Dennis Schwartz'
Short Reviews 
'S'  48


SAFETY LAST (director/writer: Fred C. Newmeyer/Sam Taylor; screenwriters: Sam Taylor/Hal Roach/Tim Whelan/H.M. Walker/Jean C. Havez; cinematographer: Walter Lundin; editor: Fred Guiol; cast: Harold Lloyd (The Boy), Mildred Davis (The Girl), Bill Strothers (The Pal, Limpy Bill), Noah Young (The Law), W.B. Clarke (The Floorwalker), Mickey Daniels (The Kid); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Hal Roach; Hal Roach Productions/Pathé; 1923-silent)

The best of Lloyd's comedies. He is a rube in the big city, out to make good. There is the memorable scene of Lloyd hanging from the clock, a take-off on those human fly thrill seekers prevalent in the '20s. GRADE: B

SANDS OF IWO JIMA (director: Allan Dwan; screenwriters: story by Harry Brown/Mr. Brown/James Edward Grant; cinematographer: Reggie Lanning; editor: Richard Van Enger; music: Victor Young; cast: John Wayne (Sgt. John M. Stryker), John Agar (Pfc. Peter Conway), Adele Mara (Allison Bromley), Forrest Tucker (Pfc. Al Thomas), Arthur Franz (Cpl. Robert Dunne), Julie Bishop (Mary), Richard Jaeckel (Pfc. Frank Flynn); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edmund Grainger; Republic Pictures; 1949)

John Wayne is the hard-boiled sergeant, getting his troops ready to take this Pacific Island from the Japs. It's all Wayne's picture, he won the war (you can almost say single-handedly). A very popular picture; it knows just when to pull on your emotional strings. GRADE: B-

SARAGOSSA MANUSCRIPT, THE (director: Wojciech Has; screenwriters: from the novel by Jan Potocki/Tadeusz Kwiatkowski; cinematographer: Mieczyslaw Jahoda; editor: Krystyna Komosinska; music: Krzysztof Penderecki; cast: Zbigniew Cybulski (Alfonse Van Worden), Iga Cembrznska (Princess Emina), Joanna Jedryka (Princess Zibelda), Franciszek Pieczka (Pascheco), Kazimierz Opalinski (Hermit); Runtime: 175; MPAA Rating: NR; Image Entertainment; 1965-Poland-in Polish with English subtitles)

Jerry Garcia's (Grateful Dead) favorite flick. The film is too muddled and long, yet it is diverting in spots; especially, its underlying theme of mystery, as seen through the tarot cards. The story revolves around a Belgian captain who travels across Spain during the Peninsular War and finds romance and adventure. This film suffers for not being in color. GRADE: C

SAVAGE INNOCENTS, THE (director/writer: Nicholas Ray; screenwriters: from the book Top of the World by Hans Ruesch/Mr. Ruesch/Franco Solinas; cinematographers: Peter Hennessy/Aldo Tonti; editor: Ralph Kemplen; music: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino; cast: Anthony Quinn (Inuk), Peter O'Toole (First Trooper), Yoko Tani (Asiak), Marie Yang (Powtee), Andy Ho (Anarvik), Carlo Giustini (Second Trooper), Lee Montague (Ittimargnek), Marco Guglielmi (Missionary); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Maleno Malenotti; Paramount; 1959-Italy/France/UK)

Ray is never afraid to explore the human condition. This film depicts Quinn as an Eskimo struggling to survive the elements and the encroachment of civilization. You really feel in your guts what is going through Quinn's innocent but savage nature. A most interesting film. It makes you, for the moment, feel that you have become part of the tundra. GRADE: B+

SCANDAL SHEET (director: David Lowell Rich; cast: Burt Lancaster, Pamela Reed, Robert Urich, Lauren Hutton; 1985)

Burt is the seedy and unscrupulous gossip newspaper publisher, who will do anything to get a story. Reed is the so-called honest writer who is lured to work for Burt's rag when enticed with money. He uses her to get the scoop on a Hollywood couple he wishes to ruin in order to sell more papers. Burt is brilliant in his role, giving force to this flat story that is cynically on the right track. It shows how corrupt even the so-called high brow 'zines might be. GRADE: C+

SCHINDLER'S LIST (director: Steven Spielberg; cast: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes; 1993)

The picture Spielberg had to make. Neeson is the gentile, German industrialist, who saves hundreds of Jews from the Nazi death camps by giving them jobs in his factory. A film worth seeing despite its grimness. GRADE: C+

SEA HAWK, THE (director: Frank Lloyd; cast: Milton Sills, Enid Bennett, Lloyd Hughes, Wallace Macdonald, Wallace Beery, Marc Macdermott; 1924-silent)

According to Robert Osborne, movie host for TCM, "this is a swashbuckler in silence." Sills was as big a star in his time as a Mel Gibson is today. But he died of a heart attack at the age of 48, and today he is virtually unknown."  The NY Times reviewer of 1924 called this film, "the best sea adventure story ever made." It was remade by Curtiz in 1940, and was still called The Sea Hawk. Errol Flynn's Captain Blood of 1935 used its same battle scenes. The film was adapted from Raphael Sabatini's book. It tells in epic fashion the story of a Cornwall nobleman (Sills) being sold into slavery by his half-brother, because he killed someone in a duel and  blamed Sills for it rather than to go to jail himself. Sills eventually becomes a Moslem and takes the name of Sakh-el-Bahr (The Sea Hawk), and becomes the most feared pirate on the seas. He tracks down his brother, and seeks the girl he was to marry (Enid). If you don't think about how the pirates all had slaves and how casually the film fluffs this off; then, you should find that this adventure tale to be fun to watch. GRADE: B 

SEAS BENEATH, THE (director: John Ford; screenwriter: from story by James Parker Jr./Dudley Nichols; cinematographer: Joseph H. August; cast: George O'Brien (Commander Bob Kingsley), Walter "Judge" Kelly (Chief Mike Costello),  Steve Pendleton (Ensign Cabot), Marion Lessing (Anna-Maria Von Steuben), Mona Maris (Lolita), Walter McGrail (Chief Joe Cobb), Henry Victor (German Commander Von Steuben); 1931)

