Film Review – ANGEL FACE (1953)

ANGEL FACE (1953, USA) ***½
Crime, Drama, Romance
dist. RKO Radio Pictures; pr co. RKO Radio Pictures; d. Otto Preminger; w. Frank S. Nugent, Oscar Millard (based on a story by Chester Erskine); exec pr. Howard Hughes (presenter); pr. Otto Preminger; ph. Harry Stradling Sr. (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Dimitri Tiomkin; ed. Frederic Knudtson; ad. Carroll Clark, Albert S. D’Agostino; set d. Jack Mills, Darrell Silvera; cos. Michael Woulfe; m/up. Mel Berns, Larry Germain; sd. Clem Portman, Earl A. Wolcott (Mono (RCA Sound System)); rel. 2 January 1953 (UK), 4 February 1953 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 91m.

cast: Robert Mitchum (Frank Jessup), Jean Simmons (Diane Tremayne Jessup), Mona Freeman (Mary Wilton), Herbert Marshall (Mr. Charles Tremayne), Leon Ames (Fred Barrett), Barbara O’Neil (Mrs. Catherine Tremayne), Kenneth Tobey (Bill Crompton), Raymond Greenleaf (Arthur Vance), Griff Barnett (The Judge), Robert Gist (Miller), Morgan Farley (Juror), Jim Backus (District Attorney Judson).

Beautiful Diane Tremayne (Simmons) is a sophisticated, wealthy young woman capable of manipulating anyone who crosses her path. She also has a dark side she manages to conceal behind her appearance and her good manners. Soon after the untimely death of her stepmother (O’Neil), Diane pursues handsome Frank Jessup (Mitchum). Before long, she starts to win him over — but Frank quickly suspects that the manic Diane had more to do with her stepmother’s death than she lets on. This hastily filmed noir melodrama echoes the work of James M. Cain in its plot device of the beautiful and manipulative girl and the sap whose strings she pulls. The hasty production schedule (due to the impending expiration of Simmons’ contract with Howard Hughes) is occasionally evident in this otherwise top-draw drama. The plot unfolds quickly – a little too quickly at times – helping to gloss over some of the more implausible moments. Simmons and Mitchum are both excellent with Simmons playing her role with subtle ambiguity, thereby keeping us guessing as to her true motives. Mitchum is at his laconic best as the self-centred driver who cannot help himself. The staging is standard for the most part, but Preminger does extract all he can from both the cast and the story, whilst Tiomkin’s score perfectly captures the mood. The finale may ultimately be predictable, but the performances manage to keep you second-guessing yourself.

TV Review – CITY OF ANGELS: THE NOVEMBER PLAN (1976)

CITY OF ANGELS: THE NOVEMBER PLAN (1976, USA) ***
Crime, Mystery
dist. National Broadcasting Company (NBC) (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Roy Huggins-Public Arts Productions / Universal Television; d. Don Medford; w. Stephen J. Cannell (based on a story by Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell); exec pr. Jo Swerling Jr.; pr. Roy Huggins; assoc pr. Dorothy J. Bailey; ph. Ric Waite (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Nelson Riddle; m sup. Hal Mooney; ed. Edwin F. England, Ronald LaVine, Larry Lester; ad. John W. Corso; set d. Jerry Adams; cos. Charles Waldo; sd. John K. Kean (Mono); rel. 3 February 1976 (USA – TV), April 1977 (UK); cert: -/PG; r/t. 3 x 47mm.

cast: Wayne Rogers (Jake Axminster), Elaine Joyce (Marsha), Philip Sterling (Michael Brimm), Clifton James (Lt. Murray Quint), Diane Ladd (Laura Taylor), Meredith Baxter (Mary Kingston (as Meredith Baxter Birney)), Laurence Luckinbill (Noel Crossman Jr.), Stephen Elliott (Harold Delaney), Jack Kruschen (Harry Kahn), Dorothy Malone (Dawn Archer), Lloyd Nolan (Gen. Smedley Butler), Robert Sampson (Wayne Fisher), G.D. Spradlin (Gen. Winfield), Laurence Hugo (Alex Sebastian), Steve Kanaly (Parker), Martin Kove (Stan), Pepper Martin (Reggie), Rod McCary (George Donaldson), Paul Jenkins (Terry), Ross Bickell (Murdock).

