Cinema Station

Western Impressions: Ulzana’s Raid (1972)

January 8, 2015
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As a precursor to our film project, 12 Western Feature-Length Films in 12 Months, produced by our company Running Wild Films and 5J Media which will begin production in 2016, I have decided to share my thoughts on films from the genre as I study Westerns in preparation to make our own.

This series of short blogs is titled “Western Impressions”.

Ulzana’s Raid (1972)

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It wasn’t what I expected. Sharp’s writing is there but overshadowed by a sentimental and overabundant need to question the “Apache’s” intention. Aldrich’s tough cinema isn’t quite as tough as I always hoped it would be. The best part was the end, Lancaster under a wagon, getting shot and shooting Apaches and wanting to just die out in the desert.

Lasting impression: The final shot of Lancaster licking the cigarette paper.

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100 Crime Films: Originals Versus Remakes, The Killers and Cape Fear

October 19, 2012
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With my newest video blogs, I compare both versions of The Killers and also the original and remake of Cape Fear.


A Triptych: 3 Interesting Films

October 10, 2011
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A Triptych – 3 Interesting Films

 

 

Summer of ’42 – (1971)

Often it is with great trepidation that I approach the business of looking at a film I remember fondly but haven’t seen in a long time. Because more often than not when I look at it again I am disappointed by what I had thought to be so wonderful and fine. Then I ‘m embarrassed about being such a fool for liking it in the first place. Of course I always blame it on my being young and naïve but the disappointment always saddens me a bit.

 

Anyway that was how I approached looking at Summer of ’42 which was being shown on one of the cable channels. I wanted to see it but I didn’t want to see it. The film had been released in 1971 and I remember going to The Sutton Theatre in New York City with a friend and coming out afterward completely enchanted by what I had seen. And I wasn’t the only one. The entire audience was. So much so that the film was one of the hits of the year and nominated for several Academy Awards. The theme composed by Michael Legrand was also one of the hits of the season and remained high on the Billboard Chart for many weeks. All those memories sent up red flags because I’ve found that films which were extremely popular in their time date badly and wind up just looking creaky and sentimental in the worst sense of the word. Still I couldn’t resist looking at Summer of ’42. But I watched it with the idea that the minute it began to turn mawkish or stupid I would turn it off. Well, I’m happy to say that the film took me in and enchanted me once again just the way it had all those years ago.

 

For anyone who hasn’t seen it the Summer of ’42 is a sexual coming-of-age story involving three teenage boys during the season and year of the title. But mostly it is the story of one boy Hermie, and his private rite of passage…An adult narrator sets it up at the beginning so right away we know that we’re looking at a time gone by and a remembrance of something past being seen through the romantic prism of a young man’s memory. And then through the magic of delicate and understated direction (Robert Mulligan), an insightful screenplay (Herman Raucher), poetic, evocative cinematography by Robert Surtees and a haunting score by Mr. Legrand we relive that summer with them and it becomes part of our nostalgia as well as theirs.

 

The young men were played by Jerry Hauser, Oliver Conant and Gary Grimes in the principal role of Hermie. All were excellent but Grimes stands out because he has the biggest role. Jennifer O’Neill, a model turned actress plays Dorothy the unaware object of their summer desires. Ms. O’Neill was 25 when she made the film and in the full blush of her young womanhood. . Everything about her as photographed by Surtees suggests innocence, romance and sexual allure but in the most idealized and chaste way imaginable. And her performance is so straight forward and without calculation that she thoroughly enchants the viewer as well as the young men in the film. It was a breakout role for her and made Ms. O’Neill a star not only in the US but in Europe as well.

 

This is not a very dramatic film thank God. It has its moments of seriousness but none of it is strained or pushed. Things just sort of occur in a slow episodic fashion and culminate with a quietly emotional wallop. But I think that the best thing about the film for me is the easy and relaxed feeling the film induces while it is being viewed and experienced. Sort of spending a pleasant summer on an island, in this case Nantucket Island, a long time ago. Give it a try see if you don’t agree with me.