A typical war story on the seas, relating to espionage and subterfuge during WW1. The film has some gritty action scenes. U.S. Commander Bob Kingsley (O'Brien) falls for the German sister (Lessing) of the enemy U-172 boat commander, the one that is being hunted by him.This is a restored version of the original, that had been missing for a long time due to discoloration. O'Brien's boat acts as a mystery ship to decoy the enemy U-Boat into coming up to the surface. Not much to recommend in this one, except to say that it is watchable for the action scenes.  GRADE: C-

SEASON OF MONSTERS (Szörnyek évadja) (director: Miklós Jancsó; screenwriter: Gyula Hernádi; cinematographer: Janos Kende; cast: Lajos Balázsovits (Zimmermann), András Bálint (Zoltán), Tamás Cseh (Guitar Player), Erzsi Cserhalmi (Girl in Leather Clothe), György Cserhalmi (Dr. Bardócz), Katarzyna Figura (Annabella), András Kozák (Colonel Antal), Ferenc Kállai (Kovács, Sándor), Béla Tarr (Jesus as Mental Patient), József Madaras (Komondi), Júlia Nyakó (Kati), Ágnes Olasz (Ági); 1987-Hungary)

An effusive and chaotic allegory simulating a Greek tragedy. Catastrophe is a Greek word for what is a surprise at the end. That shocker could be that mankind is destroyed. In this Hungarian farce, a group of noted scientists play games with what is real and what is envisioned. Nothing appears to be what it is. Conversations are the babblings of lunatics.The most cogent thing said is, eternity was created by the human intellect. The film is an unwatchable catastrophe. GRADE: D

SECOND CIRCLE (director: Aleksandr Sokurov; screenwriter: Yuri Arabov; cinematographer: Aleksandr Burov; editor: Raisa Lisova; music: O. Nussio; cast: Pyotr Aleksandrov (Son), Nadezhda Rodnova (Undertaker); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; Facets; 1990-Russia-in Russian with English subtitles)

Sokurov is the most inspiring director of modern Russia. This is a very serious meditational film on death. A father's death and his impoverished and grief-stricken son's reaction to the death are closely examined. The son tries to cope with the heavy bureaucracy it takes just to bury his father. This serves as a metaphor for the spiritual debasement of modern Russia, a country dying from an unknown disease. Sokurov calls it a cancer on the country's soul. GRADE: A

SECRET LIFE OF AN AMERICAN WIFE, THE (director/writer/producer: George Axelrod; cinematographer: Leon Shamroy; editor: Harry Gerstad; music: Billy May; cast: Walter Matthau (The Movie Star), Anne Jackson (Victoria Layton), Patrick O'Neal (Tom Layton), Edy Williams (Suzie Steinberg), Richard Bull (Howard), Paul Napier (Herb Steinberg); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: R; 20th Century Fox; 1968)

A 34-year-old married Connecticut housewife (Jackson), questions her sexual desirability. O' Neal plays her suburbanite press agent husband, whose agency secures call girls for his aging star-client, Matthau. Jackson manages to pass herself off as a call girl sent to Matthau's hotel suite, as she anxiously tries to prove to herself that she has sex appeal. Matthau turns out to be a dour neurotic, with sinus trouble. The heart of the movie is centered in this very talky, seductive meeting of Matthau and Jackson. The film sheds no new light on marital problems from the woman's point of view, and I did not find it funny except for a few one-liners. I, also, did not find Matthau and Jackson appealing. GRADE: C

SECRETS AND LIES (director/writer: Mike Leigh; cinematographer: Dick Pope; editor: Jon Gregory; music: Andrew Dickson; cast: Brenda Blethyn (Cynthia Rose Purley), Timothy Spall (Maurice Purley), Marianne Jean-Baptiste (Hortense Cumberbatch), Phyllis Logan (Monica Purley), Elisabeth Berrington (Jane), Lee Ross (Paul), Claire Rushbrook (Roxanne Purley), Ron Cook (Stuart), Michele Austin (Dionne), Lesley Manville (Social Worker), Ron Cook (Stuart); Runtime: 136; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Simon Channing-Williams; October Films; 1996-UK/France-in English)

A middle-class black woman tries to find her mother, who turns out to be low-class and white. When they meet, the situation is awkward for them. This film succeeds as a complex family drama, more suited for a play than a movie; nevertheless, it works because Leigh is very perceptive about the emotional complexities of the situation and plays the novelty of the situation to the hilt. GRADE: B

SERPICO (director: Sidney Lumet; screenwriters: Waldo Salt/Norman Wexler/based on the book Serpicoby Peter Maas); cinematographer: Arthur Ornitz; editors: Dede Allen/Richard Marks; music: Mikis Theodorakis; cast: Al Pacino (Frank Serpico), John Randolph (Chief Sidney Green), Jack Kehoe (Tom Keough), Biff McGuire (Captain Inspector McClain), Barbara Eda-Young (Laurie), Cornelia Sharpe (Leslie Lane), Tony Roberts (Bob Blair), John Medici (Pasquale), Allan Rich (District Attorney Herman Tauber), Norman Ornellas (Don Rubello); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Martin Bregman; Paramount; 1973)

Police sirens blare in NYC. A phone rings in "A" precinct with the message left that Serpico has been shot and it is possible that another cop could have done it. So opens this true story about widespread police corruption. By using flashback, the police career of Serpico unfolds. It raises the question, Can an honest cop survive in so much corruption? But, we never get to fully understand why this nonconformist cop does what he does. We do see that the problems in the police department are real, as is the violence in the street. Serpico's situation is bleak; the film captures his desperation played out against all the social changes of the 1960s. But the story line is predictable; so consequently, the film cannot be compelling enough to reach something higher to hold onto. GRADE: B-

