Dennis Schwartz'
Short Reviews 
'W'  12


WEST SIDE STORY (directors: Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins; screenwriter: Ernest Lehman/based on the play by Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins; cinematographer: Daniel L. Fapp; editor: Thomas G. Stanford; music: Leonard Bernstein; cast: Natalie Wood (Maria), Richard Beymer (Tony), Russ Tamblyn (Riff), Rita Moreno (Anita), George Chakiris (Bernardo), Tucker Smith (Ice), Tony Mordente (Action), David Winters (A-Rab), Eliot Feld (Baby John), Sue Oakes (Anybody), Simon Oakland (Lt. Schrank), William Bramley (Officer Krupke), Ned Glass (Doc); Runtime: 151; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Wise; United Artists; 1961)

A lavish musical that Robbins directed on the stage, but got fired from the film version because of going over budget. Wise was called in to do the non-musical scenes and to eventually finish the entire picture. The music is great. The picture is so-so. It is too stagy, telling a story about a modern Romeo and Juliet. This time the setting is 1950s NYC, showing its rival gangs of whites and Puerto Ricans. GRADE: B-

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (director/producer: Robert Aldrich; screenwriters: from the book by Henry Farrell/Lukas Heller; cinematographer: Ernest Haller; editor: Michael Luciano; music: Frank De Vol; cast: Bette Davis (Jane Hudson), Joan Crawford (Blanche Hudson), Victor Buono (Edwin Flagg), Anna Lee (Mrs. Bates), Maidie Norman (Elvira Stitt), Barbara Merrill (Liza Bates), Julie Allred (Baby Jane as a child), Dave Willock (Ray Hudson); Runtime: 133; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Bert Freed; Warner Brothers; 1962)

The two stars eat all the scenery. Joan is the invalid (former star of the 30s) sister of  the demented Bette (former child star of the 20s). They are living in opulent decay, in Hollywood. The story centers on the unusual relationship of the sisters, and of how Joan got crippled. The sisters play off of their psychological failings. What might have been a decent film if explored through different avenues, becomes instead a campy film. It is a curiosity piece for those who are looking to see if, as rumored, the stars really hated each other and couldn't get along. Well, for one thing, this film revitalised their dying careers, as they both went on to make many more horror films; and, they showed that they are real pros by working together without any reported problems. GRADE: C+

WHAT HAPPENED WAS... (director/writer/editor: Tom Noonan; screewriter: from the play by Tom Noonan; cinematographer: Joe De Salvo; music: Ludovico Sorret; cast: Tom Noonan (Michael), Karen Sillas (Jackie Marsh); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Robin O'Hara/Scott Macaulay; Samuel Goldwyn Company; 1994)

A two-character date movie, set in real time, that is more of a play than a movie. It effectively plies its witty dialogue and has enough twists in the story to keep you interested. The first date between the lonely secretary executive-assistant, Karen, and the lonely para-legal, Tom, who work in the same law firm, was stylishly done. The acting is super. The story is thought-provoking. The characters are insightful and devilishly interesting. This date takes place in Karen's trendy NYC apartment, capturing the city's claustrophobia and paranoia. The protagonists try to get to know each other, only to be surprised by what they can't ever know about one another. GRADE: B

WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH (director/writer: Val Guest; screenwriter: story by J.G. Ballard; cinematographer: Dick Bush; editor: Peter Curran; music: Mario Nascimbene; cast: Victotia Vetri (Sanna), Robin Hawdon (Tara), Patrick Allen (Kingsor), Drewe Henley (Khaku), Sean Caffrey (Kane), Patrick Holt (Ammon), Imogen Hassall (Ayak), Magda Konopka (Ulido); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Aida Young; Warner Brothers; 1970-UK)

The scantily dressed tribes speak in prehistoric gibberish. The story revolves around Vetri (Playboy playmate of 1968) and her lover Hawdon being ostracized by the locals. And, of course, there's the dinosaur. Pretty good special effects make this film tolerable for those who like bad pictures. GRADE: C

WHERE THE DAY TAKES YOU (director/writer: Marc Rocco; screenwriters: Michael Hitchcock/Kurt Voss; cinematographer: King Baggot; editor: Russell Livingstone; music: Mark Morgan; cast: Laura San Giacomo (The Interviewer), Dermot Mulroney (King), Will Smith (Manny), Lara Flynn Boyle (Heather), Ricki Lake (Brenda), Sean Astin (Greg), James LeGros (Crasher), Balthazar Getty (Little J), Nancy McKeon (Vikki), Adam Baldwin (Officer Black), Stephen Tobolowsky (Charles), Kyle MacLachlan (Ted), Christian Slater (Rocky); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Paul Hertzberg; New Line Cinema; 1992)

