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)

Film Review – MAN AT THE TOP (1973)

MAN AT THE TOP (1973, UK) ***
Drama
dist. Anglo-EMI Film Distributors (UK), Ambassador Film Distributors (USA); pr co. Anglo-EMI / Dufton / Hammer Film Productions; d. Mike Vardy; w. Hugh Whitemore, John Junkin (based on characters created by John Braine); exec pr. Nat Cohen; pr. Peter Charlesworth, Jock Jacobsen; ph. Brian Probyn (Eastmancolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.37:1 (original ratio), 1.75:1 (intended ratio)); m. Roy Budd; m sup. Philip Martell; ed. Chris Barnes; ad. Don Picton; cos. Laura Nightingale; m/up. George Blackler, Elaine Bowerbank; sd. Claude Hitchcock, Terry Poulton (Mono); rel. May 1973 (UK), May 1975 (USA); cert: 15; r/t. 92m.

cast: Kenneth Haigh (Joe Lampton), Nanette Newman (Alex), Harry Andrews (Lord Ackerman), John Quentin (Digby), Mary Maude (Robin Ackerman), Danny Sewell (Weston), Paul Williamson (Tarrant), Margaret Heald (Eileen), Angela Bruce (Joyce), Charlie Williams (George Harvey), Anne Cunningham (Mrs. Harvey), William Lucas (Marshal), John Collin (Wisbech), Norma West (Sarah Tarrant), Clive Swift (Massey), Jaron Yaltan (Harish Taranath), Tim Brinton (Newsreader), John Conteh (Black Boxer), Nell Brennan (Waitress), Patrick McCann (White Boxer).

Northerner Joe Lampton (Haigh) becomes involved with Lord Ackerman (Andrews), the powerful chairman of a pharmaceutical concern, his beautiful wife Alex (Newman), and daughter Robin (Maude). But trouble starts when Joe is made Managing Director of one of Ackerman’s companies and makes a shocking discovery: his predecessor committed suicide. Mixing business conspiracy and social comment this third cinematic take on John Braine’s ambitious working class career climber has its moments without ever really catching fire. Haigh’s performance lacks a certain subtlety, accurately capturing the nature of his character but making him a little too one-dimensional in the process. The moral that plays out is “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and there is a certain hypocrisy in Lampton’s self-serving actions. The film is shot with an element of cold realism heightened by Budd’s spare score. Whilst Haigh is on screen the story is always interesting if its path leads to an unsatisfying, if inevitable, conclusion. Based on the TV series (1970-2), which in turn followed ROOM AT THE TOP (1959) and LIFE AT THE TOP (1965).

Film Review – LONELY ARE THE BRAVE (1962)

LONELY ARE THE BRAVE (1962, USA) ****
Drama, Western
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Rank Film Distributors (UK); pr co. Joel Productions; d. David Miller; w. Dalton Trumbo (based on the novel “Brave Cowboy” by Edward Abbey); exec pr. Kirk Douglas (uncredited); pr. Edward Lewis; ph. Philip H. Lathrop (B&W. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. Jerry Goldsmith; m sup. Joseph Gershenson; ed. Leon Barsha; ad. Alexander Golitzen, Robert Emmet Smith; set d. George Milo; cos. Stanley Kufel, Peter V. Saldutti; m/up. Dave Grayson, Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; sd. Waldon O. Watson, Frank H. Wilkinson (Mono (Westrex Recording System)); st. Bob Herron; rel. 27 April 1962 (UK), 24 May 1962 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 107m.

cast: Kirk Douglas (John W. “Jack” Burns), Gena Rowlands (Jerry Bondi), Walter Matthau (Sheriff Morey Johnson), Michael Kane (Paul Bondi), Carroll O’Connor (Hinton), William Schallert (Harry), George Kennedy (Deputy Sheriff Gutierrez), Karl Swenson (Rev. Hoskins), William Mims (First Deputy Arraigning Burns), Martin Garralaga (Old Man), Lalo Rios (Prisoner).

