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Sherlock Holmes and the Pearl of Death is another very reasonable black and white adaption starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Though it's not quite as strong as The Scarlett Claw or Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, this is still a very good adaption with all the atmosphere, mystery and twists and turns that you would expect from a Holmes film, the Pearl of Death is actually a loose adaption of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Six Napoleons, but does have some interesting additions.
The film starts on a ship crossing from Calais to Dover. A woman and a Vicar are talking together. The woman has a camera, but won't be able to take it through customs. The Vicar takes it for her, then gives it back once through customs.
The woman turns out to be Naomi Drake (Evelyn Ankers), who is a criminal and an accomplice to Giles Connover (Miles Mander). Between them, they have stolen a Pearl and are smuggling it back to England.
But the Vicar was Sherlock Holmes, who was on their trail. And when he got his hands on the camera, he took the Pearl out of it.
Later, the Pearl is given the to British Museum. But Holmes becomes too cautious about the security and disconnects the wires to prove his point that the Pearl needs more security. However, Giles Connever is present and is able to steal it and hide it before he's arrested. But there's no proof against him.
However, Holmes and Watson soon get a break when a retired Major has his back broken and is killed, and the china in his house is smashed. Soon, Holmes is on the trail of the Pearl, but is against Connover and his chilling Henchman, the Hoxton Creeper, leading to a tense climax.
This Holmes Mystery is one of the better mysteries, even if it does have a few flaws. There are some great scenes in this. One of the most interesting scenes is where Sherlock Holmes does something wrong. We're all so used to seeing him getting it right, that it's a change to see him having to fight for his own reputation. But the best scenes in this, and the ones that really can send a chill down your spine, are the ones with the Hoxton Creeper. The idea of this horrific henchman coming into a house and killing someone by breaking their back was a brilliant one, and adds some very tense moments to this film, especially in the final moment.
The casting in this film is also arguably some of the best. Rathbone and Bruce as Holmes and Watson are as good as always, and there is some good comic relief from Dennis Hoey as Inspector Lestrade. Miles Mander makes for a great Arch villain in this film. But in truth, non of them can compete with Rondo Hatton, who plays the disfigured creeper. He has no lines, yet steals every scene he's in purely because of his appearence. In real life, Hatton suffered from an illness called Acromegaly, and Universal used him in horrors a lot after this because of his appearence. He steals the film, and is one of the best Henchmen I've seen.
It has a few flaws, such as the theatrical acting at times, and some of the poor disguises. But it has a clever plot, and it's more than worth watching just for the Creeper.
Without a doubt, this is easily the best of the black and white Sherlock Holmes films with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in their respective roles as Holmes and Watson. The core idea of this plot is from The Hound of the Baskervilles, where a supernatural entity used to cover up numerous murderers. However, this adaption is far better then any film version of the Hound of the Baskervilles, and even the critics are all in agreement that this is the best of the B/W Holmes films.
Holmes and Watson are in Canada attending a conference on the occult. One of the stories that comes up is the legend of the monster of La Mort Rouge. The man giving the lecture is Lord Pemrose. Holmes immediately discredits the idea of the monster, saying that there must be a rational explanation for the monsters. However,, things take a dark turn when Pemrose gets a phone call telling him that his wife has been murdered, seemingly by the so called monster.
As Pemrose leaves, Holmes gets a letter. It's from Lady Pemrose, begging for his help. However, the letter has arrived late and she has already died. Deciding to investigate the case of her murder Holmes and Watson go to La Mort Rouge.
Upon arriving, they find the the villagers are worried and quiet. They get little out of the villagers, so have to go around by themselves using tricks to push people into talking. Everyone is convinced that the murderer is the legendary monster, but Holmes is not and is soon on the trail of whoever or whatever is committing the murders, leading to several clever twists and a brilliant climax out on the marshes.
This is very much a re-working of The Hound of the Baskervilles. However, it has to be said that this is much better than the other adaption. More than anything, this has a really great sense of dark, brooding atmosphere. The lighting in this is perfect, and really adds to the whole underlying feel of tension. But the scenes that really make this film are those with the so called monster, which is glowing as it moves over the marshes. There is also a very deep plot, linking several characters to each other through their pasts. This also pushes the boundaries at times, especially when a child is found dead, and that's good because it really adds to the hugely dark plot. And the final twist really is first rate, and filmed to perfection.
As for the acting, it's theatrical at times. But they do a great job adding real character to the film. The star though, is the monster itself. The film makers used a very clever technique to make the monster glow in the dark.
Easily the best of the B/W Sherlock Holmes thrillers, and a very fine thriller in itself.
Sherlock Holmes and the Spider Woman is the seventh entry into the Black and White Holmes Series that stars Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. This was the first of the Holmes films that wasn't based upon just one of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. This one actually takes plot points from several of Conan Doyle's stories, most notably The Sign of Four and the Speckled Band, and touches from two or three other short stories. The result is a rather chilling one, even if it's not as good as the previous effort, Sherlock Holmes faces Death.
