Dennis Schwartz'
Short Reviews 
'N'  23

 



NADA (director/writer: Claude Chabrol; screenwriters: from the book by Jean-Patrick Manchette/Mr. Manchette/Antonietta Malzieri; cinematographer: Jean Rabier; editor: Jacques Gaillard; music: Pierre Jansen; cast: Fabio Testi (Diaz), Maurice Garrel (Epaulard), Michel Duchaussoy (Marcel Treuffais), Michel Aumont (Goemond), André Falcon (Minister), Lyle Joyce (Richard Poindexter), Katia Romanoff (Anna), Didier Kaminka (Meyer); Runtime: 128; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: André Genovès; New Line Cinema; 1974-France-in French with English subtitles)

Nada was based on a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette. Claude Chabrol directs a chilling political thriller without taking a stand, which makes sense and does justice to the narrative. It's a blunt and unvarnished look at a leftist international terrorist activist group operating in Paris. They are named Nada in memory of the Spanish anarchists who kidnapped the American ambassador at a high-class Paris brothel to hold him for ransom and in the aftermath they kill a policeman, as they subsequently flee with their victim to a secluded country farmhouse. The film focuses back-and-forth between the ruthless police investigation and the terrorists mapping out their strategy, as it characterizes the intrigues that each group goes through. It is not a flattering look at either side, but it does successfully probe the mental anguish that both sides go through. Though right is on the side of the authorities, they are eventually shown as less concerned with human life than the terrorists they are hunting down. Their sadistic way of questioning witnesses and their insensitive attack on the hideout where they kill everyone, including the ambassador, leaves one sympathizing with neither side. In Chabrol's scenario, the Nada group consisting of malcontents and veteran fighters for the cause, can be looked upon more favorably despite all their drawbacks--at least they are against government corruption and are purer in their ideals. By this relentless comparison of the two extreme political positions of the right and the left, Chabrol manages to poke holes in both the status quo and the idea of revolution in his unblinking non-partisan auteur style. GRADE: B



NADJA (director/writer: Michael Almereyda; cinematographer: Jim DeNault; editor: David Leonard; music: Simon Fisher Turner; cast: Elina Lowensohn (Nadja), Peter Fonda (Dr. Van Helsing/Dracula), Suzy Amis (Cassandra, Nurse), Galaxy Craze (Lucy), Martin Donovan (Jim), David Lynch (Morgue Attendant), Karl Geary (Renfield), Jared Harris (Edgar); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Mary Sweeney/Amy Hobby; October Films; 1994)

Can anyone tell me how many Dracula flicks there are? This one has the vampires hanging stylishly out around NYC. A toy pixelvision camera was used to shoot this video in lustrous b/w and then it was transferred to 35-millimeter. The technical visual accomplishments are great for this slickly done horror tale. Elina plays the count Dracula's daughter with a Rumanian accent and sly skillfulness. Fonda hams it up as the mad uncle of Donovan. He kills Dracula off before the first reel is starting to crank up. But don't fret you thirsty bloodsuckers, he is now after Nadja and her twin brother. Nadja is after Craze, who happens to be Donovan's wife. There was some humor to be located in some of the more whacky lines, but the story wasn't told as clearly and cleverly as it could have been. I believe the outstanding visualizations took away from the impact of telling the story. This is one of the lines I loved. Nadja is asked "Is the Black Sea really black"? She answers, "No, it is blue." That sums up this flick. GRADE: C


NAKED CITY, THE (director: Jules Dassin; screenwriters: Albert Maltz/Malvin Wald/based the story by Malvin Wald; cinematographer: William H. Daniels; editor: Paul Weatherwax; music: Frank Skinner/Miklos Rozsa; cast: Barry Fitzgerald (Detective Lt. Dan Muldoon), Howard Duff (Frank Niles), Dorothy Hart (Ruth Morrison), Don Taylor (Jimmy Halloran), Ted de Corsia (Willie Garzah), Frank Conroy (Capt. Donahue), Mark Hellinger (Narrator); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Mark Hellinger; Universal; 1948)