-GE. 

 

 

 

Ulzana’s Raid – (1972)

 

Actor Burt Lancaster once said that in the movie business after you make your first million there’s nothing to go after except quality.  And he always did especially in the latter part of his career when he was older and totally in command of not only his craft but his mind and body as well. And he gave performances that were masterpieces of minimalist perfection. See films like Go Tell the Spartans (1978), Valdez is Coming (1971), Lawman (1971) and Atlantic City (1980) for which he was highly praised and nominated for the Academy Award. There is another that should be added to that list and it is Robert Aldrich’s neglected near masterpiece Ulzana’s Raid (1972). A western about a group of Calvary soldiers going after a murderous Indian and his band. At the time of the film’s release there were some discussions about the way the Native Americans were being portrayed but upon close inspection one can see that Alan Sharp’s insightful script is not about stereotyping but providing rounded portraits of all the characters. And aided by Aldrich’s uncompromising direction, he is successful with the characters on both sides. The young inexperienced Lt. DeBuin (Bruce Davison)who is trying to understand what all the cruelty and barbarity is about and McIntosh, the scout played to quiet perfection by Lancaster. The American Indian characters who straddle their own narrow path on the event are played by Joaquin Martinez as the renegade Ulzana and Jorge Luke as McIntosh’s aide Ke Ni Tay. Both roles are steeped in mystery and deeply hidden concerns that transcend easy articulation and so they are wisely left unsaid. And both actors using body language and spare movement convey everything we need to know about who these individuals are.

 

The film presents the story of a chase just as Peckinpah’s Major Dundee (1965) did. And the plots are almost identical. The soldiers are after a tough, renegade Indian who is smart as well as ruthless. But the focus is different in both. In Peckinpah’s film the focus is on the men and their relationship with each other. In Aldrich’s it’s really about the land as well as the men. And what the terrain does to them. Several lines of dialogue attest to that.

 

 Lancaster’s McIntosh says:

 “Remember the rules Lieutenant. The first one to make a mistake gets to burying some people.”…And when asked by the young Lieutenant if he hates the Apache McIntosh responds: “It would be like hating the desert because there ain’t no water in it.”

The film is full of wonderful dialogue that goes by unnoticed because it comes so naturally to the characters. McIntosh at one point says:

“Lieutenant, a horse will run so far so fast, for so long and then it will lie down on you. When a horse lies down on an Apache he puts fire under his belly and gets him back on his feet. When the horse dies he gets off, eats a bit of it and steals another. Ain’t no way you can better that.”

 

 Ke-Ni-Tay explaining Ulzana says:

 “Each man that die, the man who kill him take his power…Ulzana is long time in the agency. His power thin. Smell in his nose is old smell of the agency. Old smell. Smell of women, smell of dog, smell of children. Ulzana come loose for new smell. Pony running, the smell of burning, the smell of bullet- for power.”

 

Major Cartwright says:

“What we have to determine Mr. McIntosh is how many of them there are and whether they are hostile.

To which McIntosh replies:

Well the first is open to question; the second you can bet money on.

 

And probably the most telling line is when McIntosh says to the young man;

“What bothers you lieutenant, is you don’t like to think of white men behaving like Indians. It kind of confuses the issue, don’t it?”

 

Aldrich was known as a man’s man type of director due to films like The Dirty Dozen (1967), Flight of the Phoenix (1965), and Vera Cruz (1955). But with this one he went past the surfaces and produced a film that is quietly poetic because of its resignation to the fact that it’s nature and the land that shapes men’s characters. And in the end there’s nothing we can do but accept that fact whether we like it or not. This is a genuinely thought provoking film that also maintains the surface excitement of its genre.

For me it’s a beautiful little gem that’s worth viewing and then viewing again.

-GE. 

