Samurai Vendetta (Hakuôki)
Directed by Kazuo Mori
Written by Kosuke Gomi and Daisuke Ito
First viewing/Amazon Instant
“A truly brave man is ever serene; he is never taken by surprise; nothing ruffles the equanimity of his spirit. In the heat of battle he remains cool; in the midst of catastrophes he keeps level his mind. Earthquakes do not shake him, he laughs at storms.”― Inazo Nitobe, Bushido, The Soul Of Japan
This is notable mostly for its swordplay.
Nakayama Yasube is one of the 47 Loyal Ronin. It is helpful but not essential to be acquainted with that story (see The 47 Ronin). He is advancing on Lord Kira’s castle with his comrades while reflecting on his life and the film segues into flashback. Samurai Tange Tenzen befriends him when he is engaged in a fight with about 10 opponents to defend his school of swordfighting. Their lives will be entwined ever after. For one thing, they both love the same woman, whom Tange marries. Most of the film deals with Tange’s quest to avenge her honor.
Even knowing the back story, this one is pretty hard to follow. There are a host of characters who all have some sort of agenda or other. Fans of martial arts will not want to miss it though. There is good sword fighting throughout and the final fight in which the one-armed, one-legged dying hero takes on his five enemies in the snow is nothing short of spectacular.
Stalingrad: Dogs, Do You Want to Live Forever? (Hunde, wollt ihr ewig leben)
Directed by Frank Wisbar
Written by Frank Dimen, Heinz Schröter, and Frank Wisbar from a novel by Fritz Wöss
Deutsche Film Hansa
Surrender is forbidden. Sixth Army will hold their positions to the last man and the last round and by their heroic endurance will make an unforgettable contribution toward the establishment of a defensive front and the salvation of the Western world. Friedrich Paulus
This is the story of the German 6th Army’s defeat at Stalingrad told from the perspective of a young officer. It’s quite watchable.
Oberleutnant Gerd Wisse is an attractive man with a bright future. Then he gets assigned as liaison to the Romanian army at Stalingrad. He distinguishes himself there to the chagrin of his superior officer, Major Linkmann. Linkmann plots to have him transferred to his command at the heart of the fighting in the city. Wisse becomes increasingly disillusioned by the pointless, endless fighting, the dwindling supplies, Linkmann’s cowardice and the callousness of Hitler, who will not countenance retreat.
This is a straightforward historical movie that kept my interest all the way through. I learned a lot about conditions at Stalingrad. Immediately after I watched the movie, the next thing on the YouTube AutoPlay was a documentary about Field Marshall Paulus. Oddly, he is presented much more sympathetically in the movie than his quote or the documentary would indicate.
Suddenly, Last Summer
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Written by Gore Vidal and Tennessee Williams from a play by Williams
Columbia Pictures Corporation/Horizon Pictures/Academy Pictures Corporation/Camp Films
First viewing/Netflix rental
Mrs. Venable: My son, Sebastian and I constructed our days. Each day we would carve each day like a piece of sculpture, leaving behind us a trail of days like a gallery of sculpture until suddenly, last summer.
I don’t know how or why I avoided this film all my life. It has my new favorite Katharine Hepburn performance.
Dr. Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) is a young psychiatrist and neuro-surgeon from Chicago. He is at the State Hospital in New Orleans to perform his specialty, lobotomies. The condition of the hospital and operating room is deplorable and the asylum’s director (Albert Dekker) is desperate for an infusion of cash.
The eccentric and immensely wealthy Violet Venable (Hepburn) lost her son Sebastian suddenly last summer while he was on a European vacation with cousin Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor). Now Violet is desperate to shut Catherine up about the circumstances of his death. A lobotomy is just what she wants the doctor to order.
Violet sweetens the pot with a million dollars for the hospital if Dr. Cukrowicz will perform the surgery. The doctor inconveniently needs to determine if drastic action is actually necessary, He visits Catherine and decides that what she really needs is to dredge up her repressed memories of last summer. These will prove more horrifying than anyone could imagine.
If I had known this would be at bottom a pitch-black comedy, I might have seen it long before this. Hepburn captures the essential tone of the piece beautifully. I had a grin plastered on my face each time she appeared. I am surprised they were able to get away with the homosexual sub-text in this. While not actually saying so, the images and words made it abundantly clear that Sebastian’s primary interest in the women in his life was to attract a better class of young men. Taylor is pretty terrific herself. Recommended.
Suddenly, Last Summer was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actress (Hepburn); Best Actress (Taylor); and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.
The Angry Red Planet
Directed by Ib Melchior
Written by Ib Melchior and Sidney W. Pink
American International Pictures/Sino
First viewing/Amazon Prime
Maj. Gen. George Treegar: The hell with radiation. Let’s go.