Detectives investigate the murder of a beautiful young woman. This film takes you through the routine of tracking down of the 2 killers and chasing them through the tenements of NYC. The shadowy city gives this film a scary look and de Corsia, as the frenzied killer, adds an element of suspense to this rather drab story.
GRADE: B-



NAKED JUNGLE, THE (director: Byron Haskin; screenwriters: Philip Yordan/Ranald MacDougall/Ben Maddow/story by Carl Stephenson; cinematographer: Ernest Laszlo; editor: Everett Douglas; music: Daniele Amfitheatrof; cast: Eleanor Parker (Joanna Leiningen), Charlton Heston (Christopher Leiningen), William Conrad (Commissioner), Abraham Sofaer (Incacha), Norma Calderon (Zala), John Dierkes (Gruber), Douglas Fowley (Medicine Man); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: George Pal; Paramount; 1954)

In the early 1900's on Heston's South American plantation, he battles with red ants and the loveless marriage he has with the gorgeous Parker. It is a wonderful film, as we look at his plush and enfeebling life-style and see how it overwhelms the participants into an almost powerless position. GRADE: B



NAKED LUNCH (director/writer: David Cronenberg; screenwriter: from the book by William S. Burroughs; cinematographer: Peter Suschitzky; editor: Ronald Sanders; music: Howard Shore; cast: Peter Weller (William Lee), Judy Davis (Joan Frost/Joan Lee), Ian Holm (Tom Frost), Julian Sands (Yves Cloquet), Roy Scheider (Dr. Benway), Nicholas Campbell (Hank) and Michael Zelniker (Martin); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Jeremy Thomas; The Criterion Collection; 1991-UK/Can.)

A William Burrough's novel put to film, depicting his junkie habits and intellectual wit, in this free-wheeling movie version of a cockroach exterminator's delve into drugs and different mental zones. A very graphic and nightmarish tale of demons and of a missing wife, and the aspirations of a man caught in a world that can hardly be described in rational terms. It makes for an excellent cultish film, one that will probably not please the squeamish but will provide stimulation for those with a healthy imagination. GRADE: B+



NANCY GOES TO RIO (director: Robert Z. Leonard; screenwriters: story by Jane Hall/Ralph Block/Frederick Kohner/Sidney Sheldon; cinematographer: Ray June; editor: Adrienne Fazan; music: George Stoll; cast: Ann Sothern (Frances Elliott), Jane Powell (Nancy Barklay), Louis Calhern (Gregory Elliott), Barry Sullivan (Paul Benton), Carmen Miranda (Marina Rodriguez); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joe Pasternak; MGM; 1950)

Not as witty or well-acted as Deanna Durban's It's A Date. It's about a mother and daughter unwittingly pursuing the same man. Everything about this film feels forced. But, then again, who could completely resist a picture with Carmen Miranda having a bowl of fruit on top of her head ? GRADE: C



NANNY, THE (director: Seth Holt; screenwriter: Jimmy Sangster/from the book by Evelyn Piper; cinematographer: Harry Waxman; editor: James Needs; music: Richard Rodney Bennett; cast: Bette Davis (The Nanny), Wendy Craig (Virgie Fane), Jill Bennett (Aunt Pen), James Villiers (Bill Fane), William Dix (Joey Fane), Pamela Franklin (Bobbie), Jack Watling (Dr. Medman); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jimmy Sangster; 20th Century Fox; 1965-UK)

A dead young girl is discovered in the neurotic family where the nanny (Bette) works and the 10-year-old brother, Joey (Dix), is thought to be the one who drowned her. It is his word against hers in this all too obvious psycho drama, satisfying only because you get to watch Bette put on some heavy emoting to get the pot boiling. GRADE: C+



NANOOK OF THE NORTH (director/writer/cinematographer/editor/producer: Robert Flaherty; editor: Charles Gelb; music: Stanley Silverman; cast: Nanook (The Bear), Nyla (Smiling One), Cunayou, Alle, Allegoo; Runtime: 65; MPAA Rating: NR; The Criterion Collection; 1922-silent)