Paris, Texas – (1984)

This film was a collaboration of three very original but eccentric talents. Wim Wenders, the German director of such films as Wings of Desire (1987), An American Friend (1977) and the terrific documentary The Buena Vista Social Club (1999), L.M. Kit Carson an actor and writer whose erratic career includes things like David Holzman’s Diary -actor (1967) and as a writer; Breathless (1983) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2(1986) and Sam Shepard the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright (Buried Child) who is also a well known actor in such movies as Black Hawk Down (2001), The Right Stuff (1982) and Days of Heaven (1978).

 The screenplay by Carson is sort of adapted from a Shepard’s collection of essays, prose poems, and reminisces entitled Motel Chronicles.  It is about a man’s search for a woman that he walked out on and the love that he squandered and would like to regain. It is also about fathers and sons and the tenuous connection that can develop between them. Much of what takes place in this film takes place between the lines into the deep recesses of the psyche. So there are many passages when the characters just stand there looking off into space and saying nothing. Especially the leading character Travis Henderson played to quiet perfection by character actor Harry Dean Stanton. One of the few genuine leads he’s ever had in a movie. Usually he’s there as stalwart support in films like Wild at Heart (1990), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Missouri Breaks (1976) and Straight Time (1978). Here he is a man who walked out on his family for mysterious reasons and then turns up again just as mysteriously. This time he is found by his brother Walt (Dean Stockwell) who with his wife is bringing up Travis’s son Hunter played by Hunter Carson,( son of the screenwriter) who has been left behind by his mother Jane played by Natassia Kinski. It takes a while for us the audience to sort out what’s going on because like Walt we’re completely baffled by Travis’s odd behavior. But then when things start to slowly settle down we begin to get some insight into who Travis is and what it is that’s bothering him. Nothing is explicitly stated because as I said before it is all between the lines. And the directorial pacing of the film is slow to the point of maddening for those expecting their movies to move at a considerably faster pace. But if you have the patience for this sort of movie making you will be rewarded by a movie that is sad, melancholy and painful because life can at times be painful. Especially when we have to face certain truths about ourselves and our demons.

 

One of the things that give this film its elegiac quality is the settings and locations Wenders chose. Much of t is in the southwestern part of the US, mostly California and Texas. But he shows us nothing that we’re familiar with. What we get are the back roads, the strip joints, the empty parking lots and the endless roadways that lead from one place to another. And in a lot of ways it’s all pretty much the same. In other words this is the no-man’s land aspect of America. And for anyone who’s read any of his work, this is prime Sam Shepard territory. He’s used and alluded to it in many of his plays as to being the terrain that his characters came from and are shaped by.  The nationality of the film is listed as being West German, French, UK and USA because that’s where the money to produce it and many of the talents came from. But beneath that what we have here is a truly American film about people who have been marginalized and forgotten. The unsophisticated he’s and she’s that we pass by everyday but never notice. The lost and the disenfranchised that don’t belong to any minority group. They’re out there just floating free on their own until someone like Shepard along with Carson, Wenders and their talented cast of actors come along to give them some identity, give them some dimension, give their lives some poetry.

 

The film clocks in at 147 minutes running time. So if you don’t have that kind of time to sit and watch people tentatively reach out to touch and more often than not miss each other then this film isn’t for you. It’s an art film without calling attention to itself as such. Because like its characters it’s plain, unpretentious and ultimately inexplicable. Because that’s the way life is sometimes. Inexplicable.

-GE.

 


Some Brief Notes on: Frank Sinatra, Sandra Bullock, and Deborah Kerr

July 14, 2011
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Some brief notes on: Frank Sinatra, Sandra Bullock and Deborah Kerr

 

Frank Sinatra (1915 – 1998)

 

