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All reviews - Movies (26) - TV Shows (3) - DVDs (5) - Books (4) - Music (3)


Posted : 15 years, 6 months ago on 4 August 2008 08:26 (A review of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2008)

LEONARD MALTIN is a lover of classic movies. His Movie Guides are highly recommended and sought after and I consider them to be the best you can buy. He is an expert on classic films and I had the pleasure of meeting him twice in Hollywood a few years ago and we had some pictures taken together. As a teenager he published a regular film newsletter called "Film Fan Monthly" and I used to subscribe to this. He currently publishes a fascinating and nostalgic newsletter entitled "Movie Crazy" which comes out four times a year. (Issue No. 23 is now available). He is presently in his 26th season as resident film buff on the popular television show "Entertainment Tonight". He has written many exceptional books including "Movie Comedy Teams", "The Disney Films", "Carole Lombard", "A History of American Animated Cartoons", "The Great Movie Comedians" and others. He recently served as Master of Ceremonies when Michael Caine placed his hand and footprints in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Leonard Maltin lives in Los Angeles with his wife Alice and daughter Jessica.

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Posted : 15 years, 7 months ago on 30 July 2008 06:25 (A review of 12 Angry Men)

"12 Angry Men" is a compelling jury room drama with an outstanding cast. A boy of 18 is on trial for murder and Juror No. 8 (Henry Fonda) is the only one in the room to declare a verdict of "not guilty" while all the other 11 jurors vote "guilty". Fonda then has the unenviable task of trying to persuade the rest of the jurors to reconsider their verdicts. They go over the evidence carefully and Fonda points out some discrepancies in the prosecution case but will he get support from any of the others? Juror No. 3 (Lee J. Cobb) and Juror No. 10 (Ed Begley) are determined to see that the boy is found guilty and they do not intend to give in easily to Fonda's assessment of the case. This is a marvellous film with an impressive list of players. Just take a look at the cast for this film:- Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam, Jack Klugman, Ed Begley, E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden, John Fielder, Robert Webber and Edward Binns. What a line up!! They all gave impeccable performances - particularly Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb. Several of the other players were unknown at the time but have since gone on to become fine character actors. Expertly directed by Sidney Lumet the entire film takes place in a jury room in a New York court. Although mainly restricted to this one set the tension never lets up. Unfortunately, the film was not very successful at the box office upon its release but has since become a classic and is on many "top ten" lists. Henry Fonda regarded this as one of the best three films he had ever made. The film was shot in less than three weeks for a budget of only $350,000.
"12 Angry Men" was remade as a TV movie in colour in 1997 with Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott but for me this cannot compare in any way with the original.
Favourite lines:
Martin Balsam: "Eleven guilty - one not guilty. Well, now we know where we are".
Ed Begley: "Oh boy, there's always one".
Henry Fonda: "Well, there were eleven votes for guilty. It's not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first".
Lee J. Cobb: "When I was a kid I used to call my father "Sir". That's right - "Sir". You ever hear a kid call his father that anymore?".
Fonda (to Lee. J. Cobb): "Ever since you walked into this room you've been acting like a self appointed avenger".

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Posted : 15 years, 7 months ago on 30 July 2008 02:18 (A review of The 39 Steps)

"The 39 Steps" was one of Alfred Hitchcock's early British film successes before he left for Hollywood where he achieved even greater fame and celebrity status. The story begins with Richard Hannay (Robert Donat) enjoying a variety show at a London theatre when he meets a mysterious young woman named Annabella Smith (Lucie Mannheim) who is in trouble and seeks his help. He takes her back to his flat where she gives him some important information about a gang of spies who she says are trying to kill her. (Hannay: "It sounds like a spy story". Smith: "That's exactly what it is"). During the night she is indeed murdered with Hannay of course the chief suspect. Although innocent he goes on the run from the police taking a train to Scotland. During the train journey he meets Pamela (Madeleine Carroll) who initially thinks he is a killer but later reluctantly teams up with him when they get to Scotland and she eventually believes his story and realises that he is innocent after all. They get involved in many dangerous situations together and are trapped in one tight corner after another while trying to avoid both the villains and the police. They return to London to attempt to solve the mystery where the film reaches a dramatic but satisfactory conclusion. "The 39 Steps" was remade in colour in 1959 with Kenneth More and again in 1978 with Robert Powell but neither of these remakes can compare with the original black and white Hitchcock version. For anyone who might be interested in spotting Hitchcock's regular cameo appearance this comes quite early in the film as Hannay and the girl he meets at the theatre board a bus to go back to his flat. (Hitchcock is seen as a passer-by throwing some litter into the street). I rate this as one of Hitchcock's most entertaining films with the popular "innocent man on the run" theme he was so fond of.
Favourite lines:
Wylie Watson (Mr Memory): "Am I right sir?".
Lucie Mannheim (to Robert Donat): "I had to get away from the theatre quickly. There were two men there who wanted to kill me".
Mannheim (to Donat): "Have you ever heard of the thirty nine steps?".
Donat (to Madeleine Carroll): "There are 20 million women on this island and I've got to be chained to you".
Donat (to Carroll): "May I ask what earthquake caused your brain to work at last".