How does an Eskimo survive in the Far North? This engrossing artistic documentary follows a great hunter Nanook and his family, as we see them ice fish, hunt walrus, seal, and fox, and build an igloo. Strangely, Nanook starved to death shortly after the film's release -- a victim of the forces of nature. GRADE: B



NATURE OF THE BEAST, THE (director/writer: Victor Salva; cinematographer: Levie Isaacks; editor: W. PeterMiller; music: Bennett Salvay; cast: Lance Henriksen (Jack Powell), Eric Roberts (Adrian), Brion James (Sheriff Gordon), Sasha Jenson (Gerald), Ana Gabriel (Dahlia), Eliza Roberts (Patsy); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Daniel Grodnik/Robert Snukal/John Tarnoff; New Line Home Video; 1995)

There is a serial killer on the loose, who the police dub 'The Hatchet Man.' Two misfits get together while on the road -- one of them has robbed a Las Vegas casino of over a million dollars, the other is the killer. This makes for an uninteresting story, though the actors are quite competent. There are no insights as to what motivates these deviants to do what they do; the only suspense comes with a surprise ending. GRADE: C



NEIGHBOR, THE (director: Rodney Gibbons; screenwriter: Kurt Wimmer; cinematographer: Ludek Bogner; editor: Robert Newton; music: Milan Kymlicka; cast: Rod Steiger (Myron Hatch), Linda Kozlowski (Mary Westhill), Ron Lea (John Westhill), Bruce Boa (Mr. Bishop), Jane Wheeler (Dr. Wayburn); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tom Berry/Stefan Wodoslawsky; Ascot Video; 1993-Canada/USA)

This middling chiller takes place in Burlington, Vermont, with Steiger providing all the creepiness as the crazed baby doctor. He's a neighbor of the pregnant Linda and her husband Ron. They have just moved to this rural area from the city. You could see the ending coming right from the the beginning, but this minor flick gave it the old college try and did come up with some good atmospheric scenarios. GRADE: C+



NICO-ICON  (director: Susan Offeringer; cast: Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, Viva, Nico; 1995)

A documentary related in style to the slick world of Warhol's pop culture as the film traces the flawed life of a beautiful German model, turned actress and singer. She is described by her friends as: a heroin junkie, possessed with no inner life, ashamed of her beauty, very active sexually, of a volatile nature, difficult to speak to, and someone who feels she has to create in order to exist. She romanced Jim Morrison and had a love child with the French actor, Alain Delon. She died of a brain hemorrhage in 1988. Not a bad watch for those who like the music of The Velvet Underground, a group she sang with in the '60s. GRADE: C+



NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, THE (director: Charles Laughton; screenwriter: James Agee/story by Davis Grubb; cinematographer: Stanley Cortez; editor: Robert Golden; music: Walter Schumann; cast: Robert Mitchum (Preacher Harry Powell), Lillian Gish (Rachel Cooper), Shelley Winters (Willa Harper), James Gleason (Birdie Steptoe), Evelyn Varden (Icey Spoon), Peter Graves (Ben Harper), Billy Chapin (John Harper), Sally Jane Bruce (Pearl Harper), Gloria Castillo (Ruby), Don Beddoe (Walt Spoon); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Paul Gregory; United Artists; 1955)

How can one forget Mitchum's memorable scene as the weird preacher, displaying "love" and "hate" tattooed on his knuckles! A picture of biblical proportions, about the struggle of good and evil. The evil Mitchum tries to crush the innocent children of the women he seeks to marry. Laughton has created an eerie picture, that is masterfully done. Agee's script is tight. The film couldn't be better. GRADE: A+



NIGHT OF THE IGUANA, THE (director/writer: John Huston; screenwriters: from a play by Tennessee Williams/Anthony Veiller; cinematographer: Gabriel Figueroa; editor: Ralph Kemplen; music: Ben Frankel; cast: Richard Burton (Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon), Ava Gardner (Maxine Faulk), Deborah Kerr (Hanna Jelkes), Sue Lyon (Charlotte Goodall), James Ward (Hank Prosner), Grayson Hall (Judith Fellowes), Cyril Delevanti (Nonno, Poet Grandfather); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Raymond Stark; Seven Arts; 1964)

