Showing posts with label 1957. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1957. Show all posts

15 August 2017

RAY HARRYHAUSEN'S 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH. (1957) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

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3 April 2015

Blu-ray Review - Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

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Genre:
Drama, Film Noir
Distributor:
Arrow Academy
Rating: PG
BD Release Date:
30th March 2015 (UK)
Aspect Ratio:
16:9 - 1.66:1
Run Time:
96 minutes
Director:
Alexander Mackendrick
Cast:
Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Susan Harrison
Buy:Sweet Smell of Success [Blu-ray]


Don't do anything I wouldn't do! That gives you a lot of leeway...” sums up the world in which you are in in The Sweet Smell of Success. It’s a world of pure amorality to the extreme; very few characters ever on screen are as crooked as Burt Lancaster’s J.J Hunsecker and Tony Curtis’ Sidney Falco. The film remains, nearly 60 years after it’s release, one of the most cynical of all noirs and shows the dark underbelly and dog- eat- dog nature of America.

Sidney is a press agent and hasn’t been able to get Hunsecker to write about any of his clients because of his failure to break-up the relationship between Hunsucker’s sister and her jazz musician boyfriend. Sidney becomes increasingly desperate to pay the favour for his chance of fortune, going to depraved lengths. As with most noirs, and especially noirs at the tail end of the classic era, it all ends horribly wrong for everyone involved.

The film comes alive when you have the two powerhouse performances from Lancaster and Curtis on screen. I’ve never been a big fan of Tony Curtis; Some like it Hot is a fun farce albeit an overrated one (Billy Wilder did much better films) and I have always liked Spartacus. He has a nervous energy in The Sweet Smell of Success that works and adds charm to this character that is full of neurosis. Burt Lancaster just destroys every second he is on screen in very possibly his most impressive performance in a career of many. He speaks with such venom and is just so physically imposing it just leaps out of the screen. It’s no wonder that Lancaster came out of the circus.

The legendary cinematographer, John Wong Howe is responsible for the on-location cinematography that is some of the first I know of that really shows the speed and energy of New York City. The director, Alexander Mackendrick, was full of anxieties during the shoot, with the busy streets of New York just adding to it, which is reflected in the finished product. Mackendrick said on the subject, "We started shooting in Times Square at rush hour, and we had high-powered actors and a camera crane and police help and all the rest of it, but we didn’t have any script. We knew where we were going vaguely, but that’s all".

The Sweet Smell of Success remains one of the visceral films to come out of the golden era of film noir. It perfectly captures the depravity that big-city journalism will stoop down to if need be, and the two leads are still exciting to watch over 50 years since it’s release. The film also became a musical at one point, which is just bizarre. Despite being an initial flop it is now rightfully considered as one of the true classics of post-war American Cinema. Arrow’s release includes a documentary on Alexander Mackendrick along with an appreciation and commentary by Philip Kemp who wrote a book on Mackendrick.

★★★★★
Ian Schultz

28 February 2014

Film Review - Funny Face (1957)

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Genre:
Musical, Comedy, Romance
Distributor:
Park Circus
Rating: PG
Re-Release Date:
28th February 2014 (UK)
Director:
Stanley Donen
Cast:
Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson


Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn) happily works as an assistant in an obscure New York bookstore. One day a top fashion glossy takes over the shop as the setting for a photo shoot. During the shoot the magazine's editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) and her top photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) discover Jo whom they declare as the next 'big thing'! She is then whisked to Paris by the scheming duo, where she not only causes a sensation on the catwalks of the fashion capital but soon becomes the focus of Avery's attention on both sides of the camera.

For those who think cinema's fascination with fashion is a recent phenomena, with films like The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and The September Issue (2009) - think again. Funny Face (1957), the piece of cinematic whimsy directed by Stanley Donen - who made such Hollywood classics as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) - proves that as far back as the 1950s the public was obsessed with the beautiful world inhabited by stick thin models, demanding editors and temperamental photographers. The film shares endless similarities with the real world of fashion, and especially the refined echelons of couture: not surprising considering the character of Maggie Prescott was rumoured to be modelled on Diana Vreeland, the real-life Editrix of fashion bible American Vogue, whilst the inspiration for Astaire's photographer apparently derived from one of the most influential super snappers ever, Richard (Dick) Avedon.