Douglas gives one of his best performances as a cowboy out of his time who attempts to break a friend (Kane) out of jail and is then pursued through the mountains by the local sheriff (Matthau). The film is played out for the most part from Douglas’ perspective as it laments the passing of the old west, which has been taken over by technological progress. The mix of drama and dry humour may seem jarring to some but adds a sense of realism as the humour is never over-played. There is brutality, represented by Kennedy’s sadistic jail warden. The humour is mainly played out through Matthau’s sheriff’s wilting exasperation at the incompetence of his men. There are symbolic scenes demonstrating the core theme of a modern west with the unforgettable bookends and Trumbo’s screenplay adaptation is well observed, excepting the jailbreak scene, which feels a little too easy. Douglas is superb and gets into the soul of his character and Lathrop’s black and white photography adds to the yearning for nostalgia. The section showing Douglas’s ascent of the mountain with his horse is depicted with authenticity and generates considerable suspense. Reported to be Douglas’ favourite of all his films. This was Carroll O’Connor’s film debut. An overlooked gem.

TV Review – BLACK NARCISSUS (2020)

Black Narcissus' Gets FX Premiere Date, Trailer And Key Art Released –  DeadlineBLACK NARCISSUS (TV) (2020, UK) ***
Drama
dist. BBC One (UK), FX Network (USA); pr co. DNA Films; d. Charlotte Bruus Christensen; w. Amanda Coe (based on the novel by Rumer Godden); exec pr. Ayela Butt, Amanda Coe, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich, Lucy Richer; pr. Cahal Bannon; assoc pr. Vivien Kenny; ph. Charlotte Bruus Christensen (Colour. 2.00:1); m. Anne Dudley; ed. Jinx Godfrey; pd. Kave Quinn; ad. Andrea Matheson; cos. Kave Quinn; m/up. Nicole Stafford, Emmy Beech; sd. Ben Barker, Glenn Freemantle (Dolby Digital); sfx. Mark Meddings; vfx. Samantha Townend st. Jamie Edgell; rel. 23 November 2020 (USA), 27 December 2020 (UK); cert: NR; r/t. 165m.

cast: Gemma Arterton (Sister Clodagh), Aisling Franciosi (Sister Ruth), Nila Aalia (Angu Ayah), Patsy Ferran (Sister Blanche), Rosie Cavaliero (Sister Briony), Gianni Gonsalves (Srimati Rai), Soumil Malla (Joseph Anthony), Alessandro Nivola (Mr Dean), Wayne Llewellyn (Sannyasi), Dipika Kunwar (Kanchi), Chaneil Kular (Dilip Rai), Jim Broadbent (Father Roberts), Diana Rigg (Mother Dorothea), Aashish Shrestha (Phuba), Gina McKee (Sister Adela), Prabal Sonam Ghising (Pin), Komal Ghambole (Samya), Kulvinder Ghir (General Toda Rai), Karen Bryson (Sister Philippa).

A group of nuns face challenges in the hostile environment of a remote old Himalayan palace that they wish to make a convent. This adaptation of the 1939 novel by Rumer Godden suffers from being drawn out over three one-hour episodes as there really is no three act structure to contain it. The story relies on a gradual building of tension as the nuns battle with their sexual repression and their environment. The pluses are the excellent production values and photography and Dudley’s baroque score. There are fine performances too from Arterton and Franciosi as well as Cavaliero. The tension builds nicely in the final half hour, but the drama could have been edited down into a two-hour version and delivered a stronger dynamic. Powell and Pressburger’s 1947 movie version therefore remains definitive, despite the valiant attempts to more accurately reflect the source material here.

Film Review – BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955)

52 Before 62 – # 2 Bad Day At Black Rock (1955) | The Last Blog Name On  EarthBAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955, USA) ****½
Crime, Drama, Western
dist. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); pr co. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); d. John Sturges; w. Millard Kaufman, Don McGuire (based on a story “Bad Time at Hondo” by Howard Breslin); pr. Dore Schary; assoc pr. Herman Hoffman; ph. William C. Mellor (Eastmancolor. 35mm. CinemaScope. 2.55:1); m. André Previn; ed. Newell P. Kimlin; ad. Malcolm Brown, Cedric Gibbons; set d. Fred M. MacLean, Edwin B. Willis; m/up. John Truwe; sd. Wesley C. Miller (Mono (35mm optical prints) (Western Electric Sound System) | 4-Track Stereo (35mm magnetic prints)); rel. 13 January 1955 (USA), 17 March 1955 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 81m.

cast: Spencer Tracy (John J. Macreedy), Robert Ryan (Reno Smith), Anne Francis (Liz Wirth), Dean Jagger (Tim Horn), Walter Brennan (Doc Velie), John Ericson (Pete Wirth), Ernest Borgnine (Coley Trimble), Lee Marvin (Hector David), Russell Collins (Mr. Hastings), Walter Sande (Sam).