Burton, Huston, and Tennessee Williams at their best. Burton is the defrocked clergyman escorting a bus full of lady teachers across Mexico. Questions of faith, purpose in life, and duty are answered by Burton's acerbic performance and Ava's seen-it-all portrayal. GRADE: B



NIGHT STALKER, THE (director: John Llewellyn Moxey; screenwriter: Richard Matheson/from a novel by Jeff Rice; cinematographer: Michel Hugo; editor: Desmond Marquette; music: Robert Cobert; cast: Darren McGavin (Carl Kolchak), Carol Lynley (Gail Foster), Simon Oakland (Tony Vincenzo), Ralph Meeker (Bernie Jenks), Claude Akins (Sheriff Warren Butcher), Barry Atwater (Janos Skorzeny); Runtime: 74; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Dan Curtis; Anchor Bay Entertainment; 1972)

A murdered lady in the desert and no footprints. Often fired reporter (Darren) asks the sheriff (Akins), "is it possible"? Akins responds, "if it happened, it's possible." A pattern of bizarre murders ensue, where Las Vegas women have the blood sucked out of them. This film is part detective yarn and vampire story, and part social satire. It works well on all those levels but regretably, it is shot in the laconic style of a TV program. GRADE: B-



NIKLASHAUSER FAHRT, DIE (director/writer: Rainer Werner Fassbinder; screenwriter: Michael Fengler; cinematographer: Dietrich Lohmann; cast: Michael König (Hans Boehm), Hanna Schygulla (Johanna), Margit Carstensen (Magarethe), Michael Gordon (Antonio), Günther Kaufmann (Leader of the farmers), Kurt Raab (Bishop), Franz Maron (Magarethe's husband), Walter Sedlmayr (Pastor), Ingrid Caven (Screaming Girl); 1970-Ger.)

A shrill revolutionary film from the German filmmaker Fassbinder that asks the question, "Can a small group of people start a proletarian revolution?" The answer turns out to be, yes. Michael König is a simple shepherd who believes he is conversing with the Mother of God. He talks out openly against church abuses and with three of his friends egging him on, he moves into an unhappy rich lady's (Margit) house and ferments the revolution. Hanna Schygulla is the reincarnated version of the Virgin, who pines for König. A very boring and strident film, using a list of obvious cliches against the bourgeois society and fascist police. GRADE: C.



NIL BY MOUTH (director/writer/producer: Gary Oldman; cinematographer: Ron Fortunato; editor: Brad Fuller; music: Eric Clapton; cast: Ray Winstone (Raymond), Kathy Burke (Valerie), Charlie Creed-Miles (Billy), Laila Morse (Janet), Edna Dore (Kath), Chrissie Cotterill (Paula), Jon Morrison (Angus), Jamie Forman (Mark), Steve Sweeney (Danny); Runtime: 128; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Luc Besson/Douglas Urbanski; Sony Picture Classics; 1997-UK)

The southeast section of London is the setting for this grim family portrait, showing a realistic slice of lower-class life: as violence, drugs, petty crime, excessive drinking, and wife beating tie this story together. It is told in a matter-of-fact style, with no moralizing or pulling of punches.The only problem is, as good as the acting is, it is tough to spend two hours with these people and not feel maudlin. One of the most poignant shots is when the four generations of women are huddled together in fear, as the wife-beating husband (Winstone) tries to see the wife (Burke) he has just smacked around. There is an inner strength these women have that is precious. The title comes from a hospital warning not to give the patient food. GRADE: C+



NO FEAR, NO DIE (director/writer: Claire Denis; screenwriter: Jean-Pol Fargeau; cinematographer: Pascal Marti; editor: Dominique Auvray; music: Abdullah Ibrahim; cast: Isaach de Bankole (Dah), Alex Descas (Jocelyn), Jean-Claude Brialy (Pierre Ardennes), Solveig Dommartin (Toni), Christopher Buchholz (Michel); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Francis Boespflug/Philippe Carcassonne; Kino International; 1990-France-in French with English subtitles)