We of a certain age all grew up with Frank Sinatra. At least his music. He came after Bing Crosby and somehow somewhere in the late 1950s surpassed him as America’s most popular singer. By this time he had gone through several highs and lows that had not only deepened and matured him but left a residue of anger and bitterness as well. It was during this period that he recorded so many of his classic   albums with Nelson Riddle, Billy May and Gordon Jenkins. Now he had been in movies for nearly a decade already but it wasn’t until his famous “comeback” in From Here to Eternity (1953) that anyone ever paid much attention to Sinatra the actor. But even earlier Frank was beginning to show his chops as an actor in films like Meet Danny Wilson (1952). And after his Oscar winning performance as Best Supporting Actor he quickly moved into playing dramatic leading roles with such distinction that Elia Kazan, arguably the best director of actors in America, selected him for the lead in On the Waterfront (1954) when Marlon Brando at first refused to play the role. Later when Brando changed his mind and accepted, the film’s producer Sam Spiegel had to financially settle with Sinatra out of court. My point being that Elia Kazan in selecting Sinatra was indicating how high in his esteem Frank was as an actor. Right up there next to Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift who were then thought of as America’s finest.

 

I feel that this estimation is correct. At the time Sinatra was among America’s finest dramatic actors in the movies. One only has to revisit films like Suddenly (1954), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), The Joker is Wild (1957), Some Came Running (1958) and of course The Manchurian Candidate (1962) which he also produced. But his skill was not just relegated to dramas he was as good at comedy in films like The Tender Trap (1955) and one of my favorites Frank Capra’s A Hole in the Head (1959). Then came the “Rat Pack” when he seemed to be mostly playing host to his friends rather than acting a role that he started giving lazy uninteresting performances. Apparently, for some reason he became bored and decided not to try anymore. (Note: Marlon Brando seemed to have fallen victim of the same malaise as well.) But at his best very few could match him. Today he is legendary as a singer/ interpreter of songs but he was also an actor of rare power and range. I would say unequivocally the best singer turned actor in the history of motion pictures.

 

Sandra Bullock

 

She won the Academy Award as Best Actress in 2009 for The Blind Side but I still contend that she is an underrated dramatic actress whose skills have still not been fully appreciated. I have felt this way since films like Murder by Numbers (2002. It wasn’t much of a picture but she was terrific in it. Also Crash (2004), Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (1993) and the Truman Capote film that nobody saw Infamous (2006). She plays in that one Harper Lee and does a very good job at it. Truthfully I liked this film a lot better than the more celebrated and critically acclaimed Capote that came out earlier the same year. And I sometimes wonder if the release dates on the films had been reversed would both the critical and box office response been the same.

 

Sandra Bullock came to the public awareness as the spunky young woman who drives the bus in the hit film Speed (1994).  Everyone was won over by her energy, quick wittedness and sense of humor in that role and she quickly became type cast as that kind of character. But via other roles that she played I could tell that behind the winning smile and tough girl vulnerability there was an intelligent, sophisticated woman who had been through some of the rough patches of life and was drawing on some of that in her acting. And no, I’m not referring to the tabloid stories about her recent breakup and divorce. This was before all that. There had always been a edginess to her performances that was dramatically surprising and sometimes bracing too. Even in things like the popular Miss Congeniality (2000) it can be spotted. But my favorite role and performance by her thus far is in the film 28 Days (2000). Again nobody saw it. At least nobody I knew and I can’t think of seeing any review that praised or even acknowledged it. Portraying alcoholism is a very difficult task. Nick Cage[O1]  nailed it in Leaving Las Vegas (1995) and so did Ms. Bullock in 28 Days. Nailed it better than just about anyone in recent memory.

 

We have a tendency to mentally type cast actors in our minds and not support their efforts to change or expand their range. Hopefully this won’t happen with Ms. Bullock and she will get the opportunity to show us how much more she is capable of. I say this knowing that dramatic stories in movies are a rarity these days. Cable TV seems to be the outlet for these types of stories. But wherever Sandra Bullock has the chops let’s let her show them. 

