feature film of Rossellini's but what makes it different from his others, is that it has two strikes against it right off the bat. One, it is difficult to read the subtitles because they blend in with the film's white background. And, secondly, it was made under the Fascist control of Italy, praising their ideology and showing them in a heroic light. It was not possible for me to get through the second strike without thinking how far afield the director has gone to make this ill-fated propaganda vehicle, allowing the Catholic religion to be subordinate to Mussolini's party line. The story centers on a Catholic military chaplain on the Eastern Front who volunteers to stay behind when a patient is unable to be moved. The Soviets capture him, and his humanity and fervent belief in God sustains him and the people he comforts on both sides of the war. This is a rarely seen film and it is only worth seeing for those who must see everything this prominent director has done. GRADE: D

MASTER OF THE HOUSE, THE (DU SKAL ære DIN HUSTRU) (director/writer/editor: Carl Theodor Dreyer; screenwriter: from the play by Sven Rindom; cinematographer: George Schnéevoigt; cast: Mathilde Nielsen (Mads, the nanny), Johannes Nielsen (Doctor), Astrid Holm (Mary Allmen), Karin Nellemose (Kathleen Allmen), Petrine Sanne (Laundress), Clara Schonfeld (Mary's Mother, Mrs. Nelson), Petrine Sonne (The Washerwoman, Mrs. Higgins), Johannes Meyer (John Allmen), Byril Harvig (Dick Allmen, son), Aage Hoffman (Baby Son); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; Criterion Collection; 1925-Denmark silent-in Danish with English subtitles)

A rather lengthy and tedious film, about a selfish husband who takes his wife's good nature for granted and acts toward her in an arrogant and brutish way. She raises the children and sacrifices her good health by economizing on the small amount of money he gives her to provide for the house. His nanny, when he was a child, who now works for the family takes sympathy with her plight and finds a solution to resolve the unhappy marriage. This is one of Dreyer's less striking films. GRADE: C+

MEN IN BLACK (director: Barry Sonnenfeld; screenwriters: Ed Solomon/based on the comic book by Lowell Cunningham; cinematographer: Donald Peterman; editor: Jim Miller; music: Danny Elfman; cast: Tommy Lee Jones (K), Will Smith (J), Linda Fiorentino (Laurel), Rip Torn (Zed), Vincent D'Onofrio (Edgar), Tony Shalhoub (Jeebs), Mike Nussbaum (Gentle Rosenberg); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Walter F. Parkes/Laurie MacDonald; Columbia Pictures; 1997)

The aliens are here and so are the Men In Black to police them. A very witty script for a nonsense story. It is bolstered by the good rapport between Jones and Smith, and by D'onofrio's gifted performance as the unintegrated alien bug who plans on destroying the world. NYC never looked so alien. GRADE: B

MIDNIGHT COWBOY (director: John Schlesinger; screenwriters: Waldo Salt/based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy; cinematographer: Adam Holender; editor: Hugh A. Robertson; music: John Barry; cast: Dustin Hoffman (Ratso Rizzo), Jon Voight (Joe Buck), Sylvia Miles (Cass), John McGiver (Mr. O'Daniel), Brenda Vaccaro (Shirley), Barnard Hughes (Towny), Viva (Gretel McAlbertson), Ruth White (Sally Buck); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Jerome Hellman; United Artists; 1969)

A phony look at the '60s in NYC. Voight is the country bumpkin who comes here to be a hustler. Hoffman, in an overrated performance, plays Ratzo Rizzo, a down-and-out loser and hustler who befriends Voight. The storyline stays clear of homosexuality and the real problems the unfortunate face when things turn sour in the street. GRADE: C+

MI VIDA LOCA (MY CRAZY LIFE) (director: Allison Anders; cast: Angel Aviles (Sad Girl), Seidy Lopez (Mousie), Jacob Vargas (Ernesto), Marlo Marron (Giggles); 1994)

Anders' cinema verite film is about a Latino girl gang, in the Echo Park section of L.A.. Anders is a white woman from Kentucky, who lived with the girls before filming them to get a feel for their turf. She traces the girls' reason for being in a gang. There is really nothing new here, yet it is interesting to see what the girls' side of the gang story is like. GRADE: C