Jake Axminster (Rogers) is a hard-boiled, wise-cracking private eye in 1934 Los Angeles. Mary Kingston (Baxter) hires him to prove her innocence because she is being framed for murdering her boyfriend, and the police are seeking her whereabouts. Jake hides her in a beach house and begins his investigation. He discovers that Mary and her boyfriend witnessed a Alex Sebastian’s (Hugo) murder at a party on the previous night, and she fled but her boyfriend was captured and killed. Sebastien was a reporter who was about to publish a story of some importance, concerning the date of November thirteenth. Following in the wake of CHINATOWN (1974) this was a valiant attempt by Universal to capture the same blend of period atmosphere, themes of corruption and a Chandler-esque mystery. The result is a mixed bag with the positives being the period detail in the production design and some smart dialogue. On the minus side are the unimaginative and sometimes flat direction and a disappointing denouement. Rogers essays James Garner in his interpretation of the down-at-heel private eye but he lacks Garner’s charm. Nevertheless, his enthusiastic performance occasionally hits home. A strong support cast is on hand, notably the excellent Joyce as Rogers’ secretary who combines her work with running the phone lines for the city’s hookers. Joyce has a natural comic flair which elevates the material when she is on screen. James is the corrupt cop who beats on his prisoners and Baxter has fun as the fugitive starlet. The script, by veterans Stephen J. Cannell and Roy Huggins, could have been sharpened further, but the production was a hasty one with the series being a mid-season replacement. The promise on show here would occasionally surface over the series’ next ten episodes before it was cancelled due to low ratings just as it was building a head of steam. Whilst this three-part story served to introduce the series to its US audience, it was edited to 103 minutes and released in cinemas in the UK, Europe, Australia, Central and South America. The film was based on a notorious 1933 American conspiracy known as the Business Plot, which involved wealthy businessmen trying to bring down United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a coup.

Film Review – THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (2017)

GREATEST SHOWMAN, THE (2017, USA) **½
Biography, Drama, Musical
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Bona Film Group / Chernin Entertainment / TSG Entertainment / Twentieth Century Fox; d. Michael Gracey; w. Jenny Bicks, Bill Condon (based on a story by Jenny Bicks); exec pr. Tonia Davis, Donald J. Lee Jr., James Mangold; pr. Peter Chernin, Laurence Mark, Jenno Topping; ph. Seamus McGarvey (Colour. D-Cinema. ARRIRAW (3.4K) (6.5K) (source format), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format). 2.39:1); m. Benj Pasek, Justin Paul; s. “The Greatest Show” (performed by Hugh Jackman, Keala Settle, Zac Efron, Zendaya & The Greatest Showman Ensemble) m/l. Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Ryan Lewis, “A Million Dreams” (performed by Ziv Zaifman, Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Skylar Dunn, Austyn Johnson, Cameron Seely), “Come Alive” (performed by Hugh Jackman, Keala Settle, Daniel Everidge, Zendaya & The Greatest Showman Ensemble), “The Other Side” (performed by Hugh Jackman & Zac Efron), “Never Enough” (performed by Loren Allred), “This Is Me” (performed by Keala Settle & The Greatest Showman Ensemble), “Rewrite the Stars” (performed by Zac Efron & Zendaya), “Tightrope” (performed by Michelle Williams), “From Now On” (Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams & The Greatest Showman Ensemble) m/l. Benj Pasek, Justin Paul; m sup. Mark Wike; chor. Shannon Holtzapffel, Ashley Wallen; ed. Tom Cross, Robert Duffy, Joe Hutshing, Michael McCusker, Jon Poll, Spencer Susser; pd. Nathan Crowley; ad. Laura Ballinger; set d. Debra Schutt; cos. Ellen Mirojnick; m/up. Nicki Ledermann, Whitney James, Jerry Popolis, Mary L. Mastro; sd. Dror Mohar, Lewis Goldstein (Dolby Digital | Dolby Atmos); sfx. Garry Elmendorf; vfx. Mathieu Raynault, Anish Ratna Tuladhar, Mark O. Forker, David Isyomin, Eran Dinur, Chris LeDoux, Gaia Bussolati, Radley Teruel, Prabhakar Maharjan, John Helms, Cliff Welsh, Dann Tarmy, Vincent Poitras, Martin Lipmann, Keith Sellers; st. Victor Paguia, Mathieu Leopold; rel. 20 December 2017 (USA), 26 December 2017 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 105m.