Holmes and Watson are on a holiday in Scotland to get away from London because Holmes hasn't been feeling too well. Whilst there, Holmes explains to Watson that there have been particular symptoms that suggest he is dying. Watson reluctantly agrees. Suddenly, Holmes falls into the river, and it's seems as if he's died.
In London, there is a crime wave as Watson comes back to take care of Holmes' effects. In the middle of the crime wave, there have been several suicides that all appear to be induced for a reason.
As Watson moves his effects, a postman arrives and starts to go on about Sherlock Holmes and how he was a phoney. Watson hits the man, defending his honour. It turns out that the man is Holmes in disguise, and that he faked his death because of these mysterious deaths, and he wanted to bring the real killers out into the open. He explains to Watson that the victims were poor but had huge life insurances, and that they were murdered for the insurance money.
So, Holmes assumes the disguise of an Indian man who is poor, but has a large life insurance. Soon, he meets a mysterious woman called Anna Spalding who offers him the chance to make some money on his insurance. Slowly, Holmes is drawn into danger, leading to a clever climax as always.
This is good enough in terms of entertainment, but lacks a certain amount of atmosphere that I'm used to with the others. Also, there are plot points in this that don't ever make total sense and they are noticeable. The idea of Holmes faked death never really gels together properly, and there are a few issues later on that are also a bit weak.
That said, this does have a compelling female villain which makes a great change from all the evil men we had. Also, the idea of killing someone for their insurance money is a chilling one and is actually quite relevant even today. There are also some good action scenes in this, and enough tension to keep it above average. Perhaps most chilling of all is the way
As for the acting, as I said before, this benefits from having a subtle female villain in it, played by Gale Sondergaard. She really does steal the scenes in this and in fairness highlights the idea that women can be as evil as men. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce speak for themselves as always, and there is other support from Dennie Hoey as Lestrade.
Sherlock Holmes Faces Death is arguably one of the best of the black and white Sherlock Holmes adventures. The previous three Universal attempts had all been used as propaganda to show Britain in a good light during the war and keep the spirit up, as was said. However, this film moved away from the idea of Holmes working directly for Britain, and instead focuses on a private problem that just happens to be set during war time. This stars Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in their usual roles, with support from Dennis Hoey as Inspector Lastrade. This adventure is based upon the Conan Doyle story called The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual.
The film starts in Northumberland, at a house called Musgrave Hall. The owner has opened it up and it is being used as a military hospital retreat for officers who have served and been injured or are suffering mentally with shell shock. Dr Watson, who is of course a trained military doctor, is the serving doctor there. While he's there, his assistant is injured in an attack. Watson travels back to London where he enlists the help of Holmes, believing that something is wrong.
Both Holmes and Watson travel back to Northumberland and arrive at Musgrave House. But they are too late. There has been a murder, and the body is that of Mr Musgrave. Soon, the police arrive, led by Inspector Lestrade and they start to investigate the murder together. The mystery seems to surround an old ritual known as the Musgrave Ritual, which is apparently meaningless. However, the butler called Brunton knows more than he is letting on, and soon suspicion falls on him and his wife. With more twists, turns and murder attempts, the mystery deepens, leading to a clever twist and a great climax.
This is hugely superior to the other black and white efforts. The three previous Universal efforts were used more in the war sense and used as propaganda, which worked to an extent but did hold them back. And before that when 20th Century had the rights and made The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes, there was too much theatrical acting. But this is a massive step up.
Starting with the direction, the atmosphere is outstanding. There is harsh northern weather that gives this a cold feel, there is brilliant lighting that really adds to the tension, and there are some great scenes, such as the scene in which the first body is found, the attempt on Watson's life, the discovery of Brunton and the final climax in the cellar. There is a real cold feel to this film because of the wonderful atmosphere that is created using such simple techniques.
The plot is also outstanding. Conan Doyle's original Musgrave Ritual story was an excellent and clever one, and though this adaption is a loose one, the core plot remains and as such it outstanding. There are plenty of twists and turns in this that really do keep you guessing.
Finally, there is the acting. Both the stars hold their own as they always do, but this film again benefits from some good support acting from Dennis Hoey and even more from Arthur Margetson as Dr Sexton.
If you're a fan of black and white films such as the other Sherlock Holmes films, anything by Gilliant and Launder and some of Hitchcock's earlier work, or even if you just like films, then watch this as an earlier example of how to create atmosphere and tension from very little.