 

Deborah Kerr (1921- 2007)

Deborah Kerr was one of the great ladies of cinema. An actress of superior skills who also had poise, understated good looks and a quiet presence that complimented every male co star she appeared with. She was one of those women who didn’t have to compete with the male in order to be his equal. And co starred with just about every big male star of her time. Clark Gable (The Hucksters -1947), Robert Taylor ( Quo Vadis- 1951), Stewart Granger (King Solomon’s Mines-1950), Burt Lancaster ( From Here to Eternity – 1953), Robert Mitchum ( Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison – 1957), Cary Grant ( An Affair to Remember 1957),Gregory Peck (Beloved Infidel – 1959), Frank Sinatra ( Marriage on the Rocks- 1965),Gary Cooper ( The Naked Edge – 1961), Kirk Douglas ( The Arrangement – 1969),  David Niven (Separate Tables -1958), Van Johnson (End of the Affair – 1955), James Mason      ( Julius Caesar – 1953)and with Yul Brynner in  The King and I (1956.She became famous for two iconic roles. The troubled wife in From Here to Eternity (particularly for the beach scene) and as the school teacher Anna Leonowens in the musical The King and I although she didn’t sing. Marni Nixon dubbed the musical numbers. She was also an actress of nearly all genres as well, appearing in Costume epics (Quo Vadis),Mysteries ( The Naked Edge), Classics ( Julius Caesar), Historicals ( Young Bess- 1952), Horror ( The Innocents – 1961), War stories (The Journey), Melodramas (The Arrangement), Musicals ( King and I),Comedies ( The Grass is Greener- 1960) a near western ( The Sundowners – 1960), Adventure ( King Solomon’s Mines), Biographical ( Beloved Infidel ), and multiple play adaptations as well. In fact the only genre she seems to have missed completely was science fiction.

 

She was nominated for the Academy Award six times but never received a competitive award. She was given an honorary award in 1994 for the excellence of her career overall.

 

I met Ms. Kerr in 1954 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands when she was filming The Proud and the Profane and remember her to be everything she seemed to be on screen. Gentle, thoughtful, considerate and very refined. I had met the entire cast of the film and interviewed most of the principals for the radio station I interned at. I was fifteen at the time and totally in awe of them all. I remember Ms. Kerr as being very approachable and easy to interview. But my most memorable encounter with her occurred a week later when I was going home from school. This was around two in the afternoon and they were filming at the central market place one block away from my school. A crowd had gathered to see what they were doing. So I joined the crowd behind the ropes to look at things too. I watched them do two takes and then break for another setup. As she was heading to her trailer dressing room Ms. Kerr looked over and saw me near the front. She quickly walked over, called my name and bid me to step under the rope and join her. I did and she invited me into her dressing room where we talked about the scene that had just been shot and how movies in general were made. When she was called for the next scene she invited me to sit on her chair so I could more closely see what was going on. I can’t tell you how special that made me feel. And to this day I still look back on it as one of the nicest days of my life. Years later I went to see her on Broadway in Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Seascape. After the show I sent a note back stage sort of reminding her of that day in St. Thomas and thanking her for her kindness. I gave it to the guy at the stage door exit for delivery. I never heard from her but I hope she got it.

 

All this is to say that, from my point of view, Deborah Kerr was not just a great actress on stage and on screen. She was also a very lovely person as well. 

-GE


Walter Matthau and The Bad News Bears

June 21, 2011
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The Bad News Bears

 

People who think they know me well are often surprised when I tell them that one of my all-time favorite movies is the original Bad News Bears (1976). They look at me as if to say; “The Bad News Bears? A Family film?” I guess the surprise is because my taste as they know it, tends to run towards films like Bergman’s Cries and Whispers (1972) and Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel (1967 etc). But yes it is true I absolutely love The Bad News Bears.

 

I love it for several reasons. First of all it deals entertainingly and mock truthfully with an aspect of “The Great American Pastime”, the Little League competition series in a way that I find both refreshing and sharply focused. In other words it isn’t a family film that is precious or cloying. Much of this is due to both the screenplay by Bill Lancaster and the relaxed direction by Michael Ritchie. Mr. Ritchie had made another film the year before that also poked fun at another venerable American institution: beauty contest. That film was Smile (1975). A film I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it.