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Posted : 15 years, 7 months ago on 27 July 2008 06:17 (A review of The Killing)

"At exactly 3.45 on that Saturday afternoon in the last week of September, Marvin Unger was, perhaps, the only one among the hundred thousand people at the track who felt no thrill in the running of the fifth race. He was totally disinterested in horse racing and held a lifelong contempt for gambling. Nevertheless, he had a $5 win bet on every horse in the fifth race. He knew, of course, that this rather unique system of betting would more than likely result in a loss, but he didn't care. For after all, he thought, what would the loss of twenty or thirty dollars mean in comparison to the vast sum of money ultimately at stake". These were the opening lines of "The Killing" - one of the great "film noir" crime films of the 1950s directed by Stanley Kubrick (who also wrote the screenplay) about a complicated racetrack robbery. The film was only 89 minutes long and released as a supporting feature but is now regarded as a classic. This was "film noir" at its very best. The film had an outstanding cast including Sterling Hayden, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr, Vince Edwards, Coleen Gray, Ted de Corsia, Joe Sawyer, Timothy Carey, James Edwards and Jay C. Flippen. When ex-con Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) says he has a plan to make a killing everyone wants to be in on the action. The plan is to steal $2 million in a racetrack robbery but despite all their careful plotting things don't work out as they had hoped. Their carefully planned robbery was put in jeopardy when weak and pathetic George Peatty (Elisha Cook Jr) let slip some vital information about the robbery to his beautiful but unfaithful wife Sherry (Marie Windsor). She in turn passes the details on to her boy friend Val Cannon (Vince Edwards) which puts everyone in danger. This was a typical "bad girl" role for Marie Windsor who seemed to specialise in tough broads in several "film noir" thrillers and Westerns. I met Marie several times in Hollywood and she told me that "The Killing" was one of her favourite roles along with "The Narrow Margin" with her friend Charles McGraw. The film was shot in just 24 days and Stanley Kubrick had to delay the start of filming in order to wait for Marie Windsor as she was busy finishing another film entitled "Swamp Women". Marie Windsor landed the part after Kubrick had seen her in "The Narrow Margin" (1952). Victor Mature and Jack Palance were both considered for the part played by Sterling Hayden. Kirk Douglas was so impressed with this film that he hired Kubrick for his next project "Paths of Glory" (1957). Frank Sinatra was interested in making the film but Stanley Kubrick beat him for the rights to the project. What I particularly liked about "The Killing" was the way that the action kept leading up to the seventh race (when the robbery was about to happen) and then we had flashbacks to earlier in the day showing what each member of the gang was doing and how they were involved in the scheme.
Favourite lines:
Sterling Hayden (to Timothy Carey): "You'd be killing a horse - that's not first degree murder, in fact it's not murder at all, in fact I don't know what it is".
Marie Windsor (to Vince Edwards): "You know he works at the track. Well, somehow, and don't ask me how, he's got connected with the mob. They're going to rob the track offices for the day's receipts!".
Hayden (to Windsor): "You like money. You've got a great big dollar sign there where most women have a heart".
Hayden (to Windsor): "I know you like a book. You're a no good nosey little tramp".
Voiceover (at racetrack): "Your attention, ladies and gentlemen. The horses are now on the track for the seventh race".

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Posted : 15 years, 7 months ago on 27 July 2008 11:40 (A review of Phil Harris - His Original & Greatest Hits)

Not really remembered all that well these days but Phil Harris was very popular back in the fifties with his records "Dark Town Poker Club" and "Woodman Spare that Tree". I loved them and bought every Phil Harris record I could get my hands on. He later achieved greater fame for providing the voice of Baloo the Bear in "The Jungle Book" (1967). He was married to Alice Faye for many years.

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Posted : 15 years, 7 months ago on 27 July 2008 11:17 (A review of Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don't Care)

This is a well researched and entertaining biography of Robert Mitchum - one of the movies most colourful characters. He has worked with many of Hollywood's major stars including Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and John Wayne to name but three. What I particularly liked in the book were the interesting comments and anecdotes from his friend, actor Anthony Caruso. I also knew Tony and he often spoke to me about his friend Robert Mitchum so I was pleased to see some of these stories turn up here. My favourite Mitchum films include "Out of the Past" (1947) and "The Big Steal" (1949) both with the stunning Jane Greer. The title of this book "Baby, I Don't Care" is a line from the film "Out of the Past" that Mitchum says to Jane Greer.