SEVEN THIEVES (director: Henry Hathaway; screenwriters: Sydney Boehm/from the book Lions at the Kill by Max Catto; cinematographer: Sam Leavitt; editor: Dorothy Spencer; music: Dominic Frontiere; cast: Edward G. Robinson (Theo Wilkins), Rod Steiger (Paul Mason), Joan Collins (Melanie), Eli Wallach (Poncho), Alexander Scourby (Raymond Le May); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sydney Boehm; 20th Century Fox; 1960)

Routine caper about a casino heist in Cannes with a surprise ending and a banal motto to sum up the film's theme, "Honesty pays." The only fun thing about this flick is to watch Eddie G. ply his craft as the professor, a part that he could do walking in his sleep. GRADE: C

SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET (director/producer: Jean - Jacques Annaud; screenwriters: Becky Johnston/from the book by Heinrich Harrer; cinematographer: Robert Fraisse/Allen Smith; editor: Noëlle Boisson; music: John Williams; cast: Brad Pitt (Heinrich Harrer), David Thewlis (Peter Aufschnaiter), Mako (Kungo Tsarong), B.D.Wong (Ngawang Jigme), Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk (Dalai Lama), Danny Denzongpa (Regent), Victor Wong (Chinese "Amban"),  Ingeborga Dapkunaite (Ingrid Harrer), Lhakpa Tsamchoe (Pema Lhaki), Jetsun Pema (Great Mother); Runtime: 136; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Iain Smith/John H. Williams/Catherine Moulin; TriStar; 1997)

The story of the 14th Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people as they battle the Red Chinese, as told through the eyes of the Austrian mountain climber and Nazi, Heinrich Harrer (Pitt). He escapes from a British PoW camp and arrives in Lhasa, to find an authentic re-creation of how the Tibetans lived during the '40s. Unfortunately, the world may never see such a Tibet again due to the Chinese invasion and genocide. Therefore, the subject of the film takes on a particularly timely relevance. But the film is hampered by so much of the story being about Harrer, and since his story is not as impactful as the Tibetans the film suffers for it. Scorsese's Kundun is a more vivid telling of the Tibetan story, though this film is still worth seeing. But it is difficult to stomach, knowing full-well that Harrer was an unapologetic Nazi. GRADE: C+

SHANE  (director/producer: George Stevens; screenwriters: A.B. Guthrie, Jr./from the book Shane Company by Jack Schaefer; cinematographer: Loyal Griggs; editors: William W. Hornbeck/Tom McAdoo; music: Victor Young; cast: Alan Ladd (Shane), Jean Arthur (Marion Starrett), Van Heflin (Joe Starrett), Jack Palace (Jack Wilson), Brandon de Wilde (Joey Starrett), Ben Johnson (Chris Callaway), Edgar Buchanan (Fred Lewis), Elisha Cook Jr. (Frank Torrey), Emile Meyer (Tyker); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: NR; Paramount; 1953)

The mythic story of a loner, drifting into a ranch and helping them settle up against the bad guys. Shane then rides off into the sunset. It is an adult Western for those who still want to believe that there are guardian angels out there and somehow if things get rough they will help you, asking nothing in return. GRADE: B

SHANGHAI EXPRESS (director: Josef von Sternberg; screenwriters: story by Harry Hervey/Jules Furthman; cinematographer: Lee Garmes; music: W. Franke Harling; cast: Marlene Dietrich (Shanghai Lily, aka Magdalen), Clive Brook (Captain Donald 'Doc' Harvey), Warner Oland (Mr. Henry Chang), Anna May Wong (Hui Fei), Eugene Pallette (Sam Salt), Lawrence Grant (Reverend Mr. Carmichael), Louise Closser Hale (Mrs. Haggerty), Gustav von Seyffertitz (Eric Baum), Emile Chautard (Major Lenard), Minoru Nishida (Li Fung); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Adolph Zukor; Paramount; 1932)

The picture simulates the motion and feel of a train. The plot of the story revolves around an evacuation from Peking to Shanghai. Dietrich is the prostitute with a more honorable character than her travelling companions. Relationships are the thing here, as depicted among von Sternberg, Clive and Marlene. GRADE: B+

SHE HAD TO SAY YES (director: Busby Berkely/George Amy; cast: Loretta Young, Winnie Lightner, Lyle Talbot, Regis Toomie; 1933)

Loretta was a 19-year-old sweetie-pie when she made this film. Hollywood censorship had not been present, yet. It was not uncommon for nice working girls to be used by dress manufacturers for sexual exploitation. Loretta is the secretary who volunteers to go on dates with buyers in order to drum up business. Regis who works with her becomes jealous. Lyle wins her over, even though he is a buyer who could make a wind-fall from this arrangement. This lively, fluff film, is quick-paced (which is good, because it wouldn't have legs for a marathon run). I found its romantic notions risible, and Loretta's romances incredulous; but, the film was pleasant enough. GRADE: C

SHEIK, THE (director: George Melford; screenwriters: Monte Katterjohn/from the novel by Edith Maude Hull; cinematographer: William Marshall; music: Roger Bellon-re-release; cast: Rudolph Valentino (Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan), Agnes Ayres (Diana Mayo), Adolphe Menjou (Raoul de Saint Hubert), Walter Long (Omair), Patsy Ruth Miller (Zilahl, The serving girl), George Waggner (Yousaf); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; Paramount; 1921-Silent)

This is the picture that catapulted Valentino to immortal stardom. It is the simple story of Valentino as the desert sheik, sweeping an English heiress off her feet. Since the story doesn't hold up well with time, what is worth noting is Valentino's intense stares and animated gestures that might seem quite amusing to us now but was considered very sexy back then. This picture was enormously popular and set off a cult following for the star that still persists. GRADE: B

SHOOTING LILY (director: Arthur Borman; writer: Arthur Borman; cinematographer: Mark Parry; cast:Matt Winston (David Hitchcock), Amy Smallman (Lily Hitchcock),  Roy Jenkins (Steven), Richard Raddon (Steven); 1996)

You've gotta be kidding--this is one hell of an obnoxious film. It is watching people you just don't want to ever meet; they're not funny or cute. David (Matt) is a compulsive neurotic videographer who can't stop videotaping his non-Jewish wife Lily (Amy). During a New Year's Eve party, when she can't get him to stop, she decides to divorce him. He is told to look at the videos for the answer why. Being a complete nerd, he still doesn't get it. Why she married him and stayed with him for 6-years, is hard to comprehend and never explained. The film just didn't add up. GRADE: D