MIGHTY PEKING MAN, THE (Hsing hsing wang) (director/writer: Ho Meng-hua; screenwriter: I. Kuang; cinematographers: Tsao Hui-chi/Wu Cho-hua; editor: Chiang Hsing-Lung; music: Yung-Yu Chen/De Wolfe; cast: Danny Lee (Johnny Feng), Evelyne Kraft (Samantha), Ku Feng (Lu Tien), Hsiao Yao (Huang Tsui-Hua); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Run Me Shaw/Vee King Shaw/Chua Lam; Miramax; 1977-Hong Kong-in Mandarin with English subtitles)

Can atrocious acting combined with a threadbare story make for an entertaining monster rip-off film? That is the most relevant question The Mighty Peking Man asks of the viewer. This Ho Meng-hua directed and written campy mutant-ape movie was inspired by Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers in order to cash in on Dino De Laurentiis's remake in 1976 of King Kong, though it's actually more of a rehash of Mighty Joe Young. There are probably some folks who will be charmed by the inconceivable genre mixture of Tarzan and King Kong characterizations, though I'm not one of those enthusiasts. Its dialogue is watered down to gurgling sounds for speech and the cheesy visuals would have you believe that the giant ape can change sizes from 10 feet tall to whatever size the film wants to make the monster for the next shot. Grade: D

MILLER'S CROSSING (director/writer: Joel Coen; screenwriter: Ethan Coen; cinematographer: Barry Sonnenfeld; editor: Michael Miller; music: Carter Burwell; cast: Gabriel Byrne (Tom Reagan), Albert Finney (Leo), Marcia Gay Harden (Verna), John Turturro (Bernie Bernbaum), Jon Polito (Johnny Caspar), JE Freeman (Eddie Dane), Al Mancini (Tic-Tac), John "Spud" McConnell (Brian, a Cop), Steve Buscemi (Mink), Richard Woods (Mayor Dale Levander); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Ben Barenholtz/Ethan Coen/Graham Place; 20th Century Fox; 1990)

Finney is a middle-aged Irish gangster who, in 1929, controls the city politicians in an unnamed city. He loves Marcia whose brother is Turturro, a wormy and, as they say in the film, Hebe gambler, who double-crosses the Italian mob. He should be rubbed out, but Finney protects him to court favor with Marcia. Byrne is the right-hand man of Finney, who has a soft spot for Marcia (he is also sleeping with her). The Coen brothers make a big joke out of the gangsters' personal ethics. This is hilariously embellished when the Italian mobster (Polito) waxes poetic on how gangsters should be honest. GRADE: B

MISADVENTURES OF MARGARET, THE (director/writer: Brian Skeet; screenwriter: based on the novel by Cathleen Schine "Rameau's Niece"; cinematographer: Romain Winding; editor: Clare Douglas; cast: Parker Posey (Margaret Nathan), Jeremy Northam (Edward Nathan), Craig Chester (Richard Lane), Elizabeth McGovern (Till Turner),Corbin Bernsen (Art Turner), Brooke Shields (Lily), Patrick Bruel (Martin),  Alexis Denisof (Dr. Lipi), Amy Phillips (Sarah); Runtime: 105; TF1; 1998-UK/France) ... Reviewed on 7/30/2001.

A trivial comedy/romantic fluff film, that tries to be quirky through the twists of the Parker Posey character. But she can't carry this bomb. She plays a neurotic writer who goes on her college vacation to Paris, hoping to end her virginity with a Frenchman. The film never goes anywhere, as it seems to be aimlessly stuck with Parker doing a ditsy broad shtick. Her dull Englishman lover in Paris is Jeremy Northam. She marries him and the film picks up after seven years. Northam is too sweet in this role, as adultery becomes part of the screwball comedy. Parker takes a break from her professor-husband to write her 18th-century romantic novel in a French chateau, which is based on a philosopers' diary. Parker returns to Manhattan, engages in dueling conversations with her playwright sister Elizabeth McGovern and the bisexual Brooke Shields. GRADE: C

