Film Review – THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960)

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960, USA, 128m, PG) ****
Western
dist. United Artists; pr co. The Mirisch Company / Alpha Productions; d. John Sturges; w. William Roberts; pr. John Sturges; ph. Charles Lang (DeLuxe | 2.35:1); m. Elmer Bernstein; ed. Ferris Webster; ad. Edward Fitzgerald.
cast: Yul Brynner (Chris Larabee Adams), Eli Wallach (Calvera), Steve McQueen (Vin Tanner), Horst Buchholz (Chico), Charles Bronson (Bernardo O’Reilly), Robert Vaughn (Lee), Brad Dexter (Harry Luck), James Coburn (Britt), Jorge Martínez de Hoyos (Hilario), Vladimir Sokoloff (Old Man), Rosenda Monteros (Petra), Rico Alaniz (Sotero), Pepe Hern (Tomas), Natividad Vacío (Villager (as Natividad Vacio)), Mario Navarro (Boy with O’Reilly), Danny Bravo (Boy with O’Reilly), John A. Alonzo (Miguel), Val Avery (Henry), Whit Bissell (Chamlee), Robert J. Wilke (Wallace).
John Sturges’ remake of Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI (1954) is packed with iconic moments delivered with aplomb by a cast of future stars. A Mexican village is at the mercy of Wallach and his band of outlaws. The farming villagers are too afraid to fight for themselves and hire seven American gunslingers, led by Brynner, to help them fight back. The gunmen train the villagers to defend themselves and then plan a trap for the bandits. The film has become immensely popular over the years, largely due to its cast. Brynner is a commanding presence and McQueen the epitome of cool. Bronson and Coburn also get the opportunity to show their potential and Vaughn’s character is an interesting psychological contradiction. Buchholz is a little excitable as a proud Mexican out to prove himself. There are slow patches to navigate, but the shootouts are well-staged and exciting, if slightly over-choreographed. Bernstein’s rousing musical score has become a classic. Followed by three sequels – RETURN OF THE SEVEN (1966), GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1969) and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN RIDE! (1972) – and a TV series (1998-2000). Remade in 2016.
AAN: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Elmer Bernstein).

Film Review – THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974)

THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974, USA, 165m, 15) ****
Action, Drama
dist. Twentieth Century Fox (USA), Columbia-Warner Distributors (UK); pr co. Warner Bros. / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Irwin Allen Productions; d. John Guillermin; w. Stirling Silliphant (based on the novels “The Tower” by Richard Martin Stern and “The Glass Inferno” by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson); pr. Irwin Allen; ph. Fred J. Koenekamp (DeLuxe | 2.39:1, 2.20:1 (70mm version)); m. John Williams; ed. Carl Kress, Harold F. Kress; pd. William J. Creber; ad. Ward Preston.
cast: Steve McQueen (Chief O’Halloran), Paul Newman (Doug Roberts), William Holden (Jim Duncan), Faye Dunaway (Susan), Fred Astaire (Harlee Claiborne), Susan Blakely (Patty), Richard Chamberlain (Simmons), Jennifer Jones (Lisolette), O.J. Simpson (Jernigan), Robert Vaughn (Senator Parker), Robert Wagner (Dan Bigelow), Susan Flannery (Lorrie), Sheila Allen (Paula Ramsay (as Sheila Mathews)), Norman Burton (Giddings), Jack Collins (Mayor Ramsay), Don Gordon (Kappy), Felton Perry (Scott), Gregory Sierra (Carlos), Ernie F. Orsatti (Mark Powers), Dabney Coleman (Deputy Chief #1).
A fire breaks out in a state-of-the-art San Francisco high-rise building during the opening ceremony attended by a host of A-list guests. McQueen plays the overworked fire chief who along with the building’s architect (Newman) struggles to save lives and subdue panic while a corrupt, cost-cutting contractor (Chamberlain), son-in-law to builder Holden, tries to duck responsibility for the shortcuts he took that caused the disaster. Guillermin sustains the tension throughout this big production disaster movie, which along with producer Irwin Allen’s THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, is the best example of the 1970s disaster genre and needed the funding of two studios- Fox and Warner. A stellar cast – led by Newman and McQueen – adds considerably to the familiar elements. The photography and production values are first-rate and are enhanced by an excellent grandiose score from Williams. The action sequences, directed by Irwin Allen and photographed by Joseph F.Biroc, are effectively staged. It was Jennifer Jones’s final film.
AA: Best Cinematography (Fred J. Koenekamp, Joseph F. Biroc); Best Film Editing (Harold F. Kress, Carl Kress); Best Music, Original Song (Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn for the song “We May Never Love Like This Again”)
AAN: Best Picture (Irwin Allen); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Fred Astaire); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (William J. Creber, Ward Preston, Raphael Bretton); Best Sound (Theodore Soderberg, Herman Lewis); Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (John Williams)

Film Review – THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: THE FIFTEEN YEARS LATER AFFAIR (1983)

THE RETURN OF THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: THE FIFTEEN YEARS LATER AFFAIR (TV) (1983, USA) **½
Action, Crime, Thriller
dist. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); pr co. Richard Sloan Productions / Viacom Productions; d. Ray Austin; w. Michael Sloan (based on the TV series created by Sam Rolfe); exec pr. Michael Sloan; pr. Nigel Watts; ph. Fred J. Koenekamp (DeLuxe. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Gerald Fried; th m. Jerry Goldsmith; ed. George Jay Nicholson; ad. Herman F. Zimmerman; set d. Charles Pierce; cos. Robert B. Harris, Barbara Siebert; m/up. Mike Moschella, Jean Austin; sd. Dale Johnson, William Randall, Jim Cook (Mono (Glen Glenn Sound)); sfx. Cliff Wenger; st. Ben Jensen; rel. 5 April 1983 (USA), 21 April 1984 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 96m.

cast: Robert Vaughn (Napoleon Solo), David McCallum (Illya Kuryakin), Patrick Macnee (Sir John Raleigh), Tom Mason (Benjamin Kowalski), Gayle Hunnicutt (Andrea Markovitch), Geoffrey Lewis (Janus), Anthony Zerbe (Justin Sepheran), Keenan Wynn (Piers Castillian), Simon Williams (Nigel Pennington-Smythe), John Harkins (Alexi Kemp), Jan Tríska (Vaselievich), Susan Woollen (Janice Friday), Carolyn Seymour (Actress), George Lazenby (J.B.), Judith Chapman (Z-65), Dick Durock (Guiedo), Lois De Banzie (Delquist), Randi Brooks (The Model), Jack Somack (The Tailor), Eddie Baker (Salesman).

The criminal organization THRUSH steals the A-bomb H957 and demands $350,000,000 to be delivered within 72 hours by their former antagonist Solo. So U.N.C.L.E. has to reactivate the super agents Solo (Vaughn) and Kuryakin (McCallum) after they were 15 years out of business. Equipped in the usual 007 fashion they start to seek the villains. This is a reunion with tongue firmly placed in cheek. The movie seems to push more into James Bond territory with its references (including Lazenby’s cameo as “J.B.” driving an Aston Martin DB5) and its big finale (which is well-staged for a TV budget). Vaughn and McCallum slip back easily into their roles and although the film gets off to a fairly ropey and hammy start (notably Hunnicutt’s overly forced Russian accent), it settles down into a slick, but light entertainment. the script is a mix of awful dialogue, in-jokes and knowing winks at the audience. A true guilty pleasure.