cast: Hugh Jackman (P.T. Barnum), Michelle Williams (Charity Barnum), Zac Efron (Phillip Carlyle), Zendaya (Anne Wheeler), Rebecca Ferguson (Jenny Lind), Austyn Johnson (Caroline Barnum), Cameron Seely (Helen Barnum), Keala Settle (Lettie Lutz), Sam Humphrey (Tom Thumb), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (W.D. Wheeler), Eric Anderson (Mr. O’Malley), Ellis Rubin (Young Barnum), Skylar Dunn (Young Charity), Daniel Everidge (Lord of Leeds), Radu Spinghel (O’Clancy), Yusaku Komori (Chang), Danial Son (Eng), Paul Sparks (James Gordon Bennett), Will Swenson (Philo Barnum), Linda Marie Larson (Mrs. Stratton).

Growing up in the early 1800s, P.T. Barnum (Jackman) displays a natural talent for publicity and promotion, selling lottery tickets by age 12. After trying his hands at various jobs, P.T. turns to show business to indulge his limitless imagination, rising from nothing to create the Barnum & Bailey circus. Featuring catchy musical numbers, exotic performers and daring acrobatic feats, Barnum’s mesmerizing spectacle soon takes the world by storm to become the greatest show on Earth. This is a triumph of style over content. The musical numbers are expansive, well-choreographed and wonderfully performed. The story , however, is given little room to breathe with short dialogue interludes serving to advance the plot between the songs. This would work well on stage, but in a movie it feels like the characters are short-changed and as a result the whole production is given an air of artificiality. This is not helped by the songs, which whilst memorable feel anachronistic. The result is a detached experience in which you can admire the spectacle without really caring about what is going on.

AAN: Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song) (Benj Pasek, Justin Paul for the song “This is Me”)

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)

STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005, USA) ***½
Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Lucasfilm / Pandora Films / CTV Services; d. George Lucas; w. George Lucas; exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Rick McCallum; ph. David Tattersall (DeLuxe. 35mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), 70mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383). Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Dolby Vision, HDCAM SR (1080p/24) (source format). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Roger Barton, Ben Burtt; pd. Gavin Bocquet; ad. Peter Russell; set d. Piero Di Giovanni, Richard Roberts; cos. Trisha Biggar; m/up. Nikki Gooley, Annette Miles, Josh Head; sd. Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood (DTS-ES | Dolby Digital EX | SDDS (uncredited) | Dolby Atmos); sfx. Rodney Burke; vfx. Roger Guyett, John Knoll; st. Nick Gillard; rel. 12 May 2005 (USA), 16 May 2005 (UK); cert: PG-13/12; r/t. 140m.

cast: Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Natalie Portman (Padmé), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Ian McDiarmid (Supreme Chancellor Palpatine), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Jimmy Smits (Senator Bail Organa), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku), Keisha Castle-Hughes (Queen of Naboo), Silas Carson (Ki-Adi-Mundi / Nute Gunray), Jay Laga’aia (Captain Typho), Bruce Spence (Tion Medon), Wayne Pygram (Governor Tarkin), Temuera Morrison (Commander Cody), David Bowers (Mas Amedda), Oliver Ford Davies (Sio Bibble), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks), Rohan Nichol (Captain Raymus Antilles), Jeremy Bulloch (Captain Colton), Amanda Lucas (Terr Taneel), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Matt Sloan (Plo Koon), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Rebecca Jackson Mendoza (Queen of Alderaan), Joel Edgerton (Owen Lars), Bonnie Piesse (Beru Lars), Jett Lucas (Zett Jukassa), Tux Akindoyeni (Agen Kolar), Matt Rowan (Senator Orn Free Taa), Kenji Oates (Saesee Tiin), Amy Allen (Aayla Secura), Bodie Taylor (Clone Trooper), Graeme Blundell (Ruwee Naberrie), Trisha Noble (Jobal Naberrie), Claudia Karvan (Sola Naberrie), Keira Wingate (Ryoo Naberrie), Hayley Mooy (Pooja Naberrie), Sandi Finlay (Sly Moore), Katie Lucas (Chi Eekway), Genevieve O’Reilly (Mon Mothma), Warren Owens (Fang Zar), Kee Chan (Malé-Dee), Rena Owen (Nee Alavar), Christopher Kirby (Giddean Danu), Matthew Wood (General Grievous (voice)), Kristy Wright (Moteé), Coinneach Alexander (Whie), Olivia McCallum (Bene (as Mousy McCallum)), Michael Kingma (Wookiee General Tarfful), Axel Dench (Wookiee), Steven Foy (Wookiee), Julian Khazzouh (Wookiee), James Rowland (Wookiee), David Stiff (Wookiee), Robert Cope (Wookiee).