Sherlock Holmes in Washington was the film that took Holmes from London to the US capital to solve another crime revolving around the war. The previous films had been generally set in the UK (apart from one initial scene in Switzerland). But the character of Holmes was used for propaganda, so the producers took him to the USA to get on the side of the Americans. It's an interesting mix, even if it does miss the atmospheric feel that there is in the other Sherlock Holmes films. It stars Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in their usual roles of Holmes and Watson, with support from the brilliant George Zucco in another villainous role (he had previously played Moriarty in another Holmes film) and Holmes regular Henry Daniell.
The film starts in Britain, where a spy is given the task of taking a highly sensitive document to Washington. However, as he gets on the plane, it's clear he is being followed. He arrives in America, however, and gets on a train. During the journey, he meets several different people who all come across as suspicious. The lights in the carriage go out, and suddenly the spy has disappeared. The spy is later found dead.
Sherlock Holmes is quickly hired by British Intelligence to find the document, which has in fact been moved around as a microdot for protection. Holmes goes to the house of the spy with his partner Watson, where they are almost killed. Finding nothing, they then travel to the USA where they are drawn into a game of cat and mouse when a woman who was also on the train disappears. Holmes and Watson are in a race against time to save her and retrieve the microdot, leading to a clever climax in the US capital.
This is another good entry into the series, but it's a bit weaker than some of the others because it lacks the atmosphere and sense of mystery. This feels more like a straightforward spy thiller than a mystery. That said, there are some great touches in this film, such as the finding of the body, the kidnap scene and the final climax. But there is no doubt that because of the lack of mystery, it just feels like it could have been more at times.
This does have some great acting in it though. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce are as good as always. But this is more about the character support actors, who are on top form. George Zucco is a theatrical actor, but his role as Heinrich Hinkel is something that needed his subtle ability. Henry Daniell as William Easter is also another brilliant piece of casting, as Daniell as an actor was far more advanced with his method. He's not a theatrical actor, and as such brings realism to his role.
So, though it's not as strong as it could have been in terms of plot, mystery and atmosphere, this does have some great acting and is well worth watching.
Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon is another black and white loose adaption of Arthur Conan Doyle's great character. Again, rather than setting it in the late 1800's, the film was updated for its time and is set in World War 2, and the result is a good one, even though it's very pro west and was once again used as propaganda (which was a clever and successful idea). The film stars Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Dr Watson, and Lionel Atwill as Professor Moriarty. This is loosely based upon Conan Doyle's The Dancing Men.
The film starts in Switzerland, where Sherlock Holmes has been hired to remove Dr Franz Tobel from under the German noses and bring him to England with his secret weapon. He is able to get Tobel out and bring him to England.
Once in England, Tobel informs the security council that the four parts of his secret weapon have been sent to four different people to ensure they never fall into the wrong hands. He also declines any protection. But he makes the mistake of attempting to see a woman he knows. He leaves her with a note in code that is to be given to Sherlock Holmes should anything happen to him.
Something does happen to him, and he is kidnapped. The note is in the form of dancing men, and Holmes and Watson must break the code to rescue him and get the weapon back. Worse still, they soon find that Professor Moriarty is involved and is trying to get the weapon to sell, leading to a great climax.
This film certainly does have atmosphere and enough action to keep you engaged. There are some wonderful scenes in this, even if they are theatrical like the acting. The first scene that is set in Switzerland has a fair bit of tension and quickly introduces you to the plot. There are several scenes in between, mostly in the dark which only adds to the wonderful sense of mystery, and the final scene is actually quite horrific when you think about it.
The acting is pretty theatrical to be honest. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce are theatrical, but it's always entertaining to see them together on the screen. Certainly Lionel Atwill as Professor Moriarty was a good piece of casting though, as he adds some depth to Moriarty in a very subtle manner. This is also the first Black and white Holmes film in which we meet Inspector Lestrade, who is played by Dennis Hoey.
Overall this is another black and white Sherlock Holmes adaption that has a few flaws, but ultimately is a huge amount of fun and has plenty of atmosphere.
In Arthur Conan Doyle's books, Sherlock Holmes works during the late 1800's and is described as a consulting Detective, rather than a Private Detective. But when his character was adapted for the screen in the late 30's and early 40's by 20th Century, they remained faithful to the period. But when World War 2 broke out, Universal picked up the rights and adapted the stories to suit the war. They were essentially changed to be used as propaganda and Holmes was updated to suit the war. Voice of Terror was the first story to be adapted to suit the war, and stars Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson.
At the beginning of the film, we hear the Voice of Terror over the radio, as he describes what plans Germany have for Britain, and the terrors that are taking place.
Some of those listening to the broadcasts are the Inner Security Council, who are totally unable to find out who the Voice of Terror is. The head of the council, Sir Evan Barham, has decided to engage Sherlock Holmes in the hope of opening a new line. Naturally, others in the council are against him at first. But after another accident in which the child of one of the council members is killed, they change their view and accept he must work for them.