 

The kids in both films (Smile and The Bad News Bears) act just like kids I see and know. In the latter film they swear, display all kinds of bigotry and are totally honest about who they are. They remind me of myself and the kids I knew when I was growing up. And the ensemble acting among them starting with Tatum O’Neal, Jackie Earl Haley and the rest of them is about the best I’ve seen in this kind of film. I also like the adult supporting cast including Ben Piazza, Joyce Van Patten and Vic Morrow too. Morrow was an actor who had been a favorite of mine since I saw him play the vicious kid Artie West in The Blackboard Jungle (1955). He also had a series (Combat, 1962-64) that I thought he was very good in. But this role in The Bears gave him a chance to play an ordinary guy who perhaps has his priorities a little bit screwed up. Morrow gives the role some very nice shadings.

 

But topping it all is Walter Matthau as Buttermaker, a drunken former professional ball player who is now reduced to cleaning pools and coaching Little League teams for a living.  Now for years whenever I was asked who were my favorite movie actors I would always name the Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni and Walter Matthau. In another blog entry entitled Mastroianni! Mastroianni! Mastroianni I give my reasons for liking Marcello. With Matthau it was because to me he seemed to be the antithesis of anyone’s idea of a movie star. He wasn’t handsome in any conventional sense. He had a face that resembled a badly worn old shoe and physically he appeared to be graceless and downright clumsy. But behind it all in performance he had a slyly amused and cynical outlook that was both knowing and down to earth. He appeared to be an actor without any narcissistic self awareness. The kind of guy you would like to have a beer with anytime of the day or night. He had an everyman quality that allowed him to be able to play anyone from the sloppy Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple (1968) to the tricky gangster in Charley Varrick (1973).

 

Now I had been watching him since the early days of his career when he appeared mostly as a villain in things like The Kentuckian (1955), directed by Burt Lancaster father of the screenwriter of The Bad News Bears, or Strangers When We Meet (1960). Other films include Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd (1957), Sidney Lumet’s Fail Safe (1964) and The Laughing Policeman (1973). He seemingly could play just about anything and in a career of over 100 films he seemed to have done just that. Then with films like The Fortune Cookie (1966) for which he won the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor he became a box office star. This was followed by several collaborations with Jack Lemmon in the Grumpy Old men series in the 90s. By then Matthau had become that rare commodity in films, a character actor who was also a lead. This is what he was in The Bad News Bears. And in my estimation the main ingredient that makes the film special. In fact that film was so successful that it spawned two sequels and a TV series plus the 2005 remake. But none of them were particularly memorable because he wasn’t in them. They were missing the thing that would’ve set them apart: Mr. Walter Matthau.

 

– GE.


Desert Island Movie: Trapeze

February 22, 2011
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Desert Island Movie # 4 Trapeze

 

Outside of using them as a backdrop for horror films they don’t make circus movies anymore. Yet there was a time when they made them so frequently that it almost amounted to a sub genre unto itself.  And any number of popular stars had at least one circus picture on their resumes.  John Wayne, Charleston Heston, Dorothy Lamour, Betty Hutton, James Stewart, Esther Williams, Cliff Robertson, Doris Day, Kirk Douglas along with Clyde Beatty who was a circus impresario and author Mickey Spillane of Mike Hammer fame.  Some titles include; Ring of Fire (1954), The Big Circus (1959), The Big Show (1961) Billy Rose’s Jumbo (1962) and Circus World (1974)…The best known, highest grossing, most critically acclaimed and most honored was Cecile B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). It was given the Academy Award as the Best Picture of that year. And Mr. DeMille who was known as “The King of Epics” did indeed make the biggest circus picture of them all, loaded with spectacle, thrills, stars, sentiment, and enough plotlines to support three films all held together by a stirring narration spoken by Mr. DeMille himself.  But even with all that my all time favorite circus picture is Burt Lancaster’s Trapeze (1956). I say Lancaster’s because although he didn’t direct it, (England’s Carol The Third Man Reed did) he was the dominant creative force behind the entire enterprise. The film was produced by Hecht- Hill – Lancaster a company he helped to found. They had produced the Academy Award winning Marty (1955). This was a story that Lancaster brought to them for development because the subject was close to his heart. Prior to becoming a movie star Lancaster had been a circus acrobat and had been looking for a long time for a story with a circus background. In fact one could say that many of his action pictures prior to Trapeze due to his physical hi jinks in them were sort of circus pictures in disguise.  I’m thinking of films like The Flame and the Arrow (1950) and The Crimson Pirate (1952) both featuring his former circus partner Nick Cravat. But now he had found the right story in Max Catto’s novel The Killing Frost which writers Liam O’Brien, James R. Webb, Wolf Mankowitz and the great Ben Hecht turned into a screen play called Trapeze.