It has been three years since the Clone Wars began. Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) and Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (Christensen) rescue Chancellor Palpatine (McDiarmid) from General Grievous, the commander of the droid armies, but Grievous escapes. Suspicions are raised within the Jedi Council concerning Chancellor Palpatine, with whom Anakin has formed a bond. Asked to spy on the chancellor, and full of bitterness toward the Jedi Council, Anakin embraces the Dark Side. This is a visually impressive final instalment of parts 1-3 of the STAR WARS saga. Whilst many of the problems encountered in the first two films – notably the flat lead performances and leaden dialogue – remain, here the stakes are higher and as such the viewing experience is more rewarding. There is also a better balance between the political intrigue and the action sequences. The latter, however, often appear overly choreographed resulting in reduced tension as the viewer marvels at the movement rather than becomes embroiled in the struggle. The final act is largely engrossing but also feels manufactured in that it attempts to tie everything neatly into the set-up for part 4, which was released twenty-eight years earlier.

AAN: Best Achievement in Makeup (Dave Elsey, Nikki Gooley)

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002)

STAR WARS: EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002, USA) ***
Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
dist. Twentieth Century Fox; pr co. Lucasfilm / Recce & Production Services / Mestiere Cinema; d. George Lucas; w. George Lucas, Jonathan Hales (based on a story by George Lucas); exec pr. George Lucas; pr. Rick McCallum, Lorne Orleans; ph. David Tattersall (Colour. 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383), Digital (Texas Instruments DLP 1280 x 1024, 1.9: 1 anamorphic). Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Dolby Vision, HDCAM (1080p/24) (source format) (matted to 2.39: 1). 2.39:1); m. John Williams; ed. Ben Burtt; pd. Gavin Bocquet; ad. Peter Russell; set d. Peter Walpole; cos. Trisha Biggar; m/up. Lesley Vanderwalt, Sue Love; sd. Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood (DTS-ES | Dolby Digital EX | SDDS | Dolby Atmos); sfx. David Young, Geoff Heron, Tom Harris; vfx. Pablo Helman, John Knoll, Dennis Muren, Ben Snow; st. Nick Gillard; rel. 12 May 2002 (USA), 14 May 2002 (UK); cert: PG/PG; r/t. 142m.

cast: Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Natalie Portman (Padmé), Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku / Darth Tyranus), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), Frank Oz (Yoda (voice)), Ian McDiarmid (Supreme Chancellor Palpatine), Pernilla August (Shmi Skywalker), Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett), Jimmy Smits (Senator Bail Organa), Jack Thompson (Cliegg Lars), Leeanna Walsman (Zam Wesell), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks / Achk Med-Beq (voice)), Rose Byrne (Dormé), Oliver Ford Davies (Sio Bibble), Ronald Falk (Dexter Jettster (voice)), Jay Laga’aia (Capt. Typho), Andy Secombe (Watto (voice)), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO / Dannl Faytonni), Silas Carson (Ki-Adi-Mundi / Viceroy Nute Gunray), Ayesha Dharker (Queen Jamillia), Joel Edgerton (Owen Lars), Daniel Logan (Boba Fett), Bonnie Piesse (Beru), Anthony Phelan (Lama Su (voice)), Rena Owen (Taun We (voice)), Alethea McGrath (Madame Jocasta Nu), Susie Porter (Hermione Bagwa / WA-7), Matt Doran (Elan Sleazebaggano), Alan Ruscoe (Lott Dod), Matt Sloan (Plo Koon), Veronica Segura (Cordé), David Bowers (Mas Amedda), Steve John Shepherd (Naboo lieutenant), Bodie Taylor (Clone Trooper), Matt Rowan (Senator Orn Free Taa), Steven Boyle (Senator Ask Aak / Passel Argente), Zachariah Jensen (Kit Fisto), Alex Knoll (J.K. Burtola), Phoebe Yiamkiati (Mari Amithest), Kenny Baker (R2-D2).

