Film Review – EARTHQUAKE (1974)

EARTHQUAKE (1974, USA, 123m, PG) ***
Action, Drama, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Cinema International Corporation (CIC) (UK); pr co. Universal Pictures / The Filmakers Group; d. Mark Robson; w. George Fox, Mario Puzo; pr. Mark Robson; ph. Philip H. Lathrop (Technicolor | 2.35:1); m. John Williams; ed. Dorothy Spencer; pd. Alexander Golitzen; ad. E. Preston Ames.
cast: Charlton Heston (Graff), Ava Gardner (Remy), George Kennedy (Slade), Lorne Greene (Royce), Geneviève Bujold (Denise), Richard Roundtree (Miles), Marjoe Gortner (Jody), Barry Sullivan (Stockle), Lloyd Nolan (Dr. Vance), Victoria Principal (Rosa), Walter Matthau (Drunk (as Walter Matuschanskayasky)), Monica Lewis (Barbara), Gabriel Dell (Sal), Pedro Armendáriz Jr. (Chavez), Lloyd Gough (Cameron), John Randolph (Mayor), Kip Niven (Walter Russell), Scott Hylands (Asst. Caretaker), Tiger Williams (Corry), Donald Moffat (Dr. Harvey Johnson).
A major earthquake hits Los Angeles and various stock characters are thrown into the chaos and destruction. Successful architect Heston argues with his drunken and demanding wife, Gardner, who is also the daughter of his boss Greene.  Bujold is Heston’s distraction from his marriage. Kennedy is a cop suspended for insubordination. Roundtree is an Evel Knievel copyist assisted by Principal. Gortner is a loner army reservist who has fascist tendencies. As the personal dramas are explored, the city is shaken by tremors leading to the inevitable titular event. This is the kind of movie Roland Emmerich has made his fortune producing in more recent times. Here, pre-CGI, the scenes of huge destruction are technically well achieved for the period with some effective matte work and wall-shaking sound (Sensurround was a much-touted new approach to sonics, which ultimately never took). The cast is solid, although Gardner’s histrionics veer toward melodrama. The movie ends abruptly with most of the personal stories left unresolved. Additional footage was shot, without the involvement of Robson, for the 152m TV version.
AA: Best Sound (Ronald Pierce, Melvin M. Metcalfe Sr.); Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects (Frank Brendel, Glen Robinson, Albert Whitlock)
AAN: Best Cinematography (Philip H. Lathrop); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Alexander Golitzen, E. Preston Ames, Frank R. McKelvy); Best Film Editing (Dorothy Spencer)

Film Review – AIRPORT (1970)

AIRPORT (1970, USA, 137m, PG) ***
Drama, Thriller
dist. Universal Pictures; pr co. Universal Pictures / Ross Hunter Productions; d. George Seaton; w. George Seaton (based on the novel by Arthur Hailey); pr. Ross Hunter; ph. Ernest Laszlo (Technicolor | 2.20:1); m. Alfred Newman; ed. Stuart Gilmore; ad. E. Preston Ames, Alexander Golitzen.
cast: Burt Lancaster (Mel Bakersfeld), Dean Martin (Vernon Demerest), Jean Seberg (Tanya Livingston), Jacqueline Bisset (Gwen Meighen), George Kennedy (Patroni), Helen Hayes (Ada Quonsett), Van Heflin (D.O. Guerrero), Maureen Stapleton (Inez Guerrero), Barry Nelson (Anson Harris), Dana Wynter (Cindy), Lloyd Nolan (Harry Standish), Barbara Hale (Sarah Demerest), Gary Collins (Cy Jordan), John Findlater (Peter Coakley), Jessie Royce Landis (Mrs. Harriet DuBarry Mossman), Larry Gates (Commissioner Ackerman), Peter Turgeon (Marcus Rathbone), Whit Bissell (Mr. Davidson), Virginia Grey (Mrs. Schultz), Eileen Wesson (Judy Barton).
The cycle of 1970s all-star, big-budget disaster movies began with this adaptation of Arthur Hailey’s best-selling novel. Lancaster plays the general manager of a Chicago-area airport, who must contend with a massive snowstorm and other issues, both work-related and personal, while the troubled Heflin threatens to blow up an airliner on a flight to Rome piloted by Martin. The first half of the film sets up the characters and their domestic situations and is deliberately paced by Seaton, who uses various split-screen techniques, skilfully edited by Gilmore, to help with pacing. His script is wordy, and dialogue is sometimes stilted as he often feels the need to explain airport protocol through character discussion. Lancaster is imposing and Martin plays the material deadly straight. Kennedy’s confident trouble-shooter, Joe Patroni, would go on to appear in all three sequels. The rest of the cast give solid if often earnest, performances and Hayes won an Oscar for her eccentric stowaway. The tension, aided by Newman’s vigorous score, builds in the final third as Heflin is discovered and the threat to the flight becomes real. The film inexplicably received ten Oscar nominations, but only Hayes picked up an award. Hailey was reportedly paid $500,000 for the screen rights. Henry Hathaway directed some of the outdoor winter scenes uncredited covering for a sick Seaton. This was the final film of both Heflin and Landis. Shot in 70 mm Todd-AO. Followed by three sequels: AIRPORT 1975 (1974), AIRPORT ‘77 (1977), and THE CONCORDE…AIRPORT ’79 (1979).
AA: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Helen Hayes).
AAN: Best Picture; Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Maureen Stapleton); Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (George Seaton); Best Cinematography (Ernest Laszlo); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Alexander Golitzen, E. Preston Ames, Jack D. Moore, Mickey S. Michaels); Best Costume Design (Edith Head); Best Sound (Ronald Pierce, David H. Moriarty); Best Film Editing (Stuart Gilmore) and Best Music, Original Score (Alfred Newman).