SHOOTING STARS (Le Ciel est à Nous) (director/writer: Graham Guit; screenwriter: Eric Neve; cinematographer: Olivier Carriou; editor: Jean-Guy Montpetite; music: Eddie Sauter; cast: Melvil Poupaud (Lenny), Romane Bohringer (Juliette), Jean-Philippe Ecoffey (Joel), Isaac Sharry (Sammy), Jean-Claude Flamand (Claudius), Patrick Lizana (Ficelle); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Frederic Robbes/Eric Neve; Canal Plus; 1997-France, in French with English subtitles)

This first feature of the 29-year-old director Graham Guit, tries awfully hard to be an innocent spoof on the drug genre films. It tries too hard to be cute. Instead, it turns into an inane and unappealing violent parody, whose lead characters are dull. The slight story is about a yokel, Melvil Poupaud, who tries to pull a fast one on some violent drug dealers (Ecoffey/Sharry), lacing the coke he is selling them with talcum powder. The drug king's girlfriend (Romane) falls for him, and they double-cross the dealers. Their true love is expressed when they both meet in San Pedro de Atama, Chile, and look at the shooting stars together. Strictly for the shooting stars. GRADE: C-

SIDEKICKS (director/writer: Aaron Norris; screenwriters: Donald G. Thompson/Lou Illar; cinematographer: Joao Fernandes; editors: David Rawlins/Bernard Weiser; cast: Chuck Norris (Himself), Beau Bridges (Jerry Gabrewski), Jonathan Brandis (Barry Gabrewski), Mako (Mr. Lee), Julia Nickson-Soul (Noreen Chen), Joe Piscopo (Stone), Danica McKellar (Lauren), John Buchanan (Cellini), Richard Moll (Gym Teacher); Runtime: 100; Gallery Films; 1992) ... Reviewed on 9/26/2001.

A harmless feel-good movie about an asthmatic kid (Brandis) who is picked on in his high school by a bully (Buchanan) while everyone else goofs on him except for one girl, and to relieve his sorrow he fantasizes he's the sidekick of Chuck Norris rescuing damsels in distress. In this predictable formulaic film (you're either very good or very nasty), not one stock character was left out of the mix between good and evil, and not one trick was missed to show that the kid gets even with the bully, gets a girlfriend (McKellar), meets Chuck, has an unlikely teacher (Mako) in Karate change his life for the better and overcomes his sickness by learning martial arts. The movie is made for a young audience that can appreciate Chuck as a clean-cut hero and what it means to dream about success. What makes this film so unappealing, is that everyone is a stereotype. Piscopo gives an over-the-top performance as a bad dude. GRADE: D

SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE (director: Jonathan Demme; screenwriters: Ted Tally/based on Thomas Harris novel; cinematographer: Tak Fujimoto; editor: Craig McKay; music: Howard Shore; cast: Jodie Foster (Clarice Starling), Anthony Hopkins (Dr. Hannibal Lecter), Scott Glenn (Jack Crawford), Anthony Heald (Dr. Frederick Chilton), Ted Levine (Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb), Frankie Faison (Barney Matthews), Kasi Lemmons (Ardelia Mapp), Brooke Smith (Catherine Martin), Diane Baker (Sen. Ruth Martin), Roger Corman (FBI Director Hayden Burke), Ron Vawter (Paul Krendler); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Ron Bozman/Edward Saxon/Kenneth Utt; MGM Home Entertainment; 1991)

FBI trainee (Jodie Foster) interviews serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in his security cell to get info for the Feds in their search for a serial killer called "Buffalo Bill," who is on the loose.  Hopkins gets deep inside her head. A stunning but overated film, that's exploitive and homophobic. GRADE: B-

SINFUL DAVEY (director: John Huston; screenwriters: from the book "The Life Of David Haggart" by David Haggart/James R. Webb; cinematographers: Edward Scaife/Freddie Young; editor: Russell Lloyd; music: Ken Thorne; cast: John Hurt (Davey Haggart), Pamela Franklin (Annie), Nigel Davenport (Constable), Ronald Fraser (MacNab), Robert Morley (Duke of Argyll), Maxine Audley (Duchess of Argyll), Niall Mac Ginnis (Boots Simpson), Donal McCann (Sir James Graham), Fidelma Murphy (Jean Carlisle); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: William N. Graf; United Artists; 1969-UK)

A bomb, except for Hurt's energetic performance. This true Scottish story, has Hurt (Davey Haggart) turn to a life of crime after he becomes an army deserter and wishes to emulate his father's criminal history. While on the lam, he is captured when hit by a golf ball. Some might take away a few chuckles here and there, but for the most part the film is a bore. It surprises me, that the usually dependable Huston made this. GRADE: D

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (directors: Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly; screenwriters: Betty Comden & Adolph Green; cinematographer: Harold Rosson editor: Adrienne Fazan; music: Nacio Herb Brown, Lennie Hayton; cast: Gene Kelly (Don Lockwood), Donald O'Connor (Cosmo Brown), Debbie Reynolds (Kathy Selden), Jean Hagen (Lina Lamont), Millard Mitchell (R. F. Simpson), Douglas Fowley (Dexter), Rita Moreno (Zelda), Cyd Charisse (Dancer in the Fantasy Sequence), Kathleen Freeman (Phoebe Dinsmore, Diction Coach), Madge Blake (Dora Bailey); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Arthur Freed; MGM; 1952)

One of the best musicals ever. Gene whoops it up in the rain. A fun story to go along with Arthur Freed songs. The plot revolves around a famous actress and her inability to adjust from "silent" to "talkie" pictures. But the plot doesn't matter, it is really the song and dance numbers that count the most. GRADE: A