Set ten years after the events of THE PHANTOM MENACE, the Republic continues to be mired in strife and chaos. A separatist movement encompassing hundreds of planets and powerful corporate alliances poses new threats to the galaxy that even the Jedi cannot stem. These moves, long planned by an as yet unrevealed and powerful force, lead to the beginning of the Clone Wars — and the beginning of the end of the Republic. This continuation of the STAR WARS saga delves deeper into the political intrigue, but has enough action sequences, some of which fail to convince with their logic, to keep the less demanding viewers entertained. Where the film pales in comparison to those that preceded it are in the characters and the actor’s performances. McGregor, Christensen and Portman lack the personality of Hamill, Ford and Fisher from the original trilogy. What humour is there is uninspired and largely repeats lines from earlier movies. Portman and Chsritensen, in particular, are given wooden dialogue to work with but fail to rise above their material in a way Christopher Lee in particular does. There is little emotional resonance despite the big themes at play. Technically, though, the film is a triumph. The visuals are highly impressive, albeit it increasingly CGI dependant. Lucas’s direction, though, is workmanlike and he fails to bring his own material to life in a way he did back in 1977. Followed by STAR WARS: EPISODE III – REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005).

AAN: Best Visual Effects (Rob Coleman, Pablo Helman, John Knoll, Ben Snow)

Film Review – AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS (1956)

AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS (1956, USA) ***½
Adventure, Comedy, Romance
dist. United Artists; pr co. Michael Todd Company; d. Michael Anderson, John Farrow (uncredited – Spanish sequences); w. James Poe, John Farrow, S.J. Perelman (based on the book by Jules Verne); pr. Michael Todd; assoc pr. William Cameron Menzies, Kevin McClory (uncredited); ph. Lionel Lindon (Technicolor. 35mm, 70mm. Todd-AO. 2.20:1); m. Victor Young; chor. Paul Godkin; ed. Howard Epstein, Gene Ruggiero; pd. Ken Adam (uncredited); ad. James W. Sullivan; set d. Ross Dowd; cos. Miles White; m/up. Edith Keon; sd. Ted Bellinger, Fred Hynes, Joseph I. Kane (4-Track Stereo (Mag-optical) (35 mm prints) (1956) | Mono (optical) (35 mm prints) (re-release prints) | 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints) (Westrex Recording System) | 4-Track Stereo (Perspecta Sound encoding) (35 mm magnetic prints) (1956)); sfx. Lee Zavitz; vfx. Fred Sersen (uncredited); titles. Saul Bass, Shamus Culhane; rel. 17 October 1956 (USA), 3 July 1957 (UK); cert: G/U; r/t. 167m.

cast: David Niven (Phileas Fogg), Cantinflas (Passepartout), Shirley MacLaine (Princess Aouda), Robert Newton (Inspector Fix), Charles Boyer (Monsieur Gasse – Thomas Cook Paris Clerk), Joe E. Brown (Fort Kearney Station Master), Martine Carol (Girl in Paris Railroad Station), John Carradine (Col. Stamp Proctor – San Francisco Politico), Charles Coburn (Steamship Company Hong Kong Clerk), Ronald Colman (Great Indian Peninsular Railway Official), Melville Cooper (Mr. Talley – Steward R.M.S ‘Mongolia’), Noël Coward (Roland Hesketh-Baggott – London Employment Agency Manager), Finlay Currie (Andrew Stuart), Reginald Denny (Bombay Police Inspector), Andy Devine (First Mate of the ‘S. S. Henrietta’), Marlene Dietrich (Barbary Coast Saloon Owner), Luis Miguel Dominguín (Bullfighter (as Luis Dominguin)), Fernandel (French Coachman), John Gielgud (Foster – Fogg’s Ex-Valet), Hermione Gingold (Sporting Lady), José Greco (Flamenco Dancer), Cedric Hardwicke (Sir Francis Cromarty – Bombay to Calcutta Train), Trevor Howard (Denis Fallentin – Reform Club Member), Glynis Johns (Sporting Lady’s Companion), Buster Keaton (Train Conductor – San Francisco to Fort Kearney), Evelyn Keyes (Tart – Paris), Beatrice Lillie (Leader of London Revivalist Group), Peter Lorre (Japanese Steward – S.S. Carnatic), Edmund Lowe (Engineer of the ‘S. S. Henrietta’), Victor McLaglen (Helmsman of the ‘S. S. Henrietta’), Tim McCoy (U.S. Cavalry Colonel), Mike Mazurki (Drunk in Hong Kong Dive), John Mills (London Carriage Driver), Robert Morley (Ralph – Bank of England Governor), Alan Mowbray (British Consul – Suez), Edward R. Murrow (Edward R. Murrow – Prologue Narrator), Jack Oakie (Captain of the ‘S. S. Henrietta’), George Raft (Barbary Coast Saloon Bouncer), Gilbert Roland (Achmed Abdullah), Cesar Romero (Achmed Abdullah’s Henchman), Frank Sinatra (Barbary Coast Saloon Pianist), Red Skelton (Drunk in Barbary Coast Saloon), A.E. Matthews (Club Member), Ronald Squire (Reform Club Member), Basil Sydney (Reform Club Member), Harcourt Williams (Hinshaw – Reform Club Aged Steward), Ronald Adam (Club Steward), Walter Fitzgerald (Club Member), Frank Royde (Clergyman), Robert Cabal (Elephant Driver-Guide).