This movie is a lot of boring build-up to some bad matte paintings and a bat/spider puppet.
The first mission to Mars has been lost for over two months. Then the spacecraft is spotted and brought home. Only two of the four crew members survive. One is being attacked by an amoeba like growth and is in a coma. The other has been so traumatized that she can’t remember a thing. Under hypnosis, she finally tells the tale of their ordeal via flashback.
This is packed with filler consisting of the operation of the spacecraft and lots of “scientific” discussion. Then the money shots don’t pay off.
Third Man on the Mountain
Directed by Ken Annakin
Written by Eleanore Griffin from a book by James Ramsey Ullman
Walt Disney Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental
Frau Matt: Would you want to be the wife of a guide?
Lizbeth Hempel: Yes. Or of a dishwasher, or a hotel proprietor. But never the wife of a hotel proprietor who wanted to climb mountains! Because a man must do what he feels he must do; or he isn’t a man. And no one, wife mother or sweetheart, has the right to make him into something that he wasn’t meant to be.
Here is a good family adventure film with an excellent cast of mostly British actors.
The setting is 19th Century Switzerland. Rudi Matt (James MacArthur) is the son of a famed Alpine guide. His father lost his life attempting to scale the Citadel and his mother and uncle (James Donald), also a guide, are doing everything in their power to prevent Rudi from climbing. He is currently washing dishes in a climber’s hotel. But nothing can keep Rudi out of the mountains and he spends much of his time dreaming about scaling the Citadel one day himself. His biggest fans are the hotel cook, a former guide, and the hotel owner’s daughter Lizbeth (Janet Munro)
One day, Rudi plays hooky and happens upon famed climber Captain John Winter (Michael Rennie), who has fallen into a cravass. He saves Winter’s life and Winter rewards him in various ways, including asking for the boy as a porter. Rudi has a lot to learn before he becomes selfless enough to be the guide his father was. With Herbert Lom as a guide from a rival village.
The closest I have gotten to real life peaks is to gaze at them. Yet, mountain climbing is one of my favorite topics. The number of books I have read about Everest may be in the double digits. This film scratches that itch in a wholesome Disneyfied way and I really enjoyed it.
The Matterhorn stands in for the fictional Citadel in this movie, which was the inspiration for the famous attraction at Disneyland.
Directed by George P. Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane
Written by William J. Sheldon; story by George P. Breakston
Lopert Pictures Corporation/Shaw-Breakston Enterprises/United Artists of Japan/William Shelton
First viewing/Amazon Prime
I love fools’ experiments. I am always making them. Charles Darwin
Something about the ultra-creepy creatures in this really got under my skin.
Dr. Robert Suzuki is experimenting on creating a new species using some kind of chemicals. Unfortunately, his idea of the next generation of homo sapiens seems to be a murderous two-headed monster/man. Or maybe he hasn’t worked out all the kinks in his plans …
At any rate, when foreign correspondent Larry Stanford comes to interview the good doctor, Suzuki spots his perfect experimental subject. He overpowers Larry with a combination of spiked liquor and femme fatale Tara, his assistant. The rest of the movie follows Larry as he goes completely off the rails.
The whole concept grabbed me and kept my attention throughout the short running time. I wouldn’t even call it a bad movie for the genre. There is action all the way through, evil Orientals, and decent special effects. Recommended for fans of cheesy sci-fi and horror. The complete film is currently available on YouTube.
Clip – Larry sprouts a third eye
Last Train from Gun Hill
Directed by John Sturges
Written by James Poe; story by James Poe
Bryna Productions/Hal Wallis Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant
Marshal Matt Morgan: You’ve already got me dead. How’d I die? The only way I could die today is for you to kill me and that’s a problem… Your problem.
This superior Western boasts an outstanding cast.
As the film begins, a couple of young hoodlum types harass a Cherokee woman and her young son. Then one of them rapes and kills the woman, but not before she has scarred him. The boy nabs the rapist’s horse to run for help. Rapist Rick Belden (Earl Holliman) now has three problems. First, the woman was the wife of the Marshall Matt Morgan (Kirk Douglas). Second, the saddle of the horse bears the initials of his father Craig Belden (Anthony Quinn). Third, his scar is a sure giveaway. Matt naturally swears vengence. Conveniently, the father is his old friend.
Matt takes off immediately for Gun Hill, where Belden lives, via train. On board, he meets Linda (Carolyn Jones), Belden’s mistress, who is returning from a stay in the hospital. Belden is clearly disappointed in his son but refuses to let Matt bring him in. The rest of the movie is devoted to Matt’s efforts to get him aboard the last train from Gun Hill.