John J. MacReedy (Tracy), is a one-armed stranger who comes to the tiny town of Black Rock one hot summer day in 1945, the first time the train has stopped there in years. He looks for both a hotel room and a local Japanese farmer named Komoko, but his inquiries are greeted at first with open hostility, then with blunt threats and harassment, and finally with escalating violence. MacReedy soon realizes that he will not be allowed to leave Black Rock; town boss Reno Smith (Ryan), who had Komoko killed because of his hatred of the Japanese, has also marked MacReedy for death. MacReedy must battle town thugs, a treacherous local woman (Francis), and finally Smith himself to stay alive. The film has an excellent script that creates an air of mystery and intimidation, which Sturges maximises through his economic shooting. Tracy is superb as the mysterious visitor and is supported by an excellent cast that includes Ryan as the influential rancher; Borgnine and Marvin as Ryan’s muscle; Francis as the only girl in town whose brother played by Ericson proves to be their weak link; and Brennan and Jagger as the town doctor and drunken sheriff ashamed of their past. The confrontation between Tracy and the townsfolk grows as the story plays out to its inevitable and ironic conclusion. Whilst the ending may seem a little hurried and convenient, taken as a whole, the film is a textbook example of building suspense through character and dialogue.

AAN: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Spencer Tracy); Best Director (John Sturges); Best Writing, Screenplay (Millard Kaufman).

Film Review – ANNIE HALL (1977)

Pulling Focus: Annie Hall (1977) | Taste Of Cinema - Movie Reviews and  Classic Movie ListsANNIE HALL (1977, USA) *****
Comedy, Drama, Romance
dist. United Artists; pr co. Rollins-Joffe Productions; d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman; exec pr. Fred T. Gallo, Robert Greenhut; pr. Jack Rollins, Charles H. Joffe; assoc pr. Fred T. Gallo; ph. Gordon Willis (DeLuxe. 35mm. Spherical. 1.85:1); ed. Wendy Greene Bricmont, Ralph Rosenblum; ad. Mel Bourne; set d. Robert Drumheller, Justin Scoppa Jr.; cos. Ruth Morley; m/up. Fern Buchner, John Inzerella, Romaine Greene, Vivienne Walker; sd. Dan Sable, Jack Higgins, James Pilcher, James Sabat (Mono); anim seq. Chris K. Ishii; rel. 27 March 1977 (USA), 21 August 1977 (UK); cert: 15; r/t. 93m.

cast: Woody Allen (Alvy Singer), Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), Tony Roberts (Rob), Carol Kane (Allison), Paul Simon (Tony Lacey), Shelley Duvall (Pam), Janet Margolin (Robin), Colleen Dewhurst (Mom Hall), Christopher Walken (Duane Hall), Donald Symington (Dad Hall), Helen Ludlam (Grammy Hall), Mordecai Lawner (Alvy’s Dad), Joan Neuman (Alvy’s Mom), Jonathan Munk (Alvy – Age 9), Ruth Volner (Alvy’s Aunt), Martin Rosenblatt (Alvy’s Uncle), Hy Anzell (Joey Nichols), Rashel Novikoff (Aunt Tessie), Russell Horton (Man in Theatre Line), Marshall McLuhan (Marshall McLuhan), Christine Jones (Dorrie), Mary Boylan (Miss Reed), Wendy Girard (Janet), John Doumanian (Coke Fiend), Bob Maroff (Man #1 Outside Theatre), Rick Petrucelli (Man #2 Outside Theatre), Lee Callahan (Ticket Seller at Theatre), Chris Gampel (Doctor).

