Dennis Schwartz'
Short Reviews 
'Numbers #'  28


8 HEADS IN A DUFFEL BAG (director/writer: Tom Schulman; cinematographer: Adam Holender; editor: David Holden; music: Andrew Gross; cast: Joe Pesci (Tommy Spinelli), Andy Comeau (Charlie Pritchett), Kristy Swanson (Laurie Bennett), Todd Louiso (Steve), David Spade (Ernie Lipscomb), George Hamilton (Dick Bennett), Dyan Cannon (Annette Bennett), Howar George (Big Sep); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Brad Krevoy/Steve Stabler/John Bertolli; Orion Pictures; 1997-USA/UK)

Mobster (Pesci) loses the bag containing a rival gang's heads at the airport. Pesci, by this time in his career, has the hit man part down pat. But there is nothing more to see here, except how not to direct; the jokes are lame and the plot is filled with inconsistencies. GRADE: D

4TH FLOOR, THE (director/writer: Josh Klausner; cinematographer: Michael Slovis; editor: Tricia Cooke; cast: Juliette Lewis (Jane Emelin), William Hurt (Greg Harrison), Austin Pendleton (Collins), Shelley Duvall (Martha Stewart), Tobin Bell (Locksmith), Artie Lange (Jerry), Robert Costanzo (Exterminator); Runtime: 90; Millenium Films; 1999) ... Reviewed 9/5/2001.

A formulaic scare flick that had been done before and done with more spirit (Polanski's The Tenant). This one seemed as if it was done by the numbers, bringing out all the expected cliché chills to scare interior designer, single-girl, Lewis, who inherits her aunt's brownstone East Village rent-controlled apartment.This disappoints local TV weatherman Hurt, who bought a new house in Westchester expecting them to live together. Everything seemed contrived: from all the weird tenants, to all the attempts to scare the hell out of Lewis. The plot is about Lewis receiving threatening notes from the never-seen tenant on the fourth floor below her regarding the noise she is making, followed by a list of rules about how and at what times she is permitted to make noise. When she ignores this the tenant turns psycho, placing an explosive in her pipes, greasing the stairwell which causes her to fall, releasing bugs and mice into her apartment and finally trying to kill her. I found nothing in this film worthwhile, as even the tenant's explanation that he's doing this because she invaded his territory just seemed to be an assinine reason. It seemed the thespians were reading their lines off the cue cards and first-time director Klausner was using this one as a learning experience in Film 101. This one plays like a bad TV movie. GRADE: D

40 Guns (director/writer: Sam Fuller; cinematographer: Joseph Biroc; editor: Gene Fowler Jr.;  cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger, Gene Barry, John Ericson; Runtime: 80; 1957)

A great B Western, if that is not a paradox. It is a typically violent Fuller film. The plot has Sullivan and Stanwyck fall in love, even though it is Stanwyck's brother (Ericson) who killed Sullivan's brother (Barry). Sullivan must gun down Ericson, despite Stanwyck. Fuller would have Sullivan go to any length to get his revenge, even kill Stanwyck. It is this kind of raw energy that gives a Fuller film a special flavor. GRADE: B

42ND STREET (director: Lloyd Bacon; screenwriters: from the book by Bradford Ropes/James Seymour/Rian James; cinematographer: Sol Polito; editors: Thomas Pratt/Frank Ware; music: Al Dubin/Harry Warren; cast: Warner Baxter (Julian Marsh), Ruby Keeler (Peggy Sawyer), Bebe Daniels (Dorothy Brock), Dick Powell (Billy Lawler), Guy Kibbee (Abner Dillon), George Brent (Pat Denning), Ginger Rogers (Ann Lowell/Anytime Annie), Una Merkel (Lorraine Fleming); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Darryl F. Zanuck; Warner Brothers; 1933)

Busby Berkeley showstopper and cult favorite movie, about a youngster (Ruby) who takes advantage of the break she gets when she subs for another performer and becomes a star. A colorful spectacle. GRADE: B

47 RONIN, THE (director/editor: Kenji Mizoguchi; screenwriters: Kenichiro Hara/Giken Ida/Yoshikata Yoda/from a play by Seika Mayama; cinematographer: Kôhei Sugiyama; music: Shirô Fukai; cast: Chojuro Kawarazaki (Kuranosuke Oishi), Kanemon Nakamura (Sukeimon Tomimori), Utaemon Ichikawa (Tsunatoyo Tokugawa), Yoshizaburo Arashi Lord Takuminokami Asano), Mieko Takamine (Omino, Isogai's fiancee); Runtime: 225; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Shintarô Shirai; Shochiku Films Ltd.; 1941-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)