This one moves very nicely and boasts some very good acting. I particularly liked Quinn. It has been a while since I have seen him in a non-ethnic role. Carolyn Jones is also unusually good as the worldly-wise ex-shady lady. Douglas is obviously a dynamo. The story contains no surprises but when done as well as this is it doesn’t really matter.
A Bucket of Blood
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Charles B. Griffith
Alta Vista Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental
Maxwell H. Brock: Life is an obscure hobo, bumming a ride on the omnibus of art.
Roger Corman’s send-up of the beat generation has laughs and little blood.
Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) is the squarest bus boy Leonard de Santis could have hired for his coffee house. The place is otherwise filled with artists, poets and folk singers, all of a fairly pretentious hyper-cool stripe. Other frequent visitors are undercover agents looking for drug deals. Walter is in love with an artist named Molly but is too shy to declare himself. His life seems to be one humiliation after another.
One day, Walter accidentally kills his landlady’s cat which had somehow wedged himself behind the dry wall. Walter was experimenting with (bad) sculpture at the time and uses the clay to cover his mistake. The resulting object is taken for a sculpture, which he dubs “Dead Cat” and all praise it or its detail and realism. Walter enjoys the only celebrity he has ever known and is desperate to keep it …
This is the first of Corman’s black comedies and as usual the schlockmeister’s films were superior when he directed himself. I didn’t laugh out loud exactly but it was amusing all the way through. He got the poetry, folk singing and pretension exactly right.
Speaking of folk singing, I can’t let another day go by without congratulating Bob Dylan on his Nobel Prize!
Hiroshima mon amour
Directed by Alain Resnais
Written by Marguerite Duras
Argos Films/Como Films/Daiei Studios/Pathe Entertainment
First viewing/Netflix rental
#358 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Elle: Like you, I have fought with all my might not to forget. Like you, I have forgotten.
Alain Resnais’ debut feature is an exquisite meditation on loss and memory.
The setting is 1958 Hiroshima. The characters are known only as Elle (She) (Emanuelle Rivas) and Lui (He) (Eiji Okada). She is in town to act in an international peace film. She has a husband and children in Paris. He has a wife on vacation. They meet and enjoy a night of unexpected bliss. He thinks he loves her and wants her to stay.
The intensity of their love and desire awakens long suppressed memories of her first love. During the war, the eighteen-year-old had a passionate romance with a German soldier in her hometown of Nevers. As the war ended, he was killed and she was publicly shamed for consorting with the enemy. The affair and the setting provide a catalyst for her to come to terms with her pain.
This movie is a visual and auditory feast. The images and score have perhaps more impact than the words.
Yet it is also a thought-provoking. Resnais was asked to make a film about Hiroshima but the tragedy was too big to grasp in mere celluloid. Instead we focus on a personal tragedy. Coupled with the setting, the story gets us closer to the grief and loss brought about by the bomb and more globally. Rivas is fantastic, both as the modern woman and as the young girl in the many flashbacks. Recommended.
The Hideous Sun Demon
Directed by Robert Clarke and Tom Boutross
Written by E.S. Seeley Jr. and Doane R. Hoag from an original idea by Robert Clarke and Phil Hiner
Trudy Osborne: [playing the piano, and singing] Strange Pursuit, The pursuit of love, Is a strange compelling desire. Though you’re near, You’re not mine to hold, And I want the joy your lips inspire. / My heart is bare, You know I care, Will you take my love, or throw it away? Please let me know, Just “yes” or “no.” Why the great suspense in this game you play?
Strange Pursuit, The pursuit of love, Has me breathless with a burning fire. On and on, Goes the maddening chase. Never ending is love’s strange desire. / Oo-ooh oo-ooh, Strange Pursuit.
This spends too much on “singing” and fistfights and not enough on the monster.
Dr. Gil McCenna has a drinking problem despite being warned that “bourbon and Science don’t mix.” One day when he is hung over, he drops a new radioactive isotope at the lab where he works. When Gil is taken to the hospital roof top to sun himself, it starts a process of “reverse evolution” turning him into a lizard man. When Gil remains indoors and at night, he turns back into his normal studly self. However, Gil cannot lay off the sauce or resist the temptations of the buxom “singer/piano player” (and I use these terms advisedly) at the local bar, so he continues to menace society.
This was produced, directed, and starred in by monster-movie actor Robert Clarke on a tiny budget. It is kind of a cross between a film noir (with plenty of two-fisted action) and science-fiction. It is pretty bad but not bad enough to bring a smile to my face. Still, there are some unforgettable moments, mostly involving Clarke and the blonde, that made it worth watching. They must have the most schizoid relationship in movie history. Oh, and there’s that ultra-cool rubber mask.
The movie was re-dubbed and rereleased in 1983 as What’s Up, Hideous Sun Demon. That sounds like it has potential!
Joe Dante on the film – Trailers from Hell