Jewish comedy writer Alvy Singer (Allen) ponders the modern quest for love and his past romance with tightly-wound WASP singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton, née Diane Hall). Allen is at the top of his game with this painfully accurate and funny look at the break-up of a relationship. The movie caught everyone by surprise on release, following a string of hilarious joke fests, but the seeds had been sown with his acting role in Martin Ritt’s THE FRONT and his willingness to explore bigger themes in LOVE AND DEATH. Keaton as Annie is exceptional and exudes charm and personality as well as a neurosis equalling that of Allen. It is the couple’s inner-most insecurities that doom their relationship to failure. This is eloquently expressed through the non-linear narrative, frequent breaking of the fourth wall and the use of flashback to childhood influences. The move also has some very touching moments amongst the brilliant one-liners. Of note are Keaton’s rendition of “Seems Like Old Times” in  a nightclub and the Allen’s use of montage to frame the rose-tinted nostalgia for his lost love. One of the greatest films of the 1970s and a huge inspiration to other filmmakers. Watch out for brief early appearances from Jeff Goldblum, Shelley Hack, Beverly D’Angelo and Sigourney Weaver. Truman Capote cameos as the Truman Capote Look-Alike.

AA: Best Picture; Best Actress in a Leading Role (Diane Keaton); Best Director (Woody Allen); Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman)
AAN: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Woody Allen)

TV Movie Review – SHAFT: THE KIDNAPPING (1973)

Life Between Frames: Worth Mentioning - The Cat That Won't Cop OutSHAFT: THE KIDNAPPING (TV) (1973, USA) ***
Action, Crime, Drama
net. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); pr co. MGM Television; d. Alexander Singer; w. Allan Balter. William Read Woodfield ; exec pr. Allan Balter; pr. William Read Woodfield; ass pr. Dann Cahn; ph. Michael Hugo (Metrocolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Johnny Pate, theme m. Isaac Hayes; m sup. Harry V Lojewski; ed. George Folsey Jr.; ad. Bill Ross; set d. Richard Friedman; cos. Norman A. Burza, Sylvia Liggett; m/up. Jack Wilson, Billie Jordan; sd. Robert J. Miller, Hal Watkins (Mono); b/cast. 11 December 1973 (USA); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 74m.

cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Eddie Barth (Lt. Al Rossi), Paul Burke (Elliot Williamson), Karen Carlson (Nancy Williamson), Nicolas Beauvy (Matthew Potter), Greg Mullavey (Beck), Timothy Scott (Hayden), Victor Brandt (Leo), Frank Marth (Sheriff Bradley), Philip Kenneally (Deputy Walter), Erik Holland (Deputy Daley), Frank Whiteman (Deputy Milton), Stephen Coit (Mr. Tolliver), Jayne Kennedy (Debbie), Richard Stahl (Potter), Joe Petrullo (Cab Driver), Robert Casper (Bank customer), Rudy Doucette (Police Officer (uncredited)).

A banker’s wife is kidnapped, and the kidnappers insist that Shaft deliver the ransom. But complications arise when, on the way to the drop point, Shaft is stopped by an overzealous deputy who won’t listen to a word he says. This was the first shot episode (broadcast fourth) of the Shaft TV Movie series and it is little more than standard TV fare. However, its individual  elements lift it above other more modest entries in the TV series and it is a pretty good introduction for TV audiences to a more family friendly John Shaft. TV at the time was not ready for the Shaft seen on the big screen, so compromises were made with the character’s abrasiveness, salty language, violent approach to detection and his wooing of the opposite sex. These elements were dialled down. To compensate the producers extracted footage from the chase finale in SHAFT’S BIG SCORE! and repurposed it here to introduce Shaft to a TV audience. This provides a dynamic opening , which a TV budget could not match for the rest of the story. Shaft’s shootout with the bad guys at the story’s conclusion is low-scale compared to the imported opening. Nevertheless, Roundtree shows glimpses of his big screen persona and has an athletic presence throughout.

Film Review – FIRST MAN (2018)

First Man (2018) — The Movie Database (TMDb)FIRST MAN (2018, USA) ****
Drama, Biography
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Universal Pictures International (UPI) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures / DreamWorks SKG / Temple Hill Entertainment / Perfect World Pictures; d. Damien Chazelle; w. Nicole Perlman, Josh Singer (based on the book by James R. Hansen); exec pr. Adam Merims, Josh Singer, Steven Spielberg; pr. Marty Bowen, Damien Chazelle, Wyck Godfrey, Isaac Klausner; ass pr. Kevin Elam; ph. Linus Sandgren (Colour. D-Cinema. Digital Intermediate (2K). 2.39:1); m. Justin Hurwitz; ed. Tom Cross; pd. Nathan Crowley; ad. Erik Osusky; set d. Kathy Lucas; cos. Mary Zophres; m/up. Katelyn Barton, Marie Larkin; sd. Mildred Iatrou, Lee Gilmore, Nia Hansen, Phil Barrie (Dolby Atmos | DTS (DTS: X) | Auro 11.1); sfx. J.D. Schwalm; vfx. Radley Teruel, Paul Lambert, Josh Dagg; st. Nick Brandon, James M. Churchman; rel. 29 August 2018 (Italy), 31 August 2018 (USA), 12 October 2018 (UK); cert: 12; r/t. 141m.