The film traces the lives of a group of Los Angeles street kids, mainly through the eyes of King (Dermot). He turns in a sterling performance as their 20-year-old leader and father figure. Their unappealing lives and their drug habits and the violence in their lives, is scrutinized by the mostly documentary style it employs. It uses an interviewer to question King about his street life and the values he believes in. Heather (Lara), who is a runaway minor from Chicago, provides the love interest for King, as he takes to her after being released from jail and joining up with his friends (he considers them his family). They scrounge for change on the streets, break into cars, sleep under the freeway ramps, do drugs, and have lost contact with their families. There is nothing new here to be glommed, but this slickly done film is nevertheless hard-hitting and relevant. The manufactured ending seems to undo a lot of the early effort to appear natural and gritty. GRADE: C

WHITE  CARGO (director: Richard Thorpe; screenwriters: from the book "Hell's Playground" by Ida Vera Simonton/Leon Gordon; cinematographer: Harry Stradling; editor: Frederick Y. Smith; music: Bronislau Kaper; cast: Hedy Lamarr (Tondelayo), Walter Pidgeon (Harry Witzel), Bramwell Fletcher (Wilbur Ashley), Frank Morgan (Doctor), Richard Carlson (Langford), Reginald Owen (Skipper), Henry O'Neill (Rev. Roberts); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Victor Saville; MGM; 1942)

This one's pure rubbish. Hedy can't act, though she does look good playing the temptress half-breed. The story is a racist one. The plot is about a British outpost in Africa where white rubber planters agonize about the oppressive heat and about the scheming Hedy, who steals their hearts. It is best watched as something to be laughed at. GRADE: D

WINDOW, THE (director: Ted Tetzlaff; screenwriters: from the short story "The Boy Cried Murder" by Cornell Woolrich/Mel Dinelli; cinematographer: William Steiner Jr.; editor: Frederic Knudtson; music: Roy Webb; cast: Bobby Driscoll (Tommy Woodry), Barbara Hale (Mrs. Woodry), Arthur Kennedy (Mr. Woodry), Paul Stewart (Mr. Joe Kellerton), Ruth Roman (Mrs. Kellerton); Runtime: 73; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Dore Schary/Frederic Ullman, Jr.; RKO; 1949)

This film uses the childhood fable of the boy who cried wolf once too often to its advantage, as the boy witnesses a murder and nobody believes him. NYC's tenements and tight living quarters add to the film's dreary atmosphere, and make it seem understandable that a child needs a vibrant imagination to survive in such a hell. The film does a grand job of setting up the psychological terror that ensues. GRADE: B

WINNER, THE (director: Alex Cox; screenwriter: Wendy Riss/based on Ms. Riss' stage play A Darker Purpose; cinematographer: Denis Maloney; editor: Carlos Puente; music: Daniel Licht; cast: Vincent D'onofrio (Philip), Billy Bob Thornton (Jack), Rebecca Demornay (Louise), Michael Madsen (Wolf), Richard Edson (Frankie), Saverio Guerra (Paulie), Felroy Lindo (Casino Owner), Frank Whaley (Joey); Runtime:89 ; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Kenneth Schwenker; Live Entertainment; 1996)

Vincent keeps winning on Sundays in Las Vegas' casinos, and that attracts vulture-like characters toward him. A nonsensical escapist film, that is not as bad as it is. GRADE: C

WITHIN OUR GATES (director/writer/producer: Oscar Micheaux; music: Philip Carli-new score; cast: Evelyn Preer (Sylvia Landry), Flo Clements (Alma Prichard), Jack Chenault (Larry Prichard), William Smith (Detective Philip Gentry), Grant Gorman (Armand Gridlestone), William Stark (Mr. Jasper Landry), Mattie Peters (Mrs. Landry), James D. Ruffin (Conrad Drebert), Charles D. Lucas (Dr. V. Vivian), Flo Clements (Alma Pritchard), E.G. Tatum (Servant); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; Smithsonian Video; 1920-silent)

A lost treasure, recently found in Spain and restored with only a few missing scenes. Micheaux's films are about murder, racial injustice, and lynchings. Because of poor timing and being released in a year of race riots, this film was a box office flop. Preer, a school teacher in the south, tries to educate her Negro people despite lack of money and cooperation from white society and the hypercritical black church. Micheaux does not hold back his punches. His criticisms of everyone are severe. He was part of the generation that made what was called "race films," made for a Negro audience on a low budget. Micheaux is an artist of considerable reputation and talent. GRADE: B