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Posted : 15 years, 7 months ago on 27 July 2008 10:28 (A review of Johnny Reno [1966])

A.C. LYLES produced many second feature Westerns at Paramount during the 1960s and "Johnny Reno" was just one of them. However, they were all worth seeing mainly due to the fine actors that A.C. always used in his films (even in the smallest roles). Take a look at the credits of this film for example: Dana Andrews, Jane Russell, Lon Chaney Jr, Tom Drake, Lyle Bettger, John Agar, Richard Arlen, Robert Lowery, and (in an uncredited role) De Forrest Kelley. Quite an impressive cast for a second feature I would say. Apart from producing the film A.C. also had a hand in the story. Now in his late eighties, A.C. Lyles still has an office on the Paramount lot which he visits most days. A.C. can often be seen on TV currently being interviewed for the excellent "Biography" series with his recollections of the "Golden Years of Hollywood" and the many stars he knew from that era. One of A.C.s closest friends was James Cagney who only directed one film in his entire career and that was "Short Cut to Hell" (1957) a gangster melodrama which he undertook out of personal friendship for A.C. Lyles just to get him started as a producer. (The film was an efficient remake of the Alan Ladd classic "This Gun for Hire"). Cagney also did the narration for another A.C. Lyles production "Arizona Bushwhackers" - again as a personal favour for A.C. In honour of his long association with Paramount and his outstanding contribution to the motion picture industry, Lyles was given a "star" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988. At the same time Paramount named a building on the lot after him with a brass plaque reading "The A.C. Lyles Building". I have known A.C. Lyles since 1989 and been in his company many times. I never tire of hearing his anecdotes and fascinating stories about his years in the film industry and the famous people he knew as friends. The last time I saw A.C. was on a holiday to Hollywood in 2006. Lyles and his wife, Martha, were married in 1955 at the Little Brown Church in the Valley, with their longtime friends, the James Cagneys and the Ronald Reagans, in attendance. It is the same place where the Reagans had been married three years earlier. A.C. and Martha live in an early American home on a Bel Air hilltop overlooking Los Angeles.

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Posted : 15 years, 7 months ago on 27 July 2008 09:34 (A review of Songs for Swingin' Lovers!)

This takes me back as "Songs for Swingin' Lovers" was the very first Sinatra L.P. I ever bought and from then on I was hooked! I browsed the record shops for every Sinatra L.P. I could find and became a big fan. I never missed any of his films and attended most of his concerts here in the U.K. I have been very lucky to have attended many of his shows in Las Vegas. One special evening was at the Aladdin Hotel when he was with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr and Liza Minnelli all on the same bill. We had front row seats. Pure magic. The following night we were at his opening at Caesars Palace. I was also at the Oscars in 1975 when he was one of the M.C.s. (I still have the souvenir program today). I have visited his private office in Hollywood which was exciting and received signed photos and gifts from him but never met the man in person much to my regret.

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Posted : 15 years, 7 months ago on 27 July 2008 09:10 (A review of That Old Black Magic)

BILLY DANIELS is sadly almost forgotten today and never seen on TV. However, he was one of the greatest singers of the fifties and sixties with a unique finger snapping style. His version of "That Old Black Magic" is a classic (see video clip of this on my profile page). He toured the variety theatres here in the U.K. and I saw him many times and once had the pleasure to meet him in person at Chiswick Empire in London and chat with him and take some photos. He made some entertaining musicals in the fifties with Frankie Laine such as "Sunny Side of the Street" and "When You're Smiling" etc and I have all these on video.

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Posted : 15 years, 7 months ago on 27 July 2008 08:35 (A review of Jolson Story, The / Jolson Sings Again [1946])

LARRY PARKS was absolutely amazing in his superb portrayal as Al Jolson in "The Jolson Story" (1946) and the sequel "Jolson Sings Again" (1949) which upgraded him overnight from being just a routine Columbia "B" picture contract player to a Star!! However, it was a great shame that he made so few films following the two Jolson biopics due to the communist "witch hunt" in the early 50s which brought his promising career to an abrupt end. This was indeed a sad waste of a very talented actor - just one of many whose careers were ruined by these investigations. Harry Cohn (the notorious head of Columbia Pictures) is to be congratulated for going ahead with Jolson's life story when so many of the other Hollywood studios turned it down. Even Warner Brothers (for whom Jolson had starred in several films) were not interested. Filming was started on a small budget - and in black and white. When Harry Cohn saw the rushes he decided to film in colour and make "The Jolson Story" a major production. This certainly paid off for him in a big way as the film became one of Columbia's biggest money earners - and led to a sequel "Jolson Sings Again" in 1949. Danny Thomas, James Cagney and Gene Kelly were all offered the part of Jolson in the film and all of them turned it down! Jolson desperately wanted to play the leading role himself - and was opposed to another actor portraying him on the screen. Unfortunately for him, the studio decided that he was obviously too old (he was 60 at the time of the first film) but Columbia couldn't have found anyone better than the younger Larry Parks (then 31) who perfectly captured the Jolson style and threw himself into the part with relish. It is great having both films together on one DVD but I was disappointed that there were no extras apart from three film trailers for other Columbia musicals "Pal Joey", "Oliver" and "Annie". It would have been more appropriate to have included the trailers for the two Jolson films - and perhaps even the screen test that Jolson made for "Jolson Sings Again". Anyway, although some present day viewers might find "The Jolson Story" rather old fashioned and corny today, it was for me - and still is - the greatest Hollywood film biography ever made!!

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