SISTER MY SISTER (director: Nancy Meckler; screenwriter: Wendy Kesselman; cinematographer: Ashley Rowe; editor: David Stiven; music: Stephen Warbeck; cast: Julie Walters (Madame Danzard), Joely Richardson (Christine), Jodhi May (Lea), Sophie Thursfeld (Isabelle Danzard); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Norma Heyman; Seventh Art Releasing; 1994-UK)

Film is based on the real murder in France, 1933. Absorbing, darkly brooding tale about sister maids (Richardson & May) hired to work in the same household. They appear to be ideal maids to the obnoxious and pushy mistress (Walters) and her oafish daughter (Thursfeld), but there is trouble brewing. These former convent maids have troubled conversations and an incestuous relationship in the tight quarters of their attic room. The tension of the household builds; and, in the end, violence is the answer. The big moment in the film can't possibly equal all the powerful smaller moments in the film. GRADE: B-

SLEEP, MY LOVE (director: Douglas Sirk; screenwriters: from the book by Leo Rosten/Leo Rosten Decla Dunning/Cy Endfield/St. Clair McKelway; cinematographer: Joseph Valentine; editor: Lynn Harrison; music: Rudy Schrager; cast: Claudette Colbert (Alison Courtland), Robert Cummings (Bruce Elcott), Don Ameche (Richard Courtland), Rita Johnson (Barby), Hazel Brooks (Daphne), George Coulouris (Charles Vernay), Raymond Burr (Sgt. Strake), Queenie Smith (Mrs. Grace Vernay/Mrs. Tomlinson), Keye Luke (Jimmie Lin), Maria San Marco (Jeannie Lin), Ralph Morgan (Dr. Rhinehart); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ralph Cohn/Charles R. Rogers/Mary Pickford; United Artists; 1948)

Colbert goes bonkers on a train to Boston with no idea why she left NYC. Her husband (Ameche) is behind this, hoping he can get rid of her to marry the sexy Daphne (Brooks). Sirk did not think much of this film; but, it is, nevertheless, interesting enough, and well-acted. GRADE: B 

SLIDING DOORS (director/writer: Peter Howitt; cinematographer: Remi Adefarasin; editor: John Smith; music: David Hirschfelder; cast: Gwyneth Paltrow (Helen), John Lynch (Gerry), John Hannah (James), Jeanne Tripplehorn (Lydia), Douglas McFerran (Russell), Zara Turner (Anna); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Phillipa Braithwaite/Sydney Pollack/William Hocberg; Miramax; 1998-USA/UK)

A film with a gimmick and a disingenuous sitcom story that tries to discuss destiny as something we have no control over, but is what most influences our lives. The London based Gwyneth misses the train as the doors slide shut. This high powered PR exec who just got the sack and is returning to meet her live-in lover, has her story filmed in the two ways her life would have turned out; that is, if she could have both missed and made the train. In one version she catches him making love to another woman and in the other she doesn't. It was pure cornball. I would choose missing the train on this one. GRADE: C

SOCRATES (director: Roberto Rossellini; cast: Jean Sylvere, Anna Caprile, Ricardo Palacios, Beppi Mannaiuolo; 1970-It.)

Made for TV drama; it is realistically and movingly following the last years of the Greek philosopher Socrates, between 404 BC and 399 BC. The Spartans win Athens, but Socrates sticks to his beliefs, refusing to stop searching for the truth. For him, politics is a medicine to watch over souls and happiness is being a just man. He is accused of corrupting the youth of Athens, introducing new gods, and not believing in the gods of Athens. Everything about this film is first-rate, even the way he takes his hemlock. GRADE: B+

SOLDIER IN THE RAIN (director: Ralph Nelson; screenwriter: Blake EdwardsMaurice Richlin/from the book by William Goldman; cinematographer: Philip H. Lathrop; editor: Ralph Winters; music: Henry Mancini; cast: Jackie Gleason (M/Sgt Maxwell Slaughter), Steve McQueen (Sgt. Eustis Clay), Tuesday Weld (Bobby Jo Pepperdine), Tony Bill (PFC Jerry Meltzer), Tom Poston (PFC Jerry Meltzer), Lew Gallo (Sergeant Fred Lenahan); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Martin Jurow; Allied Artists/Key Video; 1963)

Gleason tries his hand at an army base camp drama, and is ok. McQueen goes for comedy, and is not ok. Tony Bill is a poor substitute for the role usually played by Jerry Lewis. Weld is slightly amusing and extremely sexy as a stereotyped dumb Southern teenager. The movie looks like a '50s TV sitcom. The funniest line is when Gleason asks Weld: "What did you learn in school today?" and she responds: "Mrs. P is pregnant." GRADE: C

SOME LIKE IT HOT (director/writer: Billy Wilder; screenwriter: I.A.L. Diamond; cinematographer: Charles B. Lang; editor: Arthur P. Schmidt; music: Adolph Deutsch; cast: Marilyn Monroe (Sugar Kane); Tony Curtis (Joe/Josephine); Jack Lemmon (Jerry/Daphne); George Raft (Spats Colombo); Joe E. Brown (Osgood Fielding III), Pat O'Brien (Det. Mulligan), George E. Stone (Toothpick Charlie), Billy Gray (Sig Poliakoff), Dave Barry (Beinstock); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Billy Wilder; MGM/UA Home Entertainment; 1959

The 1928 St. Valentine's Day mob hit in Chicago that Curtis and Lemmon witness, thereby making it necessary that they disguise themselves and escape from the mob. They do this by dressing in drag and getting on a train to Florida. Marilyn is the real woman thrown into the mix. Wilder makes the most of this comic romp, using innuendo and snide jokes. It is a funny satire that does not take itself too seriously. Thank goodness. GRADE: B

SOMMERSBY (director: Jon Amiel; screenwriters: Nicholas Meyer/Sarah Kernochan/from the story by Nicholas Meyer & Anthony Shaffer/from the movie The Return of Martin Guerre written by Daniel Vigne & Jean-Claude Carrière; cinematographer: Philippe Rousselot; editor: Peter Boyle; music: Danny Elfman; cast: Richard Gere (Jack), Jodie Foster (Laurel), Bill Pullman (Orin Meecham), James Earl Jones (Judge Issacs), William Windom (Reverend Powell), Lanny Flaherty (Buck), Brett Kelley (Rob); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Arnon Milchan/Steven Reuther; Warner Brothers; 1993)