Using a variety of different techniques, mostly to do with the radio, Sherlock Holmes starts to get results and quickly concludes that the Voice of Terror is much closer to home than anyone thought. Soon he and Dr Watson start to track the voice of terror. However, those behind the voice of terror have found out Holmes is on the case, Holmes and Watson are soon in danger, leading to a clever twist and a fitting climax.
Though this Holmes adventure and the other Black and Whites that were made with Basil Rathbone are somewhat theatrical at times, they really are fun and do add a different perspective to the character of Holmes. The Voice of Terror is a great instalment into the black and white series, and has a few twists and turns that keep you interested, with enough action to keep the film at pace. The fact that they are black and white only serves to heighten the sense of atmosphere, especially in the scene at the docks, and the final scene in the deserted building.
The acting in this is mostly theatrical, as was most acting of that time. But Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce are both on form and do a great job as Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. They both set the standard for the characters, and were only edged out 50 years later by Jeremy Brett's adaption in the 80's. J
Just a lot of harmless fun that keeps you guessing and has twists, turns and enough action to keep you interested.
Some people will say that this is one of the best British Horrors of all time, and was hugely ground-breaking. My personal opinion is that although it was ground-breaking in terms of horror, it's not quite the best British Horror that it's made out to be. It does have its flaws at times, and they're enough just to pull it back down a bit and prevent it from being a masterpiece. However, the core plot is exceptional and is actually based upon the true story of witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, who worked in England during the 1600's killing so called witches. The film was directed by a talented man called Michael Reeves, who was just 24 when he wrote and directed this. It starts Vincent Price in, perhaps, one of his finest roles.
In 1645, England is gripped in the civil war. But in-between all this, a man called Matthew Hopkins is making a name for himself as a prolific witchfinder who, with his assistant John Stearne, roams the English countryside making money from local magistrates as he kills men and women with little proof. He uses numerous techniques to get a confession, such as beatings, stabbings, hangings, trial by water and such.
However, he comes to one village where the locals have accused the local Priest called Jon Lowes has been accused of witchcraft. Hopkins arrives and sets about torturing the man, whist also using his niece, Sara, for pleasure. However, Hopkins is a ruthless man and even after promising not to kill the Priest, he does.
But Sara is engaged to a soldier called Richard, and he is very loyal to the family. When he finds out what has happened to Sara and her Uncle, he deserts his post and comes to see her. He then vows revenge, and at the same time marries Sara before sending her to another town called Lavenham.
Meanwhile, Hopkins and Stearne discover that Richard is after them and get ready for him. They are then hired by the magistrate in Lavenham, where Sara is, to kill more witches. More horrifically, Hopkins has come up with an even worse form of torture. Richard arrive, and the scene is set for a very violent climax.
There is no doubt that this is a good film that is very ground-breaking in terms of violence. It's very graphic and shows hangings, drownings and witch burnings. The final climax was at the time one of the most violent in film and was heavily criticized. But it was ground-breaking, and soon after censors became more relaxed. The problem with this is that it's almost not in depth enough at times, and the plot is sometimes a bit all over the place. To be fair, the director of this was only 24 and this was one of his first films. He was a talent, but sadly died just a year later, so this was his only great film. It certainly suggests that had he lived, he would have had a great career. This is a suitably horrific film for fans of horror, and the final scene is grim.
As for the acting, Rupert Davies as John Stearne wsa a great bit of casting, and there is other good support. But there is no doubt that this is Vincent Price's film all the way. He is the walking definition of evil in this film, and every scene that he's in is stolen by him and his hypnotic voice, especially the scenes that see him standing by and calmly watching torture.
Overall, this is not the masterpiece of horror that it's made out to be. But it's still very chilling and has enough horror in it to provide anyone with a few graphic shocks.
This is a pretty unnerving film to be fair. I'm sure everyone has heard of the Hammer Horrors of the 50's, 60's and 70's. But it's worth noting that Hammer Studios were not the only British studio at that time who were making horrors. It's just that Hammer horror became the sweeping generalization for all horrors out at the time. This one was actually made by a company called Amicus. In keeping with several Amicus film ideas, this film has one central protagonist that sets up several storylines within the film. In this film, there are five stories, all set up by a man in an antiques store. It stars Horror King Peter Cushing, along with David Warner, Donald Pleasence, Ian Bannen and Ian Carmichael with some others.
The film starts in an antiques store run by a mysterious man with no name (Peter Cushing). He sells the antiques, and with each antique there is a nasty surprise, especially when the dealer is cheated out of his money.
The Gatecrasher - A man called Edward (David Warner) walks into the store and sees an antique mirror. He lies to the Proprietor and claims the mirror is a fake, offering just £25 instead of the asking price of £250. The Proprietor sells it to him. Edward takes the mirror home. But after he holds a seance, something starts to happen, and the mirror seems to come to life.