Niven heads the huge cast as the supremely punctual Phileas Fogg, who places a £20,000 wager with several fellow members of London Reform Club, insisting that he can go around the world in eighty days (this, remember, is 1872). Together with his resourceful valet Passepartout (Cantinflas), Fogg sets out on his journey from Paris via balloon. Meanwhile, suspicion grows that Fogg has stolen his money from the Bank of England. Diligent Inspector Fix (Newton) is sent out by the bank’s president (Morley) to bring Fogg to justice. In India, Fogg and Passepartout rescue young widow Princess Aouda (MacLaine, in her third film) from being forced into committing suicide so that she may join her late husband. The threesome visit Hong Kong, Japan, San Francisco, and the Wild West. Only hours short of winning his wager, Fogg is arrested by the diligent Fix. This lavish production is more of a triumph of logistical organisation than offering any real dramatic or comic worth. The travelogue and episodic nature of the story is lovingly captured in Anderson’s widescreen frame. Shots of a busy Victorian London are realised with style, whilst others around the globe mix location footage and studio inserts. Niven is at his best as the epitome of a stiff-upper-lipped Englishman. Cantinflas offers energetic support and acrobatic comic relief, whilst MacLaine has little to do in her role as the liberated Indian princess. There are longueurs – notably an extended bullfight sequence and endless stock locational footage inserts. but there is also good humour and a spirit that carries the production through. Many past and present stars appeared in cameos. The last film of both Harcourt Williams and Newton. Runs for 183m with entr’acte and exit music. Remade in 2004.

AA: Best Picture (Mike Todd); Best Writing, Best Screenplay – Adapted (James Poe, John Farrow, S.J. Perelman); Best Cinematography, Color (Lionel Lindon); Best Film Editing (Gene Ruggiero, Paul Weatherwax); Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Victor Young)

AAN: Best Director (Michael Anderson); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color (James W. Sullivan, Ken Adam, Ross Dowd); Best Costume Design, Color (Miles White)

Film Review – WHITEOUT (2009)

WHITEOUT (2009, Canada/USA/France/Turkey) **½
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. Warner Bros. USA), Optimum Releasing  (UK); pr co. Warner Bros. / Dark Castle Entertainment / StudioCanal; d. Dominic Sena; w. Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes (based on the graphic novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber); exec pr. Don Carmody, Steve Richards, Greg Rucka; pr. Susan Downey, David Gambino, Joel Silver; assoc pr. Aaron Auch, Ethan Erwin; ph. Christopher Soos (Technicolor. 35mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema. Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (source format). 2.35:1); m. John Frizzell; ed. Martin Hunter; pd. Graham ‘Grace’ Walker; ad. Gilles Aird, Martin Gendron, Jean Kazemirchuk; set d. Réjean Labrie; cos. Wendy Partridge; m/up. Jocelyne Bellemare, Corald Giroux; sd. Mark Larry (Dolby Digital | DTS | SDDS); sfx. Louis Craig; vfx. Dennis Berardi, Ian Hunter, Richard Yuricich, Jeff Goldman, Richard Martin, Tom Turnbull, Thierry Delattre; st. Steve Lucescu; rel. 9 September 2009 (USA), 11 September 2009 (UK); cert: 15; r/t. 101m.