cast: Ryan Gosling (Neil Armstrong), Claire Foy (Janet Armstrong), Jason Clarke (Ed White), Kyle Chandler (Deke Slayton), Corey Stoll (Buzz Aldrin), Patrick Fugit (Elliot See), Christopher Abbott (Dave Scott), Ciarán Hinds (Bob Gilruth), Olivia Hamilton (Pat White), Pablo Schreiber (James Lovell), Shea Whigham (Gus Grissom), Lukas Haas (Mike Collins), Ethan Embry (Pete Conrad), Brian d’Arcy James (Joe Walker), Cory Michael Smith (Roger Chaffee), Kris Rey (Marilyn See (as Kris Swanberg)), Gavin Warren (Young Rick Armstrong), Luke Winters (Older Rick Armstrong), Connor Blodgett (Mark Armstrong), Lucy Stafford (Karen Armstrong (as Lucy Brooke Stafford)).

This account of Neil Armstrong’s journey from personal tragedy, following the tragic death of his young daughter from a brain tumour in 1961, to becoming the first man to walk on the moon as the commander of Apollo 11 eight years later. The character portrait is one of an insular man who struggles to share his emotions or connect with his family. Gosling’s passive acting style is perfect for the role. The best performance comes from Foy as his increasingly alienated wife and her struggle to reach into her husband’s inner thoughts. The movie is shot in a documentary style with frequent use of hand-held camera giving a personal perspective and a high level of authenticity but creating a distanced perspective toward its characters along the way. The drama is often absorbing, despite the somewhat snapshot approach to the material. The production design is accurate, perfectly capturing the period as well as a real sense of the danger the brave astronauts put themselves in on achieving their country’s goal. Ultimately, the film shows how flawed characters can become national heroes, whilst maintaining a sense of perspective between the human and technical dramas.

AA: Best Achievement in Visual Effects (Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles, J.D. Schwalm)
AAN: Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou); Best Achievement in Production Design (Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas); Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee, Mary H. Ellis)

Film Review – MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN (2019)

Motherless Brooklyn | FlixsterMOTHERLESS BROOKLYN (2019, USA) ****
Mystery, Drama, Crime
dist. Warner Bros.; pr co. Class 5 Films / MWM Studios / Warner Bros. Pictures; d. Edward Norton; w. Edward Norton (based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem); exec pr. Adrian Alperovich, Sue Kroll, Daniel Nadler, Brian Niranjan Sheth, Robert F. Smith; pr. Michael Bederman, Bill Migliore, Daniel Nadler, Edward Norton, Gigi Pritzker, Rachel Shane, Robert F. Smith; ass pr. Silvana Tropea; ph. Dick Pope (Colour. D-Cinema. ARRIRAW (3.4K) (source format), Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format). 1.85:1); m. Daniel Pemberton; m sup. Linda Cohen; ed. Joe Klotz; pd. Beth Mickle; ad. Michael Ahern; set d. Kara Zeigon; cos. Amy Roth; m/up. Louise McCarthy, Joanna McCarthy, Kerrie Smith, John Quaglia, Sincere Gilles; sd. Paul Hsu (Dolby Digital); sfx. Jimmy Hays; vfx. Matthew Fernandez, Steven Weigle, Rebecca Dunn, Artur Elson, Vance Miller, Mark Russell, Eran Dinur, David Lebensfeld, Grant Miller, Osvaldo Andreaus, John Bair, Stevie Ramone, Luke DiTommaso; st. Stephen A. Pope; rel. 30 August 2019 (USA), 6 December 2019 (UK); cert: 15; r/t. 144m.