As with the exclusive world of high fashion, Funny Face is one of those rare films which not only transcends fads and passing tastes, but stands out from the rest thanks to its effortless style, wit and sophistication. Hepburn simply fizzes in the role of Jo, the feisty young woman battling with the attentions of Astaire's older, more worldly-wise mentor - a role she would repeat a few years later in My Fair Lady (1964) alongside Rex Harrison.

Like the industry it so wittily sends up, the evergreen Funny Face is beguiling, tasteful and painfully chic. The film's timely rerelease coincides conveniently with the close of the bi-annual fashion circus which has been making its way around the clothing capitals of the world. Few of us will ever get the chance of a ringside seat at these events. However glossy magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar allow people to be a part of these fantasies, vicariously through their pages. Films such as the exquisite Funny Face - where all the ingredients came together in a picture perfect composition - also allow us to share, even if only for a brief time, in this land of adult make-believe.

★★★★★

Cleaver Patterson



17 August 2013

The Tarnished Angels Masters Of Cinema Blu-Ray Review

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Rating: 12
BD Release Date:
26th August 2013 (UK)
Director:
Douglas Sirk
Cast:
Rock Hudson, Dorothy Malone, Robert Stack
Buy:
(Masters of Cinema) (Blu-ray)

The Tarnished Angels is a film based on the novel Pylon by noted American writer William Faulker; who in fact wrote quite a few screenplays. Faulkner considered it the only good adaptation of his work he saw in his lifetime. Legendary director Douglas Sirk noted for his Technicolor drenched melodramas and the films normally starring Rock Hudson directed it.

The Tarnished Angels is about the very strange relationship between Roger Shumann (Robert Stack), his wife LaVerne (Dorothy Malone), Roger’s mechanic Jiggs (Jack Carson) and local reporter Burke Devlin (Rock Hudson). Roger is a disillusioned World War I flying ace that is making appearances as a stunt pilot, which also features his parachuting wife. They also have a kid Jack but it’s never clear that if Roger or Jiggs is the father on of the kid. The gypsy like lifestyle of the Roger, LaVerne and Jiggs intrigues Burke Devlin. He wants to do a newspaper piece on it much to the dismay to his editor.

Burke is dismayed by the treatment of his family and especially his wife LaVerne. He gets increasingly more and more attracted to his neglected wife. The key line is when Burke compares Roger, Jiggs and LaVerne as extra-terrestrials to his editor. They are very alien like and can’t form any meaningful relationship even with the ones they love. The film will end in tragedy in a way only true melodrama can.

The film is a slight departure from Sirk’s normally work due to the very contrasty black and white, which Sirk choose to shoot in to the echo the depression era the film is set. It is also perhaps his most bleak and pessimistic film. The film has the characteristic irony that goes though all of Sirk’s finest films. The Pylon, which Faulkner’s novel took its name and the pilots fly around is very overt symbolism of the characters going nowhere. It is brilliantly crosscut with the son Jack flying in circle during a tragic plane clash.

Rock Hudson gives a great performance, as the journo who falls deeply for LeVerne but knows nothing will happen. Rock is always one of the constantly surprising actors of the golden age of Hollywood for proof see Seconds and Giant. The film is also shoot in glorious black and white CinemaScope.

The Tarnished Angels also came out not that soon off one of his most successful films Written on the Wind that shared the same leads with the exception of Lauren Bacall. The film originally was one of his least successful films. The resurgence of his work since the 1970s with directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, John Waters, Todd Haynes and even Quentin Tarantino praising his brand of melodrama. The film has since being re-evaluated as one of his key works.

★★★★

Ian Schultz