MIYAMOTO MUSASHI (director/writer: Hiroshi Inagaki; screenwriter: from the play by Hideji Hojo/from the novel by Eiji Yoshikawa/ Tokuhei Wakao; cinematographer: Jun Yasumoto; editor: Robert B. Homel/Hideshi Ohi; music: Ikuma Dan; cast: Toshirô Mifune (Takezo), Kaoru Yachigusa (Otsu), Mitsuko Mito (Oko), Kuroemon Onoe (Priest Takuan), Mariko Okada (Akemi), Rentaro Mikuni (Matahachi), Mitsuko Mito (Matahachi's Mother); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Kazuo Takimura; The Criterion Collection; 1954-Japan-in Jaspanese with English subtitles)

Miyamoto Musashi was the first and most powerful installment in Japanese filmmaker Hiroshi Ingaki's Samurai trilogy. It's based on a long novel by Eiji Yoshikawa. Musashi Miyamoto was followed by Duel at Ichijoji Temple and Duel at Ganyru Island. It's set in 17th century feudal Japan, and combines an adventure story of fighting skills with spiritual training and romance. Toshirô Mifune as Takezo, a crazed warrior with no parents and relatives who despise him for his "lawlessness," is an idler living in the remote farming village of Miyamato when he yearns to join the raging battle taking place between the East and the West forces of Japan in order to gain fame as a great warrior. He talks his friend Matahachi (Mikuni) into teaming with him, even though he is engaged to a sweet girl who lives in the temple and doesn't want him to leave her side. Mifune's warrior character finds himself on the losing side of the civil war. As a result of the bloody battle at Sekigahara, the wounded Matahachi seeks shelter in the home of a widow, Oko (Mito), and her daughter, Akemi (Okada). Matahachi falls for the woman who treated his wounds, Oko, forgetting his betrothal vows to the virtuous Otsu (Yachigusa). Not a bad movie, indeed. GRADE: B-

MODIGLIANI-MONTPARNASSE 19 (director/writer: Jacques Becker; screenwriters: from the book by Georges-Michel Michel/Max Ophüls/Henri Jeanson; cinematographer: Christian Matras; editor: Marguerite Renoir; music: Paul Misraki/Georges Van Parys; cast: Gerard Philipe (Modigliani), Lilli Palmer (Beatrice), Anouk Aimee (Jeanne), Gerard Sety (Sborowsky), Lila Kedrova (Mme. Sborowsky), Lino Ventura (Morel); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ralph Baum; Continental Distributing Inc.; 1958-France/Italy-in French with English subtitles)

A flat biopic of the early 20th-century artist, played with ham-fisted staginess by the lead Philipe. It only redeems itself with a great emotional tragic ending scene to the drunken artist' life. Modi is depicted as a womanizer and drunk who reforms from being a womanizer after he falls in love with Anouk Aimee, but is unable to sell but a few of his paintings to support her. The film is still worth seeing, even though it is so melodramatic. GRADE: B-

MONKEY BUSINESS (director: Howard Hawks; screenwriters: Ben Hecht/I.A.L. Diamond/Charles Lederer/from the story by Harry Segall; cinematographer: Milton Krasner; editor: William B. Murphy; music: Leigh Harline; cast: Cary Grant (Prof. Barnaby Fulton), Ginger Rogers (Edwina Fulton), Charles Coburn (Oliver Oxly), Marilyn Monroe (Lois Laurel), George Winslow (voice of Deep-voiced Boy), Hugh Marlowe (Hank Entwhistle), Henri Letondal (Dr. Siegfried Kitzel), Robert Cornthwaite (Dr. Zoldeck); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sol C. Siegel ; 20th Century-Fox; 1952)

This screwball comedy didn't make me laugh as much as it should have. I didn't find Ginger funny as the suburban wife of the scientific researcher, Cary, who invents a youth elixir. His boss Coburn drools over the elixir when he is not drooling over his secretary, Marilyn. She was not hired for her typing ability. The inventor of the formula turns out to be the monkey used in the experiment. I'll take the Marx Brothers when it comes to Monkey Business. They had better chemistry.