cast: Kate Beckinsale (Carrie Stetko), Gabriel Macht (Robert Pryce), Tom Skerritt (Dr. John Fury), Columbus Short (Delfy), Alex O’Loughlin (Russell Haden), Shawn Doyle (Sam Murphy), Joel Keller (Jack), Jesse Todd (Rubin), Arthur Holden (McGuire), Erin Hicock (Rhonda), Bashar Rahal (Russian Pilot), Julian Cain (Russian Co-pilot), Dennis Keiffer (Russian Guard), Andrei Runtso (Russian Guard), Roman Varshavsky (Russian Guard), Steve Lucescu (Mooney), Paula Jean Hixson (Lab Tech), Craig A. Pinckes (Aircraft Tech), Sean Tucker (Operations Tech), Marc James Beauchamp (Weiss).

The only U.S. Marshal assigned to Antarctica, Carrie Stetko (Beckinsale) will soon leave the harsh environment behind for good; in three days, the sun will set and the Amundsen-Scott Research Station will shut down for the long winter. When a body is discovered out on the open ice, Carrie’s investigation into the continent’s first homicide plunges her deep into a mystery that may cost her own life. The Antarctic setting adds to the atmosphere of this otherwise familiar genre thriller. Beckinsale is good in the lead, although she remains perfectly presented despite the hostile environment. The film manages to generate some tension and thrills but there is a distinct lack of originality in the plot, which has a muddled narrative with gaps in logic. The CGI work is moderate at best and the presentation of the setting always feels a little false.

Film Review – BLACK NARCISSUS (1947)

BLACK NARCISSUS (1947, UK) ****½
Drama
dist. General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK), Universal Pictures (USA); pr co. The Archers / Independent Producers; d. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger; w. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger (based on the novel by Rumer Godden); pr. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger; ph. Jack Cardiff (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1); m. Brian Easdale; ed. Reginald Mills; pd. Alfred Junge; cos. Hein Heckroth; m/up. George Blackler, Biddy Chrystal (both uncredited); sd. Stanley Lambourne (Mono (Western Electric Recording)); vfx. W. Percy Day; rel. 24 April 1947 (UK), 13 August 1947 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 101m.

cast: Deborah Kerr (Sister Clodagh), Flora Robson (Sister Philippa), Jenny Laird (Sister Honey), Judith Furse (Sister Briony), Kathleen Byron (Sister Ruth), Esmond Knight (The Old General), Sabu (The Young General), David Farrar (Mr. Dean), Jean Simmons (Kanchi), May Hallatt (Angu Ayah), Eddie Whaley Jr. (Joseph Anthony), Shaun Noble (Con), Nancy Roberts (Mother Dorothea), Ley On (Phuba).

A group of Anglican nuns, led by Sister Clodagh (Kerr), are sent to a mountain in the Himalayas. The climate in the region is hostile and the nuns are housed in an odd old palace. They work to establish a school and a hospital, but slowly their focus shifts. Sister Ruth (Byron) falls for a government worker, Mr. Dean (Farrar), and begins to question her vow of celibacy. As Sister Ruth obsesses over Mr. Dean, Sister Clodagh becomes immersed in her own memories of love. The tension is slow build in this superbly shot tale of sexual repression. The theme is represented by Kerr and Byron’s struggles to come to terms with their celibacy and young native girl Simmons’ need for sexual expression. All this was quite daring in 1947 and the film was heavily cut on its initial release in the USA. Powell and Pressburger take their time in building the antagonism between the characters until a perfect final act in which the suppressed rage boils to the surface in Byron’s superbly unhinged Sister Ruth. Make-up design, superb colour photography (Cardiff’s use of lighting and colour tones is exemplary) and editing all come together magnificently to produce this climactic dramatic cocktail. The backdrops were blown-up black-and-white photographs. The Art Department then gave them their breath-taking colours by using pastel chalks on top of them. Remade as a TV mini-series in 2020.