WIZARD OF OZ, THE (director: Victor Fleming; screenwriters: Noel Langley/Florence Ryerson/Edgar Allan Woolf/based on the book by L. Frank Baum; cinematographer: Harold Rosson; editor: Blanche Sewell; music: Herbert Stothart, with songs  by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E. Y. Harburg; cast: Judy Garland (Dorothy Gale), Frank Morgan (Professor Marvel/Emerald City Doorman/The Cabbie/The Wizard's Guard/The Wizard of Oz), Ray Bolger (Hunk/The Scarecrow), Bert Lahr (Zeke/The Cowardly Lion), Jack Haley (Hickory/The Tin Man), Margaret Hamilton (Miss Gulch/The Wicked Witch of the West), Billie Burke (Glinda, the Good Witch of the North), Pat Walshe (Nikko, the Wicked Witch's Head Winged Monkey), Charley Grapewin (Uncle Henry), Clara Blandick (Auntie Em), Terry (Toto); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer:  Mervyn LeRoy; MGM; 1939)

Judy was a 16-year-old when this film was made. She plays the part of a Kansas farm girl who dreams of a magical land. She and her dog Toto meet the Munchkins (the little folks) who tell her to follow the 'yellow brick road,' which will bring her to the wizard. She is helped along the way by a scarecrow, a tin man, and a cowardly lion. It is a take-off on William Jennings Bryan's fight for the gold standard, the war he waged against those evil eastern Wall Streeters. GRADE: A

WORLD FOR RANSOM (director: Robert Aldrich; screenwriter: Lindsay Hardy/Hugo Butler; cinematographer: Joseph Biroc; editor: Michael Luciano; music: Frank De Vol; cast: Dan Duryea (Mike Callahan), Gene Lockhart (Alexis Pederas), Patric Knowles (Julian March), Reginald Denny (Maj. Bone), Nigel Bruce (Gov. Coutts), Marian Carr (Frennessey March), Arthur Shields (Sean O'Connor), Douglas Dumbrille (Inspector McCollum); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Robert Aldrich/Bernard Tabakin; Allied Artists/Monogram; 1954)

Duryea is a private eye in Singapore who takes on a case for his ex-lover, the time period is the Cold War, and the case is about a kidnapped nuclear scientist. Duryea is a disillusioned idealist in search of something to believe in. Aldrich was pleased with the film, but disappointed that the question of lesbianism was cut by the censors. GRADE: B+

WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, THE (director: Michael Apted; screenwriters: Neal Purvis/  Robert Wade/Bruce Feirstein, based on a story by Purvis and Wade; cinematographer: Adrian Biddle; editor: Jim Clark; cast: Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Sophie Marceau (Elektra), Robert Carlyle (Renard), Denise Richards (Christmas Jones), Robbie Coltrane (Valentin Zukovsky), Desmond Llewelyn , John Cleese, Maria Grazia Cucinotta (Cigar Girl), Samantha Bond (Moneypenny), Michael Kitchen (Tanner), Colin Salmon (Robinson), Serena Scott Thomas (Dr. Molly Warmflash), Ulrich Thomsen (Davidov), John Seru (Gabor), Claude-Oliver Rudolph (Colonel Akakievich),  Dame Judi Dench (M); Runtime: 125; MGM; 1999) ... Reviewed on 1/14/2001.

This is the 19th Bond film and Pierce Brosnan's third crack at it. It opens with action in Bilbao, Spain, where Bond is to bring back money recovered from a murdered M16 agent. What ensues is a Swiss banker gets killed and a lady in a tight red leather outfit is firing away at Bond while they are engaged in a high-speed boat chase, and then she tries to escape in a hot balloon before committing suicide. Upon Bond's return to London the money is returned to the father of the kidnap victim, but he gets killed when he touches the money and it explodes. This is just a prelude to the usual Bond nonsense, where it's a race against time to save the world from a nuclear attack on the West's oil reserve supply. Behind the attack is Robert Carlyle, a demon with a bullet in his head, who kidnapped the oil magnate's daughter Sophie Marceau and brainwashed her. She now teams up with him, as the film criss-crosses the Caspian Sea, from Azerbaijan to Istanbul, as Bond seeks justice. Also included in this actioner is Denise Richards, as a nuclear-weapons expert. She's dressed half-nude, as if she showed up for a soft porn film. Dame Judi Dench as M gets to go out in the field so Bond can rescue her and she can have her inconsequential part padded. It's the same film as all the other Bond's, with a good Bond portrayal by Pierce; but, everyone else's performance ranges from so-so to the pits. There are lots of special effects and plenty of lame sexist wit. What can you say about all this stupidity by now, except it's bankable! GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"