47 samurai warriors vow revenge on the men who tricked their leader into suicide. A tale of honor, done as only the Japanese can do this type of a story. An unabashed propaganda film from WW11. GRADE: B

400 BLOWS (director: Francois Truffaut; cast: Jean - Pierre Leaud, Albert Remy, Claire Maurier, Patrick Auffay, Georges Flamant, Guy Decomble;  1959 - Fr)

A dated film about disturbed teens. Yet it is still a worthy attempt to see how a rebellious adolescent reacts to neglect from his parents. At one time, many critics thought of this film as a masterpiece. GRADE: B

1492: CONQUEST OF PARADISE (director/producer: Ridley Scott; screenwriter: Roselyne Bosch; cinematographer: Adrian Biddle; editors: William M. Anderson / Françoise Bonnot; music: Vangelis; cast: Gerald Despardieu (Christopher Columbus), Sigourney Weaver (Isabella of Spain), Armand Assante (Sanchez), Loren Dean (Older Fernando). Ángela Molina (Beatrix), Fernando Rey (Marchena), Frank Langella (Luis de Santangel),  Michael Wincott (De Moxica); Runtime: 142; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Alain Goldman/ Mimi Polk Sotela; Paramount; 1992-France/Spain/UK)

This picture didn't make it with the public. It lacks a good narrative. Yet it is beautifully filmed and is interesting in spots (Columbus's crew doing damage to any future relations with the natives). GRADE: C

1984 (director: Michael Radford; cast: John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanne Hamilton, Cyril Cusack; 1984)

A film that sets the right tone for its ghastly look at the world in 1948, the year Orwell wrote this sci-fi'er. Supposedly the future is bleak, as mind-controlling government officials are constantly monitoring the population. Burton, as the party official, is involved in the duplicitous business of the state. He is cast perfectly. Though grim, it does its job well; that is, if you can take all the negativity in stride. GRADE: B-

1900 (director/writer: Bernardo Bertolucci; screenwriters: Franco Arcalli/Giuseppe Bertolucci; cinematographer: Vittorio Storaro; editor: Enzo Ocone; music: Ennio Morricone; cast: Robert De Niro (Alfredo Berlinghieti, grandson), Gerard Depardieu (Olmo Dalco), Donald Sutherland (Attila), Burt Lancaster (Alfredo Berlinghieri, grandfather), Dominque Sanda (Ada), Sterling Hayden (Leo Dalco); Runtime: 255; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Alberto Grimaldi; Paramount; 1976-It./Fr./Ger.)

An epic film that can be loved or hated. I found it disappointing; it was too long and ambitious, and not endearing enough. It tells the dynastic struggle of two contrary families in 20th-century Italy. It is done in two parts. Its politics and leftists leanings were too smug for my taste. GRADE: C+

1-900 (director: Theo Van Gogh; cast: Ariane Schluter, Ad van Kempen; 1994-Netherlands)

Yes. This director is the great-nephew of Vincent. Phone sex is what's happening here between two lonely professionals, afraid to get together but imaginative and horny enough to do it over the phone. And like good phone sex, this film is kinky and satisfying up to a point; but, it is no substitute for the real thing. GRADE: C+

1776 (director: Peter H. Hunt; screenwriter: Peter Stone/based on the play by Mr. Stone; cinematographer: Harry Stradling Jr.; editor: Florence Williamson; music: Sherman Edwards; cast: William Daniels (John Adams), Howard da Silva (Benjamin Franklin), Ken Howard (Thomas Jefferson), Donald Madden (John Dickinson), Blythe Danner (Martha Jefferson), John Cullum (Edward Rutledge), David Ford (John Hancock); Runtime: 141; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Jack L. Warner; Columbia TriStar Home Video; 1972)

It's a long and boring musical about the American Revolution, adapted from the Broadway stage. GRADE: C-

3RD DEGREE BURN (director: Roger Spottiswoode; screenwriters: Duncan Gibbins/Yale Udoff; cinematographer: Alexander Gruszynski; editor: Garth Craven; music: Charles Gross; cast: Treat Williams (Scott Weston), Virginia Madsen (Anne Scholes), Richard Masur (Clay Reynolds); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Fredda Weiss; HBO; 1989)