An Act of Kindness - Christopher Lowe (Ian Bannen) is a very frustrated middle aged man who is stick in a loveless marriage. In loneliness, he befriends an old soldier. Christopher claims to be a soldier, and visits the antique shop, stealing a medal. Soon, he goes to old soldier's house and meets his daughter. But it quickly becomes apparent that the old soldier and his daughter have their own plan for Christopher and his wife.
The Elemental - Reggie is a businessman who enters the antiques store looking for snuff boxes. He finds one that he likes, but isn't happy with the price. So he secretly changes the price and the Proprietor sells him it. On the train home, a medium tells him that there is a demon living on him, and he will need help. At first, he doesn't believe it, but after some bizarre incidents, he calls upon the medium to help.
The Door - A man comes into the shop and sees an old door. He buys it and has it installed in his study. But he becomes intrigued more and more by the door. One day he opens it and there is a blue room beyond. But what is the blue room?
The final climax is set in the shop, when a man comes in to try and rob the Proprietor. But he doesn't reckon the the Proprietor's shop.
This is actually a pretty decent horror. Though it's in the same style as Hammer and has its over the top moments and some dated special effects, there is enough horror and enough shock here to keep you glued to the screen in each of the segments and the final climax.
The acting is actually pretty good because of the cast. Peter Cushing puts in an outstanding performance as the mysterious Proprietor, and he has brilliant support from David Warner, Ian Bannen and Donald Pleasence.
Though it's not in the league of The Shining or a film like that, this is still a very good attempt and has some spooky moments.
The Day the Earth Caught fire is a poignant sci-fi film that was pretty ground-breaking in its time, using interesting techniques to compliment the distinctly dark storyline that even now is very relevant in its way. During the 60's there were a lot of people who were for and against nuclear weapons. This film centres around that idea, and expands upon it t bring in even more disaster. Director and writer Val Guest is best known for his contribution to sci-fi and horror (He wrote comedy horrors Oh, Mr Porter and The Ghost Train, and directed numerous Hammer Horrors). This is probably one of his best films, and stars Janet Munro, Leo McKern and Edward Judd.
The film opens with a scene set in London, which has seemingly been partially destroyed. The colour of the scene is orange, but we don't know why. A lone man walks through the street. He is hot, and walks into a building. We learn that he's a report and is reporting on the end of the world. His name is Peter Stenning (Edward Judd).
We then flash back to several months before. Stenning has been through a messy divorce and his work has been in decline. His editor has decided that he has no more time for him, and has demoted him. He is now just a runner and has to fight his way through just for scraps of news.
At the same time, we learn about the detonation of two nuclear bombs by Russia and the USA at both the North and South Poles.
Soon, things in London start to get hotter and Britain and the world appear to be in the middle of a heat wave. However, there are some that begin to worry when an eclipse of the sun takes place nine days earlier than it should. Stenning and some others start to do some digging, and find to their horror that the nuclear detonations have had a huge effect on the planet, bringing the story full circle and leading to a meaningful and purposefully ambiguous climax.
This film has a superb plot, but at times is a little too slow because it's focused more on the newspaper trying to cover the end of the world story than the story itself. That said, it's only a small problem with the film, and there is still plenty happening that keeps you interested. This film does have some very clever techniques and ideas to show the world heating up. At the beginning and the end of the film, the scenes are given an orange tint to show how hot the world has become. During the flashback, everything is Black and White. There is also a standout scene where the Thames starts to evaporate and steams covers London. There are some other great action scenes as well, all showing the breakdown of society and how a few people in government have the power to wreck everything else for everyone.
The climax is also very clever. Clearly Val Guest wanted us to asks questions, so the ending is ambiguous and we are left to assume that the only way disaster can be avoided is if we as a race make our own decision.
The acting in this is good and bad. The three stars all hold their own, especially Edward Judd as Stennings. But there is also some acting that is far too theatrical, and at times does drag the film down a bit.
Overall though, this film is pretty good. The plot is very relevant and at times unnerving, and Val Guest's direction does focus on the disaster enough to keep you interested. Well worth watching.
After the huge success that was True Grit, and the introduction of fabulous character Reuban 'Rooster' J. Cogburn, it was only a matter of time before they out together a sequel. So, six years after True Grit, out came Rooster Cogburn, which again stars John Wayne as Rooster. This time, he has support from the outstanding Katherine Hepburn, who easily matches Wayne's on screen charisma. However, though it does have two outstanding lead roles, the film's plot is just a re-hash of True Grit, just with older characters. And that's a shame, because this is a film that could have been so much more.
Rooster Cogburn is in trouble. He has been drinking too much, which is now being questioned, and after the Judge decides that he has used his gun too much and has killed too many criminals and fires him, stripping him of his badge. Needless to say that Cogburn is not happy and ends up drinking.