MONKEY ON MY BACK (director: André De Toth; screenwriter: Paul Dudley/ Anthony Veiller; cinematographer: Maury Gertsman; cast: Cameron Mitchell (Barney Ross), Dianne Foster (Cathy), Jack Albertson (Sam Pian), Lisa Golm (Barney's mother), Paul Richards (Rico); 1957)

The dreary true story of Barney Ross, the Chicagoite, WW11 marine hero and lightweight champion of the world, who became addicted to morphine when he got treated for malaria in Guadalcanal. Thin biopic, featuring a mildly diverting romance with a good woman (Dianne Foster). She stays married to him despite his gambling habit and later his drug habit. The story is told in flashback when Barney voluntarily enters the veteran's hospital to go through its withdrawal treatment to kick the habit. The best scene was the boxing sequence with Henry Armstrong, where Barney fights his last fight and loses the championship as he gets pummeled but does not get knocked down. GRADE: C-

MR. SARDONICUS (director/producer: William Castle; screenwriter: Ray Russell; cinematographer: Burnett Guffey; editor:  Edwin H. Bryant; music: Von Dexter; cast: Oskar Homolka (Krull), Ronald Lewis (Sir Robert Cargrave), Guy Rolfe (Sardonicus), Audrey Dalton (Maude Sardonicus), Vladimir Sokoloff (Father), Erika Peters (Elenka), Lorna Hansen (Anna); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; Columbia Pictures; 1961)

A boring effort, that fails as both a horror or comedy film. The best part of the film is reserved for William Castle's monologue in which he rails against the London fog in 1880 because his matches are too damp and in the prologue, when he has the audience vote thumbs down or up on whether Mr. Sardonicus got off too easy in the film. The story is about a disfigured baron living in Gorslava, Central Europe (whose face became frozen into a hideous rictus after he robbed his father's grave to steal a winning lottery ticket). He goes by the name of  Mr. Sardonicus. His wife, who was tricked into marrying him and now feels in danger, needs the help of the one she previously loved, Sir Robert, who is now a famous London surgeon. It is a twisted tale of the Baron's greed and lack of humanity. GRADE: D

MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (director/producer: Frank Capra; screenwriters: Sidney Buchman/Lewis R. Foster/from the book The Gentleman From Montana by Lewis R. Foster; cinematographer: Joseph Walker; editors: Al Clark/Gene Havlick; music: Dimitri Tiomkin; cast: James Stewart (Jefferson Smith), Claude Rains (Sen. Joseph Paine), Jean Arthur (Clarissa Saunders), Thomas Mitchel (Diz Moore), Guy Kibbee (Gov. Hubert Hopper), Harry Carey (President of the Senate), Edward Arnold (Jim Taylor), Eugene Pallette (Chick McGann), Beulah Bondi (Ma Smith), Astrid Allwyn (Susan Paine); Runtime: 130; MPAA Rating: NR; Columbia Pictures; 1939)

Capra's corny receipe for handling Washington's corruption. A breezy, quick-paced and entertaining film, featuring Stewart as the idealistic senator who will fight for America's values. GRADE: B-

MRS. BROWN (director: John Madden; screenwriter: Jeremy Brock; cinematographer: Richard Greatrex; editor: Robin Slaes; music: Stephen Warbeck; cast: Judi Dench (Queen Victoria), Billy Connolly (John Brown), Geoffrey Palmer (Henry Ponsonby), Antony Sher (Disraeli), Gerald Butler 11 (Archie Brown), Richard Pasco (Doctor Jenner), David Westhead (Prince of Wales ("Bertie"), Bridget McConnel (Lady Ely), Georgie Glen (Lady Churchill); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Sarah Curtis; Miramax; 1997-UK)

A Masterpiece Theater type production, meticulously done as a Victorian history period piece. It is highlighted by the brilliant performances by Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Billy Connolly as John Brown, her Scottish manservant. Antony Sher in a supporting role, as the politically adroit Prime Minister Disraeli, is also excellent. The queen's beloved husband Albert is dead and the grieving queen retreats from public view to mourn the loss. John Brown is called down from Balmoral to become her loyal and very special servant, guardian, and trusted friend. He refuses to be a yes man for her. The queen is dubbed as Mrs. Brown by the gossips. Meanwhile, the country is questioning the need for a monarchy. GRADE: C+

MURDER CALL (TV) (director: Hal McElroy; screenwriter: Andrew Kelly/story by Jennifer Rowe; cinematographer: Jeff Malouf; editor: Jo Horsburgh; cast: Lucy Bell (Detective Tessa Vance), Peter Mochrie (Detective Steve Hayden), Gary Day (Detective Inspector Malcolm Thorne ), Barry Otto (Otis Farrow), Malcolm Kennard (Marty); Runtime: 90; Southern Star; 1997-Australia) ... Reviewed on 1/17/2001.