A private eye is seduced by the wife of another he was supposed to keep track of, in this failed attempt at a noir film. It could have been worst. GRADE: C

13 RUE MADELEINE (director: Henry Hathaway; screenwriters: Sy Bartlett/John Monks, Jr.; cinematographer: Norbert F. Brodin; editor: Harmon Jones; music: David Buttolph; cast: James Cagney (Bob Sharkey), Annabella (Suzanne de Bouchard), Richard Conte (Bill O'Connell), Frank Latimore (Jeff Lassiter), Walter Abel (Charles Gibson), Karl Malden (Flight Sergeant), Sam Jaffe (Mayor Galimard), Melville Cooper (Pappy Simpson), E.G. Marshall (Emile), Red Buttons (Dispatcher); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Louis de Rochemont; 20th Century Fox; 1947)

Shot in semi-documentary technique, depicting O.S.S. agents trying to locate a Nazi weapon site. A solid effort. GRADE: B

35 UP (director: Michael Apted; 1991-GB)

A continuation of his 28 UP documentary film, as we see how these people get on with their adult lives (not that I really care!). GRADE: C 

39 STEPS, THE (director: Alfred Hitchcock; screenwriters: Charles Bennett/based on the novel by John Buchan; cinematographer: Bernard Knowles; editor: D.N. Twist; music: Louis Levy; cast: Robert Donat (Richard Hannay), Madeleine Carroll (Pamela), Lucie Mannheim (Miss Annabella Smith), Godfrey Tearle (Professor Jordan), Peggy Ashcroft (Crofter's Wife), John Laurie (Crofter); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michael Balcon; Criterion Collection, The; 1935-UK)

One of the great films of all time. This is the only version to see. Donat flees London in pursuit of a spy ring, who leave him with a murdered woman in his flat. While on the run from the police who believe he is the killer he delivers a speech to a social club, even though he has no idea what the subject matter of his lecture is or what the politics of the group is. This film couldn't be better, even if it had 40 steps. GRADE: A

36 HOURS (director: George Seaton; cast: James Garner, Eva Marie Saint,Rod Taylor; 1964)

A splendid idea for a war film, with war-prisoner Garner brainwashed into believing WW2 is over. GRADE: B-

3 GODFATHERS (director/producer: John Ford; screenwriters: from the story by Peter B. Kyne/Laurence Stallings; cinematographer: Winton Hoch ; editor: Jack Murray; music: Richard Hageman; cast: John Wayne (Robert Marmaduke Sangster Hightower), Pedro Armendariz (Pedro Roca Fuerte), Harry Carey Jr. (William Kearney, "The Abilene Kid"), Ward Bond (Perley 'Buck' Sweet), Mae Marsh (Mrs. Perley Sweet), Jane Darwell (Miss Florie), Mildred Natwick (Mother), Guy Kibbee (Judge), Hank Worden; Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Merian C. Cooper; MGM; 1948)

3 bandits adopt a baby in the desert. The film got too sentimental on me (I could care less about the godfathers). GRADE: C

3 MUSKATEERS (director: George Sidney; cast: Lana Turner, Gene Kelly, June Allyson, Van Heflin, Angela Lansbury; 1948)

Lackluster production and performances prevent a natural actioner from happening. The action takes place in France under Louis X111. GRADE: C

3 TEXAS STEERS (director: George Sherman; cast: John Wayne, Ray Corrigan, Max Terhune; 1939)

A funny and almost bearable Three Mesquiteer oater. The villain tries to ruin the circus so he can buy the owner's ranch and build a dam on it. GRADE: C-

300 SPARTANS, THE (director/producer: Rudolph Mate; screenwriters: story by Gian Paolo Callegari & Giovanni D'Eramo/George St. George/ Remigio Del Grosso/Ugo Liberatore; cinematographer: Geoffrey Unsworth; editor: Jerry Webb; music: Manos Hadjidakis; cast: Richard Egan (King Leonidas of Sparta), Ralph Richardson (Themistocles of Athens), Diane Baker (Elias), Kieron Moore (Ephialtes, Greek Traitor), David Farrar (Xerxes, Persian King), Barry Coe (Phylon); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: George St. George; 20th Century Fox; 1962)