cast: Edward Norton (Lionel Essrog), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Laura Rose), Alec Baldwin (Moses Randolph), Willem Dafoe (Paul Randolph), Bruce Willis (Frank Minna), Ethan Suplee (Gilbert Coney), Cherry Jones (Gabby Horowitz), Bobby Cannavale (Tony Vermonte), Dallas Roberts (Danny Fantl), Josh Pais (William Lieberman), Radu Spinghel (Giant Man), Fisher Stevens (Lou), Peter Gray Lewis (Mayor), Robert Wisdom (Billy Rose), Michael Kenneth Williams (Trumpet Man), Isaiah J. Thompson (King Rooster Piano Player), Russell Hall (King Rooster Bassist), Joe Farnsworth (King Rooster Drummer), Jerry Weldon (King Rooster Saxophonist), Eric Berryman (King Rooster Bartender).

Set against the backdrop of 1950s New York, the story follows Lionel Essrog (Norton), a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome, as he ventures to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend, Frank Minna (Willis). Armed only with a few clues and the powerful engine of his obsessive mind, Lionel unravels closely-guarded secrets that hold the fate of the whole city in the balance. In a mystery that carries him from gin-soaked jazz clubs in Harlem to the hard-edged slums of Brooklyn and, finally, into the gilded halls of New York’s power brokers, Lionel contends with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city to honour his friend and save the woman who might be his own salvation. Norton has delivered a movie from a bygone era with this noir-ish tale of murder and corruption. Norton himself is excellent as the afflicted detective, whilst a strong support cast includes Baldwin as the corrupt planning official and Dafoe as his embittered and estranged brother. The plot unfolds in traditional fashion and is laced with a wry sense of humour. Good creation of period setting is achieved through visual digital effects work, costume design, a brooding score and set dressing. It is a delight to see a film of this type that doesn’t feel the need to add Hollywood-style embellishments. It’s great entertainment, if a trifle overlong.

Film Review – ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL (1975)

BBC Two - All Creatures Great and SmallALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL (1975, UK/USA) ***½
Biography, Drama
dist. EMI Film Distributors ; pr co. EMI Film Distributors / Venedon Ltd.; d. Claude Whatham; w. Hugh Whitemore (based on the books by James Herriot); exec pr. Nat Cohen; pr. Duane Bogie, David Susskind; ass pr. Cecil F. Ford; ph. Peter Suschitzky (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.66:1); m. Wilfred Josephs; ed. Ralph Sheldon; pd. Geoffrey Drake; set d. Fred Carter; cos. Yvonne Blake; m/up. Alan Brownie, Ronnie Cogan; sd. Ken Barker, Anthony Jackson, John Poyner, Clive Smith (Mono); rel. 4 February 1975 (USA), 8 May 1975 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 92m.

cast: Simon Ward (James), Anthony Hopkins (Siegfried), Lisa Harrow (Helen), Brian Stirner (Tristan), Freddie Jones (Cranford), T.P. McKenna (Soames), Daphne Oxenford (Mrs. Pumphrey), Jane Collins (Connie), Glynne Geldart (Joyce), Brenda Bruce (Miss Harbottle), Christine Buckley (Mrs. Hall), John Collin (Mr. Alderson), Jane Solo (Brenda), Harold Goodwin (Dinsdale’s Uncle), Doreen Mantle (Mrs. Seaton), John Nettleton (Head Waiter), Bert Palmer (Mr. Dean (as Burt Palmer)), John Rees (Geoff Mallock), Jenny Runacre (Pamela), Fred Feast (Farmer in Cinema).

Charming pre-WWII story of a young vet (Ward) who joins the practice of the eccentric Hopkins in the Yorkshire Dales. There he meets and courts Harrow and encounters tight-fisted farmers as he comes to terms with life in the country. Whilst the film is largely episodic and inconsequential, the warmth of the characters, the often funny situations they find themselves in and the performances of an enthusiastic cast prove to be a winning mixture. Hopkins is splendid in a role tailor-made for him. There is also great use of the Yorkshire locations. Part-funded by and debuted on NBC TV in the USA as part of Hallmark Hall of Fame. Followed by IT SHOULDN’T HAPPEN TO A VET (1976) and a hugely popular TV series running for 90 episodes over 7 seasons from 1978-90 before resurfacing again as a remake in 2020.