Meanwhile at a Native American village where there is a Church, a gang arrive. The Church is run by missionary Rev. George Goodnight and his daughter Eula (Hepburn). Rev. Goodnight wants the gang to leave, as they will only cause trouble. Instead, they get drunk, attack the villagers and then massacre them, including Rev. Goodnight. Eula decides to try and find the gang and bring them to justice, no matter what. And Eula is a very strong minded woman who will get what she wants.
This is turn gives Rooster then chance he needs to try and redeem himself. He is given his badge back and goes after the gang. However, there are some sparks between him and Eula, as he doesn't think she should come, whereas she does. Soon, they are both in chase of the gang. But they find themselves in danger, as the gang have stolen explosives, leading to a brilliant climax.
This is a good film. It's not great, but it's good. The problem is that the plot is just True Grit again, but with an older actress in Katherine Hepburn, and at times the film seems to rely on her ad John Wayne to lift it up, rather then the film being good and the actors adding to it.
However, as with all John Wayne films, this does have some brilliant action. The scene at the village is good but harrowing. There is a brilliant shooting scene in the woods, and the scene on the raft is a brilliant touch. The film always moves at pace and there is never a dull moment. the director does a good job with a film that could have been better.
That goes for the cast too. Both John Wayne and Katherine Hepburn are outstanding, given that the film itself is only just above average. Both are cast perfectly against each other, and neither steals any scene outright. John Wayne is John Wayne, as always, which is the great American hero. Katherine Hepburn strikes a good blow for feminism with her no nonsense, tough approach to her work and her beliefs.
So, like I said, a good film that will entertain a lot, but adds nothing new to the western genre and is very much True Grit with a different title and older actress.
True Grit is probaly John Wayne's best film, though he is almost as good in Rio Bravo. This film is based on the book of the same name by Charles Portis, though the film does differ slightly. Even so, this really is a very entertaining western all the same, and has some wonderful and very memorable scenes in it, even if at times the film itself comes off as a little too preachy for its own good. True Grit was directed by Henry Hathaway and stars John Wayne in his most memorable role, with brilliant support from Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Glen Campbell and even a young Dennis Hopper.
Frank Ross is a loyal man who likes to help people. But he helps a man called Tom Chaney, who kills him in return. Franks' young daughter decides she will go after Chaney, no matter what the cost. She arrives in a town called Fort Smith where she hears of a Marshall named Reuban 'Rooster' J. Cogburn. She continually tries to speak to him and will not give up until she does. Finally, he talks to her and meets her whilst half drunk. She tells him about Chaney, and offers to pay him for getting Chaney. Rooster Cogburn initially agrees to her deal, until a Texas Ranger called Le Beouf comes to speak to him and agrees another deal.
So, Cogburn and Le Beouf set off, thinking they have left the daughter behind. But she's a strong willed girl, and soon comes after them, joining them in the adventure to get Tom Chaney. However, along the way they learn that Chaney is involved with a man called Luck Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall), and they soon realize that it will be a very dangerous ride, leading to one hell of a climax.
There is no real doubt in my mind that True Grit is one of the best westerns of all time. The directing is superb for a start. There isn't a moment in this film that is slow, and it really does move throughout. The action scenes are always well directed, and well spread throughout the film so there is a mixture of meaningful dialogue followed by action. There are actually two outstanding action scenes in this. The first is the shootout at the rundown hut, and the second is the fabulous climax that is a battle of good vs evil. Henry Hathaway does a wonderful job with this film, and it's easily his best.
Alongside the brilliant direction is the exceptional acting. I'm a fan of John Wayne because there is always a certain honesty about his acting. He's the same character in every film, yes. And yes he's always flawed in some way. But he's a good, honest guy who does good, honest work. You could say that John Wayne's western characters are the lighter size of Clint Eastwood's western characters. Whereas Clint is always fighting for himself, John Wayen is always fighting for eveyrone else. And this is the film that shows him at his fighting best. The character that be brings to Rooster really is outstanding, and there isn't a dull moment at all when he is on set. He alone steals this film. And he rightfully won his Oscar for this one as well.
However, it also has to be said that he has cracking support. Most notably, Kim Darby as the wronged woman is brilliant. Her character is annoying, but always truthful, and she acts it to perfection. There is also cracking support from Robert Duvall in one of his earlier roles, and you often find yourself wondering why he never made it bigger as an actor.
This isn't a truthful western in the sense that it shows the west in a lighter fashion. For truth, go to Sergio Leone. But if you're looking for god old fashioned entertainment that's not too preachy and has plenty of action, then this will do.
