Showing posts with label burt lancaster. Show all posts
Showing posts with label burt lancaster. Show all posts

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

16 March 2015

DVD Review - The Young Savages (1961)

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Genre:
Drama
Distributor:
Simply Media
DVD Release Date:
16th March 2015 (UK)
Rating: PG
Director:
John Frankenheimer
Cast:
Burt Lancaster, Dina Merrill, Edward Andrews, Vivian Nathan, Shelley Winters
Buy: The Young Savages [DVD]

John Frankenheimer started out doing live television and learnt his trade in that throughout the 1950s. He made one previous feature The Young Stranger before he moved permanently into film (even though he would return to TV in his later life) with The Young Savages and what a step up it was. Frankenheimer’s status as a master craftsman has grown through the years and deservedly so.

Both the similar titled films The Young Stranger and The Young Savages are about problematic teenagers, but The Young Savages has a more sophisticated approach to the storytelling and visual style. Burt Lancaster (who collaborated with Frankenheimer on numerous films) plays the district attorney Hank Bell, who is investigating a murder of a blind Puerto Rican boy by 3 teenager delinquents. Bell is from the same neighbourhood as the boys, and one has a relationship with one of the boy’s mothers played by Shelley Winters.

It’s an issues film, which during the ‘50s and early ‘60s were very popular. It deals with issues like crime, racism, justice and although done intelligently enough, it’s never too preachy unlike more modern attempts like Crash. Burt Lancaster is pretty much always great and this is no exception. Shelley Winters is still at the height of her talent before she starts doing AIP films only a few years later. Kojak fans will also see a young Telly Savalas playing a police detective like he did on his later television show.

The real strength of the film is really Frankenheimer’s style. It’s full of strange angles and close-ups, which will be more evident in his later masterpieces The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds. It was Frankenheimer's first collaboration with cinematographer Lionel Lindon who he would collaborate with on The Manchurian Candidate. In closing it’s an early Frankenheimer film which stylistically pre-dates a lot of aesthetic choices he would make in later films, with a solid storyline and two strong performances from it’s stars.

★★★1/2
Ian Schultz

13 March 2015

DVD Review - Child is Waiting (1963)

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Genre:
Drama
Distributor:
Simply Media
DVD Release Date:
16th March 2015 (UK)
Rating: PG
Director:
John Cassavetes
Cast:
Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland, Gena Rowlands, Steven Hill, Paul Stewart,
Buy:A Child Is Waiting [DVD]

John Cassavetes is considered by many to be the father of American Independent cinema; he isn’t in my opinion, as Roger Corman and Sam Fuller predate him, amongst many others. He is however a pioneer in the fact he made these rich, character based dramas that he wrote, directed and put his own money into them. He had a couple years in the early ‘60s before he made his groundbreaking Faces where he almost became a studio director with films like Too Late Blues and A Child in Waiting.

The noted director Stanley Kramer produced A Child is Waiting and they butted heads over the final cut. Despite the post-production turmoil, Cassavetes (who disowned the film), admitted it wasn’t too bad, just a bit overly sentimental for his own taste. It’s a fascinating film for many reasons. Firstly, as a historical depiction of disability on screen, uncommonly (even shamefully today), most of the disabled children are played by actual disabled children which is in tune with Cassavetes’ realistic, improv style.

Judy Garland and Burt Lancaster star in the film, and both gives some of their finest performances in their respective, extraordinary film careers. Lancaster plays the head of the school, Dr. Matthew Clark, and clashes with Garland’s Jean Hansen over his strict teaching methods. Hanson also becomes emotionally involved with one of the kids who Clark considers to be one of their big failures, and they battle over how to education him. Lancaster brings the physicality that he always did due to his background in the circus. Garland also really shows off her acting chops, something that was rarely on display in other films she did.

A Child is Waiting deserves to be re-analysed as one of Cassavetes’ finest films and of his two “Hollywood” films it’s certainly his best, despite obviously being toned down from Cassavetes’ original intentions. Cassavetes had an extremely forward thinking take on the material, stating in the book Cassavetes on Cassavetes, “My film said that retarded children could be anywhere, any time, and that the problem is that we're a bunch of dopes, that it's our problem more than the kids. The point of the original picture that we made was that there was no fault, that there was nothing wrong with these children except that their mentality was lower." The finished film, which Kramer edited, had a bent that was more of it’s time, basically saying the kids are better off in the institute than in the main population.

★★★★
Ian Schultz


30 August 2010

Chance to Catch a classic movie remastered BFI Presents The Leopard (Il Gattopardo)

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The Great thing about independent &arthouse cinema's is the opportunity to visually experience cinematic masterpieces of generations gone by and thanks to BFI another classic movie comes to a screen near you.

Luchino Visconti’s sumptuous masterpiece The Leopard will be released in a breathtaking new digital restoration in cinemas nationwide. Backed up with a fantastic score, wonderful costumes with memorising scenes which makes you feel you will be part of the movie especially the fantastic ballroom you look anxiously to find someone to join you in the next dance.

Set in 1860-62, during the turbulent period of Italian unification, it tells the story of an aristocratic Sicilian family threatened by political upheaval. Starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon, it is one of the most beautiful epics ever made.  The Leopard is screening at the BFI Southbank, London throughout september as part of their Nino Rota season As one of the most successful of all film composers (who worked with likes of Fellini,  Coppola, Visconti and Zeffirelli)  a full range of Rota's films will be on the screen including The Godfather II and La Dolce Vita.
The movie was digitally remastered for this year's Cannes Film Festival and thanks to BFI the movie this weekend started its national tour of various cinemas up and down the country through out September into October and November.
For more information and a link to the movies trailer, you can find after the break...