A well-played mystery story about a serial killer. Detective Tessa Vance is a vulnerable single woman homicide detective who uses her intuition to track down the killer. The first and last murders are colorful, as they take place in an amusement park and the victim is dressed in an alien costume. It was difficult to guess who the killer was, as not enough info was given and the film tried to throw you off by making the obvious choice not be the killer. GRADE: C+

MURDER IS MY BEAT (director: Edgar Ulmer; screenwriters: story by Martin Field/Aubrey Wisberg; cinematographer: Harold E. Wellman; editor: Fred R. Feitshans Jr.; music: Albert Glasser; cast: Paul Langton (Ray Patrick), Barbara Payton (Eden Lane), Robert Shayne (Bert Rawley), Roy Gordon (Abbott), Tracey Roberts (Patsy Flint), Selena Royle (Mrs. Abbott); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Aubrey Wisberg; Warner Bros.; 1955)

Homicide detective Patrick (Langton) is assigned to the brutal murder of Frank Deane. By use of flashback, we know that Langton is in trouble. His superior officer (Shayne) confronts him in the opening scene, asking why a straight cop like him would do it. Deane's beautiful girlfriend (Payton) is arrested for the murder. Ulmer weaves a noir environment of chaos and unsettling mis-en-scenes, using Payton's convincing performance as femme fatale, and Langton's uncertainty of her guilt to bring a tense air to the screen. GRADE: B+

MURDER MAN, THE (director/writer: Tim Whelan; screenplay: from story by Guy Bolton & Tim Whelan/John C. Higgins; cinematographer: Lester White; cast: Spencer Tracy (Steve Grey), Virginia Bruce (Mary Shannon), Lucien Littlefield (Rafferty), Lionel Atwill (Capt. Cole), Robert H. Barrat Robins), James Stewart (Shorty), Jeanie Roberts (Mabel),  Harvey Stephens (Henry Mander), Theodore Von Eltz (James Spencer Halford), William Collier, Sr. (Pop Grey), Fuzzy Knight (Buck Hawkins, the Reporter), John Sheehan (Maxie Sweeney, the Detective),  William Demarest (Red Maquire); Runtime: 70; MGM; 1935)

Tracy plays a New York City homicide beat newspaper reporter who has a drinking problem. There is a bit of romance going on between him and the attractive gossip reporter Virginia Bruce. Tracy is asked by his editor Barrat to track down the story of a crooked financier (Von Eltz), who was shot dead in his limo. The evidence leads to his crooked partner Stephens killing him for the insurance policy worth $200,000, as Tracy shows the police captain, Atwill, how to solve the crime. Tracy's ex-wife was swindled out of her money by these crooked investors and committed suicide when Von Eltz spurned her.There's a surprise ending, just as Stephens is about to be given the electric chair, as Tracy discloses some new info on the case. This is a lively little melodrama. It was Tracy's first film for MGM, a studio he was to be with for twenty more years. It marks the film debut of Jimmy Stewart, in an inconsequential part, as a cub reporter named Shorty. GRADE: C+

MURIEL (director: Alain Resnais; screenwriter: Jean Cayrol/based on the story by Cayrol; cinematographer: Sacha Vierny; editors: Kenout Petier/Eric Pluet; music: Hans Werner Henze; cast: Delphine Seyrig (Helene), Jean-Pierre Kerien (Alphonse), Nita Klein (Francoise), Jean Baptiste Thierre (Bernard), Claude Sainval (de Smoke), Laurence Badie (Claudie), Jean Champion (Ernest), Martine Vatel (Marie-Dominique); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Anatole Dauman; Lopert; 1963-France-in French with English subtitles) ... Reviewed on 1/15/2001.