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 GIRL HUNTERS (1963)

The Girl Hunters (1963) - The Stalking MoonTHE GIRL HUNTERS (UK, 1963) **½
      Distributor: Colorama Features (USA) / Twentieth Century Fox Film Company (UK); Production Company: Fellane; Release Date: 12 June 1963 (USA), 16 July 1964 (UK); Running Time: 98m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Roy Rowland; Writer: Mickey Spillane, Robert Fellows, Roy Rowland (based on the novel by Mickey Spillane); Producer: Robert Fellows; Associate Producer: Charles Reynolds; Director of Photography: Kenneth Talbot; Music Composer: Philip Green; Film Editor: Sidney Stone; Art Director: Tony Inglis; Costumes: Rene Coke, Dan Millstein (Miss Eaton’s wardrobe); Make-up: Sidney Turner, Alice Holmes; Sound: Jim Roddan, Hugh Strain, Gerry Turner.
      Cast: Mickey Spillane (Mike Hammer), Lloyd Nolan (Federal Agent Arthur Rickerby), Shirley Eaton (Laura Knapp), Scott Peters (Police Captain Pat Chambers), Guy Kingsley Poynter (Dr. Larry Snyder), James Dyrenforth (Bayliss Henry), Charles Farrell (Joe Grissi), Kim Tracy (Nurse), Hy Gardner (Hy Gardner – the Columnist), Benny Lee (Nat Drutman), Murray Kash (Richie Cole), Bill Nagy (Georgie), Clive Endersby (Duck-Duck), Ricardo Montez (Skinny Guy), Larry Cross (Red Markham), Tony Arpino (Cab driver), Hal Galili (Bouncer), Nellie Hanham (Landlady), Robert Gallico (Dr. Leo Daniels), Michael Brennan (Policeman), Howard Greene (Policeman), Grant Holden (Policeman), Francis Napier (Detective), Larry Taylor (The Dragon).
      Synopsis: Legendary detective Mike Hammer has spent seven years in an alcoholic funk after the supposed death of his secretary, Velda. He is brought back to the land of the living by his old friendly enemy, police lieutenant Pat Chambers.
     Comment: Mickey Spillane plays his own literary creation, New York PI Mike Hammer, in this straight adaptation of his seventh Hammer novel. Here Hammer has been 7-years a drunken bum following the assumed death of his secretary Velda. When he is given hope Velda is still alive by a dying man, Hammer seeks to find the truth behind her disappearance and becomes embroiled in an espionage plot which puts him at the centre of the target for a professional killer. Eaton plays the widow of a US senator who was also involved in the plot and Nolan a government agent who has Hammer working to unravel the mystery. Made in the UK, art director Inglis does well to create authentic street scenes and sets. Spillane is stiff as Hammer and struggles to deliver his own dialogue with the tough intensity one imagines on the written page. Nolan is the movie’s bright spot along with Green’s mournful score. Like its source, the movie fails to close out the story and a sequel (an adaptation of Spillane’s follow-up novel The Snake) was intended but never shot. The tough-guy antics,  moody atmosphere and black-and-white photography suggest the movie belongs in another time – unfortunately its execution falls short of its ambition.

Film Review – CIRCUS WORLD (1964)

Image result for circus world 1964Circus World (1964; USA; Technicolor; 135m) ***  d. Henry Hathaway; w. Ben Hecht, Julian Halevy, James Edward Grant, Philip Yordan, Nicholas Ray; ph. Jack Hildyard; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Rita Hayworth, Claudia Cardinale, John Smith, Lloyd Nolan, Richard Conte, Wanda Rotha, Kay Walsh. A circus owner is beset by disasters as he attempts a European tour of his circus. At the same time, he is caught in an emotional bind between his adopted daughter and her mother. Spectacular circus action makes up for lack of plot and two-dimensional characters. High production values and an exciting finale built around a devastating fire are also pluses. Wayne and Nolan give strong performances, but the rest of the cast are swamped by a script that gives them little to get their teeth into. Aka: THE MAGNIFICENT SHOWMAN. [U]

Film Review – ISLAND IN THE SKY (1953)

John Wayne, Wally Cassell, and Jimmy Lydon in Island in the Sky (1953)Island in the Sky (1953; USA; B&W; 109m) ****  d. William A. Wellman; w. Ernest K. Gann; ph. Archie Stout; m. Emil Newman.  Cast: John Wayne, Lloyd Nolan, Walter Abel, James Arness, Andy Devine, Harry Carey Jr., Regis Toomey, Darryl Hickman, Paul Fix, Bob Steele. A C-47 transport plane makes a forced landing in the frozen wastes of Labrador, and the plane’s pilot must keep his men alive in deadly conditions while waiting for rescue. Well-acted drama with Wayne at his best as the pilot taking responsibility for the welfare of his men. The unforgiving landscape is authentically captured by Wellman and his cinematographer Stout. Abel, Nolan, Devine and Arness lead the rescue search. Gann adapted his own novel based on a real-life event during WWII. Reworked as FATE IS THE HUNTER (1964). [U]