Now this is by no means is an authentic depiction of circus life any more than The Godfather (1972) is an accurate portrayal of organized crime.. Like that classic film Trapeze is a glamorous and highly romanticized rendition of its subject. And that is exactly what makes it a terrific film. It’s romantic, it’s glamorous, it’s beautifully shot, the circus atmosphere is handsomely rendered and the three leading players couldn’t look more beautiful or physically capable. Lancaster, of course, shines. He was 42 and in great shape physically. So much so that he did all the stunts in the film himself…Gina Lolabrigida, who, preceding Sophia Loren, was the screen’s leading Italian sexpot. She was called “The most beautiful woman in the world” at the time and in this film she looks it. But her performance as the narcissistically  ambitious tumbler goes beyond the physical. It is solid and emotionally credible…And Tony Curtis (30 when the film was made) has never looked more handsome in a movie. This was his first major role in a class A, high budget film with a world re known director and a truly international cast. And Curtis made the most of his opportunity. He was always an athletically capable performer and in this one , with coaching from Lancaster and others, he is entirely convincing as Tino Orsini, the young hot shot trapeze artist. Because of his pretty boy looks Curtis was always an underrated actor. In Trapeze he gives a well balanced, romantic performance that would catapult him into the upper echelons of screen stardom.

 

The film in short tells the story of the new young artist replacing the old one. Here the “Old man” after some resistance and coaching becomes the young man’s teacher and mentor. All is well until a conniving woman named Lola inserts herself in their midst using her looks and sexuality to potent effect. It splits the duo apart and sets up questions as to whether or not they will be able to arrive at the historical breakthrough of performing the triple mid air somersault that they were working so hard to achieve. Reed’s stylized direction takes us wholly into the world of this particular circus and its environs. And with the creative input of his cinematographer Robert Krasker, he uses the then new cinemascope process to full effect.

I like this film because the atmosphere is exotic, the trapeze sequences are breathtaking and the story is suspenseful as well as romantic. When I was a kid everyone dreamed of running away with the circus and living with people who make their living performing death defying stunts that stun and amaze us. If all of them were like the one in this film I definitely would. But since I didn’t the next best thing is this film. And that’s why I want it on my desert island.

-GE.


The Professionals

January 7, 2010
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Screenwriters are probably the most underappreciated contributors to the cinematic event.  They are the ones who have contributed some of the best dialogue that informs both the cinema and our lives.  And from time to time, we will be honoring these writers by quoting from some of the films that they have written.

“I can understand how you got in a crap game and lose $700 dollars that you didn’t have.  But how did you lose your pants?”

“In a lady’s bedroom trying to raise the cash.  Almost made it too.  You realize that people are the only animals who make love face to face… Thanks again, but you could’ve telegraphed the money and saved yourself the trip.”

“Yesterday I didn’t have the money.”

“What’s the proposition?”

“You won’t lose your pants.  Your life maybe.  But what’s that?”

“Hardly anything at all.”

-The Professionals, written and directed by Richard Brooks, 1966.

-GE