A film that needs more than one viewing to decifer all its mysteries. This is French New Wave director Alain Resnais' third film after Hiroshima Mon Amor & Last Year At Marienbad. Its theme follows in Resnais' long-standing preoccupation with the vagaries of memory. Seyrig is a fortyish widow, who invites an old lover to visit her and her troubled stepson (Thierre) in her Boulogne (a city in the provinces) apartment. The fiftysomething Jean-Pierre Kerien arrives with his mistress, the 20-year-old Nita Klein, whom he passes off as his niece. Seyrig tries to rekindle her trite life by memories of her first love, to someone who has turned out to be an aging Romeo with white hair. Thierre has just returned from the service in the Algerian war and watches clips of newsreels which remind him of an Arab girl called Muriel, someone he tortured and killed, whose suffering he now identifies with. Its surrealistic style, plus Resnais' use of bleached colors and his subtle mood changes enhanced by his camerawork, make this intellectual film a playful tease on one's sensibilities. Grade: A

MUSIC FROM ANOTHER ROOM (director/writer: Charlie Peters; cinematographer: Richard Crudo; editor: Carroll Timothy O'Meara; music: Richard Gibbs; cast: Jude Law (Danny), Gretchen Mol (Anna Swan), Jennifer Tilly (Nina), Brenda Blethyn (Grace Swan), Bruce Jarchow (Richard), Martha Plimpton (Karen), Jeremy Piven (Billie), Vincent Laresca (Jesus); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: John Bertolli/Brad Krevoy/Steven Stabler/Bradley Thomas; MGM/United Artists; 1998)

This romantic comedy is awful. No. It's worst than that, it's revolting. Everything about it is a contrivance, the scenes are all unnatural, the acting is abominable, and the dialogue is painful. It's a predictable sitcom situation of the underdog chasing the girl he has no chance of landing, and can guess how it'll all turn out. The film opens as the five year old Jude Law helps his army doctor father deliver a baby in an emergency situation. The film then skips to 25 years later and Jude meets the same girl, the very attractive but cold Gretchen Mol, and professes to her he always loved her and knew he would marry her. The problem is that she is engaged to the perfect man. The sickest joke is to watch Jennifer Tilley act as someone who is blind. GRADE: D

MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING (director: P.J. Hogan; screenwriter: Ronald Bass; cinematographer: Laszlo Kovacs; editors: Garth Craven/Lisa Fruchtman; music: James Newton Howard; cast: Julia Roberts (Julianne Potter), Cameron Diaz (Kimmy Wallace), Rupert Everett (George Downes), Dermot Mulroney (Michael O'Neal), Rachel Griffiths (Samantha Newhouse); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Ronald Bass/Jerry Zucker; TriStar; 1997)

A romantic comedy. Julia and Dermot, former lovers, make a pact that if they are not married by the time they are 28, they will marry each other; but, now Dermot wants to marry Cameron. Julia plots to sabotage their wedding. A zany picture, in the mold of those Cary Grant screwball comedies. It uses the motto 'everything is fair in love and war,'  to draw a moral line in the sand. Rupert, as Julia's gay friend, steals the film. GRADE: B-

MY LIFE AND TIMES LIVING WITH ANTONIN ARTAUD (director/writer: Gerard Mordillat; screenwriter: Jerome Prieur; cinematographer: Francois Catonne; editor: Sophie Rouffio; music: Jean-Claude Petit; cast: Marc Barbe (Jacques Prevel), Sami Frey (Antonin Artaud), Julie Jezequel (Jany Prevel), Valerie Jeannet (Rolande); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Denis Freyd; Leisure Time Features; 1994-France-in French with English subtitles)

Brilliant star performances by Frey as the celibrated mad poet Artaud and by Barbe as the young unknown poet Jacque Prevel, the drug supplier for Artaud. The poet has just been released after being nine-years in an asylum, in post-WW 11 Paris. This film captures the bohemian mood and energy of that era. The story revolves around Prevel's adoration of the older poet and his wish to get the poet's blessing for his own work to move forward. He juggles his complicated life among his straight wife, junkie girlfriend, the sarcastically bitter and almost insane Artaud, and the Parisian art and drug community. This biopic covers the last two years of Artaud's life. GRADE: B 

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"