AA: Best Cinematography, Color (Jack Cardiff), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color (Alfred Junge)

Book Review – GENESIS 3 (2020) by Robert Ellis

GENESIS 3 (2020) *****
by Robert Ellis
Published by The Rock Library, 6 October 2020, 286pp
© The Rock Library, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-9993712-2-7

GENESIS - 3Blurb: This hard back book measures 250x297mm, has 286 pages, and contains over 600 images. It is not a history or a biography. It is a collection of my photographs from the Genesis line up of Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Phil Collins. It is arranged in chronological order and spans the tours and events I was at. It begins in 1978 with ‘…and then there were three…’ and continues up to 1987 and ‘Invisible Touch’. I have unearthed a few surprises along the way that even I had forgotten. Take a colourful and spectacular journey down Genesis memory lane with me and a few fans who have contributed their stories.

Comment: Genesis 3 is a hefty photographic album aimed at die-hard Genesis fans, I received this book as a gift from my parents for my 60th birthday. Robert Ellis has delved into his archive of photographs of the band from the period 1978 to 1987 and come up with some real gems. The book covers the majority of the Tony Banks/Phil Collins/Mike Rutherford trio years, where on stage they were augmented by guitarist Daryl Stuermer and drummer Chester Thompson. Included are sessions from the band’s rehearsals for the …And Then There Were Three… shows and on the road from the subsequent tour; individual sessions with band members in 1979 during the hiatus between Three and Duke; promotional shots for the Duke album; coverage of the Abacab, Three Sides Live, Genesis and Invisible Touch rehearsals and tours. The bountiful collection of photographs is printed on hefty paper making for good quality prints and a heavy tome. Whilst it also carries a hefty price tag this wonderful book is a true collector’s item and will be a much treasured part of my band collection.

Book Review – THE MAKING OF ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (2009) by Charles Helfenstein

THE MAKING OF ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (2009) *****
by Charles Helfenstein
Published by Spies LLC, 18 December 2009, 292pp
© Charles Helfenstein, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9844126-0-0

Blurb: Step back in time to the late 1960s, when Sean Connery resigned from playing James Bond, producers Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli decided to gamble and doubled down with an untested director and an unknown star and came up with the crown jewels: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Based on years of research, hundreds of interviews, and exclusive access to the archives of author Ian Fleming, screenwriter Richard Maibaum, and director Peter Hunt, this inside look features never-before-published script details, storyboards, production documents, interviews, memos, marketing material, call sheets, and hundreds of rare, behind-the-scenes photographs of the cast and crew, including sequences and entire sets not seen in the film. From novel to script to screen, this book details the incredible journey of making the most unique entry in the James Bond film series, the longest running, most successful film franchise in history. This is not the white-washed “authorized” story, but the real story.

Comment: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is unique in many ways in the James Bond movie canon. It was the first film in which the part of Bond was recast – Sean Connery having bowed out after five films with Australian model George Lazenby taking over; it would prove to be Lazenby’s one and only performance as Bond; it would be Peter Hunt’s one and only film as director; it would be the only film in which Bond has a serious relationship and gets married. Released at the very end of the 1960s, there were rumblings that Bond may no longer be in vogue as the late 60s cultural revolution pushed cinema audiences to young and hip movies like Easy Rider. These factors led to the film getting a mixed reaction from critics and audiences. Another factor was that the Connery Bonds had become bigger and bigger and more outlandish and OHMSS was a back to basics approach, eschewing the gadgets and became the closest adaptation of one of Ian Fleming’s source novels in the series (director Hunt would always have a copy of the book with him during filming). The film, as well as Lazenby’s performance, has been re-assessed over the years and is now regarded as one of the very best in the series. Charles Helfenstein’s account of the making of OHMSS is an outstanding piece of research taking us from the novel to the scripting process to pre-production to casting to production to post-production and marketing to release and critical reception. It makes for a fascinating journey and tells the story of a director with a determined vision, a new star who was something of a maverick and a production team that put itself on the line to produce the best possible output. Helfenstein has drawn on his own interviews with cast and crew as well as archived information. The book is also packed with production photographs, trade ads, posters, lobby cards and details of marketing products. There is some detailed analysis of the various screenplays developed over a period of five years, including false starts. There is also detail of initial outlines for Diamonds Are Forever, written before Lazenby decided to withdraw from future Bonds. The result is a book that is a must for Bond fans and any movie scholar.