One of those pictures that could have been a lot better or worse than it is. A remake of The Return of Martin Guerre. This time it's the brutish Jack Sommersby (Gere) coming back to his wife (Jodi) from the Civil War after 7 years of being a PoW. He is a changed man, and the questions asked are-- Is he the real Jack ? What underlines the film, is the philosophical question-- What is the identity of man? The film does a serviceable job with the nuances of Jack's relationship with his wife and the Tennessee townpeople, but it is devoid of whatever magical ingredient there is that makes a film a moving experience. GRADE: C

SONG OF FREEDOM (director/writer: J. Elder Wills; screenwriters: story by Maj. Claude Wallace &  & Dorothy Holloway/ Maichael Barringer/Ingram D'Abbes/Philip Lindsay/Fenn Hill Sherie; cinematographers: Eric Cross/Harry Rose/Thomas Glover; editor: Arthur Tavares; music: Eric Ansell; cast: Paul Robeson (John 'Johnny' Zinga), Elizabeth Welch (Ruth Zinga), Esme Percy (Donizetti), George Mozart (Bert Puddick), Cornelia Smith (Queen Zinga), Ecce Homo Toto (Mandingo), Jenny Dean (Marian), James Solomon  (Native Leader), Robert Adams (Monty); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Fraser Passmore/Will Hammer; British Lion Films; 1936-UK)

London longshoreman (Robeson) is made into an opera singer. He finds out that he is an African king and returns to his African roots to help his people. Robeson has a great voice and screen presence. He liked the role and said it showed the struggle his people were going through to educate themselves. GRADE: C+

SOUTH: ERNEST SHACKLETON AND THE ENDURANCE EXPEDITION (director/cinematographer: Frank Hurley; music: Neil Brand (piano score added to the DVD); cast: Ernest Shackleton ( Leader of the Expedition), Captain F. Worsley (Captain of the Endurance), Lieutenant J. Stenhouse (Captain of the Aurora), Captain L. Hussey (Meteorologist), Dr. McIlroy (Head of Scientific Staff), Mr. Wordie (Head of Scientific Staff), Tom Crean (Crewman); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; Milestone Films; 1919-UK-silent)

South is the recently (1999) restored version of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his 28-member crew's expedition on the ship called the Endurance, in 1915, to Antarctica. It ended with his ship being destroyed in the ice and his men being marooned for nearly two-years there, and his courageous trek by sled over 800-miles of ice to reach help on a remote island. He eventually received a hero's welcome on his return to England. The photography by Frank Hurley is amazing. This is probably the greatest documentary survival film ever made. GRADE: B+

SPHINX, THE (directors: Phil Rosen/Wilfred Lucas; screenwriter: Albert E. DeMond; cinematographer: Gilbert Warrenton; editor: Doane Harrison; music: Abe Meyer; cast: Lionel Atwill (Jerome Breen), Sheila Terry (Jerry Crane), Ted Newton (Jack Burton), Paul Hurst (Terrence Hogan), Luis Alberni (Bacigalupi); Runtime: 63; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Trem Carr; Monogram; 1933)

A gimmick-laden mystery B film. The murderer uses his deaf mute brother as an alibi. The story is dull yet it packs enough punch to be watchable; especially, on a rainy Sunday afternoon. GRADE: C 

SPRINGFIELD RIFLE, THE (director: André De Toth; screenwriters: Frank Davis /Charles Marquis Warren/from story by Sloan Nibley; cinematographer: Edwin Du Par; editor: Robert L. Swanson; music: Max Steiner; cast: Gary Cooper (Major Lex Kearney), Phyllis Thaxter (Erin), Lon Chaney, Jr. (Pete Elm ), Philip Carey (Captain Tennick), David Brian (Austin McCool ), Paul Kelly (Lieutenant Colonel Hudson ), Guinn Williams (Sergeant Snow ), Alan Hale Jr. (Mizzel), Michael Chapin (Kearney's Son and son Jamie); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Louis Edelman; Warner Brothers; 1952)

"The Springfield Rifle" is not a terribly thrilling or inventive Western. It is competently directed by De Toth, but not with any panache. But it does have Gary Cooper in it, straight after making "High Noon." It tried to make use of some of the usual Western themes in its Civil War story, by making slight variations on the following themes: It introduced the idea of counter-espionage as part of army intelligence. The value of the army's new weapon that could fire repeatedly, the Springfield rifle. And, it showed how Cooper, cashiered out of the service for cowardice, reacts when his wife and son don't understand him anymore. It is the story of Cooper pretending he's an outlaw in order to catch a gang selling horses rustled from the Union Army to the Confederates. A modest Western. Trivia buffs, take note: Cooper's horse was named Wildfire. GRADE: C+

STAGECOACH (director: John Ford; screenwriter: Dudley Nichols/based on the short story "Stage to Lordsburg" by Ernest Haycox; cinematographer: Bert Glennon; editors: Dorothy Spencer/Otho Lovering/Walter Reynolds; music: Richard Hageman/W. Franck Harling/Leo Shuken/John Leipold; cast: John Wayne (The Ringo Kid aka Henry), Claire Trevor (Dallas), Andy Devine (Buck), John Carradine (Hatfield), Thomas Mitchell (Dr. Josiah Boone), Tom Tyler (Luke Plummer), George Bancroft (Sheriff Curly Wilcox), Tim Holt (Lt. Blanchard), Louise Platt (Lucy Mallory), Yakima Canutt (Cavalry Scout), Donald Meek (Mr. Peacock), Berton Churchill (Gatewood), Vester Pegg (Hank Plummer), Joe Rickson (Ike Plummer); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Walter Wanger; United Artists; 1939)

This film marks the beginning of a great partnership between Ford and Wayne. It is a groundbreaking Western, capturing the myth of the land's innocence and the role civilization plays in such thinking. Wayne plays the Ringo Kid, someone bent on revenge for those who killed his father and brother. Wayne is the escaped convict who saves the stage and its cast of characters from an Indian attack. He redeems himself in the eyes of the law and is let loose into the wilderness. This film is one of the truly great Westerns. GRADE: A