The Wild Bunch is one of the very few westerns that tells it how it is. The only other director who captured the west in the same way was Sergio Leone. And even his films were't quite as violent as this one. Sam Pekinpah's take on the western is much the same as Leone's, and in fairness his films does rival Leone's work. This one, however, is set in 1912, towards the end of the cowboy and outlaw era, rather than Leone's work which is in the middle of the cowboy era. The Wild Bunch is very violent and tells the tale of a gang of agening outlaws who are all aware that their time is coming to and end, and try for one last score so they can retire. The film touches in the idea of an unspoken cowboy code, loyalty, revenge and truth in a pretty relentless ride. It stars William Holden, Ernest Borgnine and Robert Ryan in some of their best roles.
Pike Bishop (William Holden) is an outlaw who knows that his time is more or less up. With the help of his gang, including Dutch Engstrom (Ernest Borgnine), they all go to rob a railroad office of silver in a last ditch attempt to make a huge score. They arrive at the railroad office and everything seems to be going well at first.
Meanwhile on the rooftops of the small town, Pike's old partner Thornton (Robert Ryan), who is now working for the railroad as punishment for his crimes, is ready to ambush them.
The tension mounts, and finally one of Thornton's team is seen. The result is that the gang inside the railroad office all come out shooting, and a a lot of innocent people are killed along with some of the gang. Pike, Dutch and a few others are able to get away. Thornton gives chase.
Now the gang are on the run, and time is running out. They head south towards Mexico, where the Revolution is in full swing, and attempt a final stand there in an effort to recoup the score they lost, leading to a very bloody and hugely enjoyable climax.
This is a very powerful film, there is no doubt about it. And it has a powerful message behind it. But it's almost too violent for its own good at times. Director Sam Pekinpah is known for his on scree violence, and whereas Sergio Leone was always careful to show violence only when it was needed, and only as much as was needed, Pekinpah would overuse it. The Wild Bunch all too often relies on heavy violence, rather than acting or directing to get the message across. That said, those scenes that are well characterized and well directed are genuinely brilliant. Certainly the final scene, for all its violence, is one hell of a scene. And there is also a cracking scene near the railroad as well.
The acting is what really makes this film though. Sergio Leone's westerns may have had the style, and Clint Eastwood is a joy to watch as the coolest man in the west. But the Wild Bunch has some cracking character acting that rivals that of Once Upon a Time in the West. William Holden gives a new meaning to the word loyalty in this film, and you can feel the underlying desperation of the man as he tries to make one final score. He has outstanding support from the ever present Ernest Borgnine, who is always there to back him up. And Robert Ryan holds his own in this film, even if his role wasn't big enough for him to really showcase his talent.
So, overall, this is one of the better Westerns of all time. It easily rivals Sergio Leone's films. But it's very violent, so you'll need a strong stomach.
For anyone who hasn't seen this film, and can handle 4 hours of footage and a plot that is extremely dark, you're in for a real treat with Once Upon a Time in America, because in my opinion this is the best prohibition era gangster film of all time, and is as good as The Godfather (ironically a film that Leone was given the chance to direct). When released in 1984, Sergio Leone's final masterpiece and his best film received a 15 minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film festival. But at just under four hours long, some idiot American editor decided to cut it, and it ruined the film's reputation. However, a few years ago it was fully restored to its original length and I was lucky enough to get a copy of it. And I have to say that it really is one hell of a film. The first thing about this film is that it doesn't revolve around Italians or the Mafia, but around Jewish crime in Brooklyn. The second is that unlike other gangster films such as The Godfather and GoodFellas, where there characters that you come to like, this film has characters that you just dislike and it shows crime for what it is, and criminals for what they are. Just plain nasty. This epic has a fabulous cast with Robert De Niro, James Woods, Tuesday Weld, Elizabeth McGovern and Joe Pesci. It was directed by Sergio Leone, and is his last film. It also has a hypnotic soundtrack from Ennio Morricone.
The film is told from the end, where an aged criminal nicknamed Noodles (Robert De Niro) arrives in New York to finalize his affairs and seek redemption. The story of how he became who he is is told in flashbacks.
The flashbacks start in the 1920's, where we meet young Jewish criminals Noodles, Max, Patsy, Cockeye and Little Dominc begin to rise to power on the streets, making their own deals and their own money, and doing their own thing. However, at some point a gangster named Bugsy decides to take control again and kills Little Dominic. In revenge, Noodles stabs Bugsy to death, but in rage also stabs a police officer. He is then sent to jail.
In the 1930's, he is released and instantly falls back in with his gang who waited for him to come out. They have since built up a huge business specifically focusing on bootlegging. He is picked up by Max (James Woods) and they soon set to work in crime. Eventually though, the good times come to an end and prohibition is repealed. It is that this time there is a change in their business and personalities, with tragic results.
We then come full circle and see the grey haired Noodles as he tries to piece together one last mystery, leading to a clever twist and a sad yet compelling climax.
This film is so epic and there is so much to it that my description actually only covers the basics. But I don't want to give too much away because there is so much to this film and it deserves to be watched. There is so much depth and thought given to the characters, the settings and the plot that no one could write it all down.