An unseemly and muddled film about cockfighting in the suburbs of Paris. A sleazy bar owner recruits 2 Africans to run the cockfights. I found the film to be particularly unpleasant but had some salient points to make about aggression among fighting cocks and human males. GRADE: B-



NO WAY HOME (director/writer: Buddy Giovinazzo; cinematographer: Claudia Raschke; editor: Stan Warnow; music: Rick Giovinazzo; cast: Tim Roth (Joey Larabito), Deborah Kara Unger (Lorraine), James Russo (Tommy Larabito), Saul Stein (Brick), Joe Ragno (Ralphie), Catherine Kellner (Denise); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Lisa Bruce/Robert Nickson; Norstar Entertainment; 1996)

Mentally deficient Roth comes out of prison with a scarred back and a grim look, but relieved to be released after serving 6 years for a murder his brother (Russo) did, promising himself that he will never return to prison. He finds out for the first time that his brother is married when he goes back to his dead mother's house in Staten Island and the attractive Unger answers the door. Roth and Unger give outstanding performances revealing their inner emotions and sense of hopelessness in their choice of lifestyles, and in their relations with the low-lifes they come into contact with. They begin to connect with each other in a non-romantic way after a slow, suspicious start. But the film chooses to move in the direction of a cleansing blood bath to make its point, rather than further developing the character study it so successfully relied on for most of the story. Often not a pleasant movie to watch, but captivating in the sense that it credibly conveys the wants and passions of some of these downtrodden neighborhood types. GRADE: C+



NORTH BY NORTHWEST (director/writer: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriter: Ernest Lehman; cinematographer: Robert Burks; editor: George Tomasini; music: Bernard Herrmann; cast: Cary Grant (Roger O. Thornhill), Eva Marie Saint (Eve Kendall), James Mason (Phillip Vandamm), Leo G Carroll (The Professor), Martin Landau (Leonard), Jessie Royce Landis (Clara Thornhill), Philip Ober (Lester Townsend); Runtime: 136; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Alfred Hitchcock; MGM; 1959)

A nightmarish thriller, that could be about whatever you want it to mean, as Cary is abducted and escapes and is hounded for reasons he does not comprehend. He represents 'Everyman.' Ultimately, this film is about America, as the final sequence climaxes at Mount Rushmore. One of Hitch's great films. GRADE: A



NOT AS A STRANGER (director/producer: Stanley Kramer; screenwriters: from the bok by Morton C. Thompson/Edna Anhalt/Edward Anhalt; cinematographer: Franz Planer; editor: Frederic Knudtson; music: George Antheil; cast: Robert Mitchum (Lucas Marsh), Olivia de Havilland (Kristina Hedvigson), Charles Bickford (Dr. Runkleman), Frank Sinatra (Alfred Boone), Broderick Crawford (Dr. Aarons, Medical Professor), Lee Marvin (Brundage), Henry Morgan (Oley), Gloria Graham (Harriet Lang), Lon Chaney Jr. (Job Marsh, Lucas' Father); Runtime: 135; MPAA Rating: NR; United Artists; 1955)

A great cast, but placed in the wrong type of picture for their skills to shine. Do you for a minute believe Sinatra, Marvin, and Mitchum are doctors? Bickford is the only one who is properly cast as a doctor in this soap opera story of doctor problems and their need for money, and their dedication to a very serious profession. Mitchum is the one who marries, not out of love but so his wife can support him through medical school. This is Kramer's first picture as a director. It could have been worse. GRADE: C



NOWHERE (director/writer/editor/producer: Gregg Araki; cinematographer: Arturo Smith; cast: James Duval (Dark Smith), Rachel True (Mel), Nathan Bexton (Montgomery), Chiara Mastroianni (Kriss), Debi Mazar (Kozy), Kathleen Robertson (Lucifer), Sarah Lassez (Egg ), Christina Applegate (Dingbat), Ryan Phillippe (Shad), Guillermo Diaz (Cowboy), Jeremy Jordan (Bart), John Ritter (Evangelist); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Andrea Sperling/Why Not Productions; Fine Line Features; 1997)