STALINGRAD (director/writer/cinematographer: Joseph Vilsmaier; screenwriters: Johannes M.M. Heide/Jürgen Büscher; cinematographers: Rolf Greim/Klaus Moderegger/Peter von Haller; editor: Hannes Nikel; music: Norbert Schneider; cast: Dominique Horwitz (Obergefreiter Fritz Reiser), Thomas Kretschmann (Lt. Hans von Witzland), Jochen Nickel (Unteroffizier Manfred Rohleder); Runtime: 138; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Hanno Huth/Günter Rohrbach; Strand Releasing; 1993-German, in German with English subtitles)

A dismally bleak but realistic look at how the frontlines of Stalingrad must have felt for those German forces fighting there in 1942. There were at least one million lives lost during that campaign, most of them Germans and Russians. This film follows the exploits of an elite Storm Trooper unit's lieutenant (Horwitz) and 2 other soldiers (Thomas and Jochen). We see their 600 man unit left with only one man surviving. It is gorgeously shot by the director, as it takes you over the snow fields of Russia and allows you to imagine how the Russian cold winter must have felt to the soldiers. What the film lacked was emotional punch to explain the human despair caused by the Nazis. GRADE: C+

STAND BY FOR ACTION (director: Robert Z. Leonard; screenwriter: John L. Balderston/George Bruce/Herman Mankiewicz; cinematographer: Charles Rosher; editor: George Boemler; cast: Charles Laughton (Rear Admiral Stephen Thomas), Walter Brennan (Chief Yeoman Henry Johnson), Robert Taylor (Gregg Masterman), Brian Donlevy (Lt. Cmdr. M. J. Roberts), Marilyn Maxwell (Audrey Carr); Runtime: 109; MGM; 1943)... Reviewed 11/16/2000.

A routine patriotic WW11 Navy story, with an excellent cast. This is a formula story about executive officer, rich socialite, Harvard grad Robert Taylor and a bootstrapper from the old school, Brian Donlevy, who is his commander aboard an ancient destroyer. The destroyer is initially assigned to patrol the coast, but in an emergency gets into action protecting the admiral's convoy. The ship proves itself seaworthy in the climactic battle with a Japanese battleship. The admiral is played with bluster by Charles Laughton. GRADE: C

STAR WARS (director: George Lucas; cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alex Guinness; 1977)

A pulp science, special effects movie of epic proportions. Luke Skywalker becomes a Jedi warrior, and with the help of the "droids" and an outlaw, Han Solo, rescues the good princess and saves the galaxy from evil. Hmmm! "May the Force be with you!" Why complain about the film's lack of depth when it is so stunningly spectacular to look at! GRADE: B-

STAVISKY (director: Alain Resnais; screenwriters: Jorge Semprun/Peter Fernandez; cinematographer: Sacha Vierny; editor: Albert Jurgenson; music: Stephen Sondheim; cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo (Serge Alexandre Stavisky), Charles Boyer (Raoul), Francois Perier (Albert Borelli), Anny Duperey (Arlette), Michael Lonsdale (Docteur Mézy), Claude Rich (Inspecteur Bonny); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alain Belmondo; Cinemation Industries; 1974-France/Italy-in French with English subtitles)

This is a film about political intrigue during the 1930s. Stavisky (Belmondo) is both a crook and a legitimate businessman in France. The country is going through some heavy political and social changes in the form of Communism and Fascism. Stavisky is ruined by forces that are beyond his control. A penetrating look at what was so rotten in that government, done without compromising the story. GRADE: B 

STEALING BEAUTY (director/writer: Bernardo Bertolucci; screenwriter: Susan Minot/from a Bernardo Bertolucci story; cinematographer: Darius Khondji; editor: Pietro Scalia; music: Richard Hartley; cast: Sinead Cusack (Diana Grayson), Jeremy Irons (Alex), Liv Tyler (Lucy Harmon), Jean Marais (M. Guillaume), Donal McCann (Ian Grayson), Richard Reed (D.W. Moffett), Stefania Sandrelli (Noemi), Rachel Weisz (Miranda Fox), Carlo Cecchi (Carlo Lisca), Ignazio Oliva (Niccolo); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Jeremy Thomas; Fox Searchlight Pictures; 1996-Italy/UK/France)

Shallow is the key word to describe Bertolucci's inane look at the arty bourgeoisie. Ex-patriates, aesthetes, dilettantes, and Romeos form a group, living in a Tuscany artists' colony. A 19-year-old American virgin, Lucy (Tyler), arrives bereaved at the recent death of her poet mother and hopes to rekindle pleasant memories spent here with her mother's close friends. The plot revolves around which of the lads will get into Lucy's pants first and who was her real father. Irons plays a dying playwright, who is cheered by Lucy's beauty, youth, virginity, and energy. No matter how it tries, this stunningly shot film never gets beyond the physical layers of its beauty. The result is, that it plays more like a voyeuristic film that a dirty old man made than one of a great filmmaker. GRADE: C

STORY OF WOMEN (director/writer: Claude Chabrol; screenwriters: story by Francis Szpiner/Colo Tavernier; cinematographer: Jean Rabier; editor: Monique Fardoulis; music: Matthieu Chabrol; cast: Isabelle Huppert (Marie Latour), (Francois Cluzet (Paul), Marie Trintignant (Lulu/Lucie), Nils Tavernier (Lucien); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Marin Karmitz; New Yorker Video; 1988-France-in French with English subtitles)

Isabelle shines as an uneducated woman, living in the sticks, stuck in a loveless marriage during WW11. She performs illegal abortions and quarters prostitutes in order to feed her boy and girl. She cuckolds her war wounded husband with a slick young man. Her lover gets by in style, dealing with the Nazis to gain special favors. After the war is over the cowardly government officials who offered no resistance to the Nazis during the war, decide to make an example of her immorality and sentence her to death by the guillotine. Not bad, but not great, is the final verdict. GRADE: B-