The very first thing that is noticeable about this film is that lack of empathy that you find yourself having for these characters. We liked Vito Corleone in the Godfather. We liked Henry Hill in GoodFellas. We liked Sam Rothstein in Casino. The one thing that is never told or made clear is that they are in fact all nasty men who kill, rob and use violence to get their way. This film breaks that trend. Leone specifically makes the characters nasty, so you dislike them. There is nothing to like about criminals, and that's what Leone wanted to show. We shouldn't like Noodles and his gang because they are violent criminals who kill, rob and rape. And that's how it is in this film. There is no hero. All the men are just bad, and one is looking for some sort of redemption amongst people like himself. We are never meant to like the characters.
Sergio Leone's directing itself is his finest. This was his last film, and it is his best. This is slick, mesmerizing and relentless. He blends the action, the settings, the characters and the plot to perfection and everything is so neat. The violence is very strong, and there are strong scenes or rape. Yet somehow it's never exploitive, and always has a meaning. The film is not just violent for the sake of it. It moves along at pace, but is always brooding, almost waiting to explode to life. Which it does at the end. The final climax is surely one of the best in film, and the twist is very clever.
As for the acting, what more can I say other than it stars Robert De Niro and James Woods together on screen. Both men are two of the best character actors in film, and both make their characters thoroughly disgraceful and in many ways disgusting. And it's even more of a shame that since this film, James Woods has never been allowed to do more to showcase his exceptional talent. There is also outstanding support, especially from Elizabeth McGovern, who acts her scenes exceptionally well.
This is just superb. Film making to perfection. What a tragedy that it was initially edited by someone in Hollywood, because it has never had the praise it should have. It is a must watch. But be warned that is has some truly disturbing scenes in it, and that you won't find one thing you like about the characters.
I think everyone would agree that Sergio Leone will always be best remembered for his fast paced Dollars trilogy with Clint Eastwood. But we shouldn't forget that he was hugely talented and did go on to make a few other very significant films. This film, Once Upon a Time in the West, is one of them. Though it's another western, this is very different to his original Dollars trilogy. I'd always way that the Dollars trilogy focused more on the adventure of the characters. But this film focuses on the characters, and is a brooding, well paced epic. As before, the underlying story is about greed and more specifically the greed surrounding the rail roads. But instead of showing a bunch of men going after the money, we are shown men who are drawn towards each other for different reasons. The film has a stella cast with Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards and Claudia Cardinale.
The film starts with a scene at a railroad station, where three gunfighters await the arrival of a mysterious man only known as 'Harmonica',named after the musical instrument he plays. After a tense build up, Harmonica (Charles Bronson) arrives. For a moment, he and the three gunmen just stare at each other while 'Harmonica' calmly plays his harmonica. Suddenly, there is a shootout and Harmonica turns from a calm, cool headed man into a killer with mission.
Meanwhile a man called Brett McBain has just married. He also owns a plot of land near water in the desert which he bought for a cut price, foreseeing that the railroad will need to pass through it. However, before his new wife can join him, he and his children are shot to death by a ruthless henchman called Frank who works for the railroad's director.
Soon the paths of Harmonica and Frank start to cross each other, and it becomes apparent that Harmonia is after him for some reason. In the middle of all this, there is the railroad, and Harmonica tries to ensure that Brett's widow (played by Claudia Cardinale) isn't intimidated by the railroad director and his henchman. This naturally leads to a brilliant climax, where all is revealed about the men.
For those expecting a fast paced ride from Sergio Leone, this can initially come as a shock as it is so different from the dollars trilogy. This film is brooding, and is very deep. The story isn't told through violence or action, but very much through exceptional characterization that has the action added to it when it is fit. As with The Good the Bad and the Ugly, this film also uses a specific background that connects to the west. In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, it was he American Civil War. In this film, it's the railroads. As always, Leone carefully builds up the tension using a variety of long takes and some quick close ups and cuts. This is particularly evident in the outstanding opening scene at the railroad station, where only a few words are uttered in the first ten minutes, and again in the final showdown between Harmonica and Frank. This also has a beautiful soundtrack by Ennio Morricone, which highlights the epic, brooding feel that this film has. The action scenes, as always, are shot to perfection and the violence is always believable and never exploitative, meaning that everything in this film blends together perfectly.
This also boasts some of the best acting in film. I am a huge fan of Clint Eastwood, but he made the right decision to stay out of this film. This is a deep film, and needed very subtle character actors to pull it off. Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson were perfectly cast in this film and both make their roles their own. When you watch them act, it's very hard to envisage anyone else in their roles. there is also oustanding support from Jason Robards and Claudia Cardinale, both of whom are in top form in this.
Though this is not quite as good as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, this is another masterpiece from Sergio Leone and is probably one of the deepest westerns ever made, rivalling Unforgiven.