Homosexual director Araki finds his way through L.A.'s dopey doped-up mod teen scene, in a film that is so vile yet at times so very funny. It features brainless dialogue sort of Valley style, 'I guess, whatev... ' as the hero of the film, a bi-sexual character named Dark, whines about losing his promiscuous black girlfriend, Mel, to another girl, Lucifer, and to many other men. If I were offered a chance to see this film again, I would just skip the whole deal and go outside and play some "kick- the-can." GRADE: D



NOWHERE FAST (director/writer: Cinque Lee; cinematographer: Leslie H. Saltus; editor: Pierce Geherty; cast: Darnell Martin (Darnell), Addison Cook (Addison), Gloria Park (Gloria), Iman Albrino (Iman), Ari Mayzick (Ari); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Daphne McWilliams; Child Hoods Release; 1996)

An urban drama written and directed by Cinque Lee (Spike's brother). The entire story takes place on a hot summer Friday afternoon in Brooklyn, as nineteen disparate repulsive characters keep bumping into each other. It's a character-driven film, as some kind of story is woven out of their chance meetings. The characters range in types from: junkies, prostitutes, fences, car thieves, a rookie misfit magician, troubled school children, a pessimistic researcher about the human race's date of extinction, some derelict mothers, and a mental patient (the funniest and nicest one in the film). They are unpleasantly funny as these losers struggle to survive, be rip-off artists, and some even resort to murder. Each is touched in a different way by street violence and urban heartbreak and their own inadequacies. A woman named Darnell and her druggie husband Addison are late to pick up her son -- from a previous relationship -- at school. What happens next goes for the film's plot. Addison goes nutsy, Darnell's car gets stolen, the car thief finds a bag of dope in the car, Darnell's child Ari is picked up at school by his mentally challenged father (Cinque Lee) who has escaped from his controlled residence, the friend of Ari's mother is being wooed again by her former lesbian pimp, Addison has been accidentally snatched by a car jacker and all the characters get involved in a search for something or other--from medication for the mental patient to the mother for her missing child. It is not really a good film, it lacks drama and coherence, but it was sadly funny and street-savvy in a gritty way. The film was shot by Cinque in 10 days with a nonprofessional cast of his friends, and the amateurism and superficiality clearly show. I doubt if this slice of life indie cost more than a pittance to make, and it shows. GRADE: C



NUTTY PROFESSOR, THE (director/writer/producer: Jerry Lewis; screenwriter: Bill Richmond; cinematographer: W. Wallace Kelley; editor: John M. Woodcock; music: Walter Scharf; cast: Jerry Lewis (Professor Julius Kelp/Buddy Love), Stella Stevens (Stella Purdy), Del Moore (Dr. Hamius R. Warfield), Kathleen Freeman (Millie Lemmon), Howard Morris (Mr. Kelp), Elvia Allman (Mother Kelp),  Les Brown (Himself), Med Flory (Football Player), Norman Alden (Football Player), Skip Ward (Football Player), Milton Frome (Dr. Levey),  Buddy Lester (Bartender), Marvin Kaplan (Man at Nightclub), David Landfield (College Student), Julie Parrish (College Student); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ernest D. Glucksman; Paramount; 1963)

So you think 50 million Frenchmen can't be wrong about Jerry Lewis! If this one is considered Jerry's best film- I'd hate to see the others the French liked. It consists of vulgar, childish, stupid, obnoxious, and hard-to-sit through sight gags. Jerry goes through a Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation from a meek chemistry professor to a self-indulgent lounge lizard (not unlike the womanizing Dean Martin), after drinking a chemical potion. The result is not funny and not interesting. Stella is Jerry's love interest. Oh, by the way, she's a college student whose in love with both Jerrys. Ugh! GRADE: D



Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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