STRAIT JACKET (director: William Castle; screenwriter: Robert Bloch; cinematographer: Arthur E. Arling; editor: Edwin H. Bryant; music: Van Alexander; cast: Joan Crawford (Lucy Harbin), Diane Baker (Carol Harbin), Leif Erickson (Bill Cutler), Howard St. John (Raymond Fields), Rochelle Hudson (Emily Cutler), George Kennedy (Leo Krause), John Anthony Hayes (Michael Fields), Edith Atwater (Mrs. Fields); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Castle; Columbia Pictures; 1964)

Joan catches her husband in bed with a woman and axes them to death. Her young daughter witnesses this. Joan is sent to a mental institution for 20-years, and when released comes to live on her brother's farm with her grownup daughter. The daughter is anxious to wed a nice young man, but his parents are against the marriage because of Joan's incarceration. As murders begin to occur, Joan becomes a suspect. The story is resolved with a trick ending. This shocker is weak-kneed. The strength of the film lies solely in the hands of Joan. GRADE: C

STROMBOLI (director/writer: Roberto Rossellini; screenwriters: Sergio Amidei/Gian Paolo Callegari ; cinematographer: Otello Martelli; editor: Jolanda Benvenuti; music: Renzo Rossellini; cast: Ingrid Bergman (Karin Bjiorsen), Mario Vitale (Antonio), Renzo Cesana (The Priest), Mario Sponza (The Lighthouse Keeper); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Roberto Rossellini; RKO; 1950-Italy-dubbed in English)

Bergman ends up on this desolate, volcanic island, married to a fisherman in order to save herself from an internment camp during WW11. It is shot in the neo-realism style Rossellini is noted for. It captures the stark mood of the island and its inhabitants. Bergman finds her situation to be hopeless, and she sees herself as an outsider unable and unwilling to fit in. A provocative film. GRADE: B

STUDENT PRINCE IN OLD HEIDELBERG, THE (director: Ernst Lubitsch; screenwriters: from the novel "Karl Heinrich" by Wilhelm  Meyer-Forster/Marian Ainslee; cinematographer: John Mescall; editor: Andrew Marton; cast: Ramon Novarro (Crown Prince Karl Heinrich), Norma Shearer (Kathi), Jean Hersholt (Dr. Friedrich Jüttner), Gustav von Seyffertitz (King Karl VII), Edward Connelly (Prime Minister Von Haugk), Bobby Mack (Johann Kellermann), Philippe De Lacy (Young Karl); Runtime: 105; MGM; 1927-silent) ... Reviewed on 1/29/2001.

Set in Germany from around 1890-1905, Ernst Lubitsch directed this silent version of Sigmund Romberg's famed operetta. It's about a fun-loving young prince (played by De Lacy as a boy and by Novarro as a young adult) raised from an early age by his stern uncle King Karl VII to become the future king. He is tutored by the kindly Dr. Jüttner and leads a cloistered life in the palace until he is sent to Heidelberg to further his studies. There he falls in love with a barmaid (Shearer-the newly wed wife of MGM head Irving Thalberg). Their romance remains unfulfilled, as he must take up duties as king upon his uncle's death and must go through with the arranged marriage to Princess Ilse. The theme suggests that being a king is not so hot, if you can't marry the one you love. The pleasures in the film are derived from Lubitsch's light touches of comedy and the sensitive performance by the Mexican-born Ramon. GRADE: B

SUNRISE (director: F.W. Murnau; screenwriters: Carl Mayer/from the novel by Hermann Sudermann; cinematographers: Charles Rosher/Karl Struss; editor: Harold D. Schuster; music: Hugo Riesenfeld; cast: George O'Brien (The Man), (Janet Gaynor (The Wife), Margaret Livingston (The Woman from the City), Bodil Rosing (The Maid), John Farrell MacDonald (The Photographer); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Fox; Fox Film Corporation; 1927-silent)

A love triangle in a small-town that results in a murder. This love story is filled with unbridled tensions as the innocents come into contact with the big city and they are changed forever. One of the greatest films ever made. GRADE: A+

SUNSET BOULEVARD (director/writer: Billy Wilder; screenwriters: Charles Brackett/D.M. Marshman, Jr.; cinematographer: John F. Seitz; editor: Arthur P. Schmidt; music: Franz Waxman; cast: William Holden (Joe Gillis), Gloria Swanson (Norma Desmond), Erich Von Stroheim (Max Von Mayerling), Nancy Olson (Betty Schaefer), Fred Clark (Sheldrake), Lloyd Gough (Morino), Jack Webb (Artie Green), Franklin Farnum (The Undertaker), Cecil B. DeMille (Himself), Hedda Hopper (Herself), Buster Keaton (Himself), Anna Q. Nilsson (Herself), H.B. Warner (Himself); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Charles Brackett; Paramount; 1950)

Swanson is the once famous silent screen star who kills her gigolo boyfriend. A dark film, one of Wilder's best. This noir film probes the shadows and depravements and shame rooted in the main characters. GRADE: A

SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS (director: Alexander MacKendrick; screenwriters: Clifford Odets/Ernest Lehman/from the short story Tell Me About it Tomorrow by Ernest Lehman; cinematographer: James Wong Howe; editor: Alan Crosland Jr.; music: Elmer Bernstein; cast: Burt Lancaster (J.J. Hunsecker), Tony Curtis (Sidney Falco), Susan Harrison (Susan Hunsecker), Martin Milner (Steve Dallas), Sam Levene (Frank D'Angelo), Barbara Nichols (Rita), Jeff Donnell (Sally), Joseph Leon (Robard), Edith Atwater (Mary), Emile Meyer (Harry Kello), Joe Frisco (Herbie Temple), David White (Otis Elwell), Lawrence Dobkin (Leo Bartha), Lurene Tuttle (Mrs. Leo Bartha); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: James Hill; United Artists; 1957)

Burt is a vindicative New York columnist. Tony is the press agent who wants to get places, anyway he can. Scripted by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman. A very powerful and searing film. Burt is a lot like Walter Winchell. GRADE: A+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"