The Greeks take on the Persians. The poor Spartans, all 300 of them, are in a bad film. GRADE: C

12 MONKEYS (director: Terry Gilliam; screenwriters: David Peoples/Janet Peoples, inspired by the film La Jetee by Chris Marker; cinematographer: Roger Pratt; editor: Mick Audsley; music: Paul Buckmaster; cast: Bruce Willis (James Cole), Madeleine Stowe (Dr. Kathryn Railly), Brad Pitt (Jeffrey Goines), Christopher Plummer (Dr. Leland Goines), David Morse (Dr. Peters), Jon Seda (Jose); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Charles Roven; Universal Pictures; 1995)

A prisoner is sent back in time to discover the source of a plague that forced people to live underground. The movie is an interesting take-off on Chris Marker's La Jete. GRADE: B

25TH HOUR, THE (director: Henri Verneuil; cast: Anthony Quinn, Virna Lisi, Michael Redgrave; 1967-Fr./It./Yug.)

A pathetic film, depicting Nazi persecution of a Rumanian peasant and his wife. GRADE: D 

28 UP ( director:Michael Apted; 1985-GB)

Sociological documentary about real people Apted interviewed when they were at ages 7, 14, 21, and 28. It just goes to show you, that for most folks they turn out different from what you or they might think. GRADE: C

29TH STREET (director/writer: George Gallo; screenwriter: from the book by James Franciscus & Frank Pesce; cinematographer: Steven Fierberg; editor: Kaja Fehr; music: William Olvis; cast: Danny Aiello (Frank Pesce, Sr.), Anthony LaPaglia (Frank Pesce, Jr.), Lainie Kazan (Mrs. Pesce), Frank Pesce (Vito Pesce), Robert Forster (Sgt. Tartaglia), Rick Aiello (Jimmy Vitello), Donna Magnani (Madeline Pesce), Vic Manni (Louie Tucci); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: R; producer: David Permut; 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; 1991)

A tale about an Italian family in NYC who win the lottery and become unlucky. Some laughs and a charming look at relationships, make this film tolerable...but hardly a winner! GRADE: C

20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (director: Richard Fleischer; cast: Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas, Peter Lorre; 1954)

Captain Nemo (Mason) operates a futuristic submarine. A great fun & adventure film. GRADE: B+

20, 000 YEARS IN SING SING (director: Michael Curtiz; cast: Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, Arthur Byron, Lyle Talbot, Louis Calhern; 1933)

An old-fashioned crime melodrama about an honorable con who escapes from prison. Should be watched on a rainy Saturday afternoon when there is no one around to play checkers with. GRADE: C

2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY (director/writer: John Herzfeld; cinematographer: Oliver Wood; editors: Jim Miller/Wayne Wahrman; music: Anthony Marinelli; cast: Danny Aiello (Dosmo Pizzo), Greg Cruttwell (Hopper,Allan), Jeff Daniels (Alvin Strayer), Teri Hatcher (Becky Foxx), Gleanne Headly (Susan Parish), Peter Horton (Roy Foxx), Marsha Mason (Audrey Hopper), Paul Mazursky (Teddy Peppers), James Spader (Lee Woods), Eric Stoltz (Wes Taylor), Charlize Theron (Helga Svelgen); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jeff Wald/Herb Nanas; MGM; 1996)

A murder for hire film; it is sometimes comical and sometimes contrived, but most of the times it's boring. I wouldn't pay three bucks to rent it, but if on free TV...well! GRADE: C

2,000 MANIACS (director/writer/cinematographer/music: Hershell Gordon Lewis; editor: Robert Sinise; cast: Thomas Wood (Tom White), Connie Mason (Terry Adams), Jeffrey Allen (Mayor Buckman), Ben Moore (Lester), Shelby Livingston (Bea Miller), Mark Douglas (Harper Alexander), Vincent Santo (Billy), Gary Bakeman (Rufe), Jerome Eden (John Miller), Yvonne Gilbert (Beverly Wells), Linda Cochran (Betsy Dunn), Michael Korb (David Wells), Andy Wilson (Sheriff); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: David F. Friedman; Something Weird Video; 1964)

Shlock...for those who get off on really bad movies, this one is for them. It is a horror/Civil War story about a Southern town that comes to life a hundred years after the war. Its local maniacs torture a group of visitors, and probably a great many in the audience. GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"