Lone Wolf Sullivan is a writer, songwriter, and studio musician.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Singin' in the Rain (1952) * * *

Part of the opening credits feature the three stars from the film, briefly singing the title song with black umbrellas and yellow raincoats.

(first lines)
Dora Bailey: (broadcasting on radio) This is Dora Bailey, ladies and gentlemen, talking to you from the front of the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. What a night, ladies and gentlemen, what a night! Every star in Hollywood's heaven is here to make Monumental Pictures' premiere of "The Royal Rascal" the outstanding event of 1927! Everyone is breathlessly awaiting the arrival of Lina Lamont and Don Lockwood!

Set in 1927 Hollywood, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is a popular silent film star who began as a singer, dancer, and stunt man. He is a dashing, smug, and romantic swashbuckling matinee idol. Don barely tolerates his glamorous blonde but shallow leading lady, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), who claims to love him, as the publicity links them romantically. During the screening of "The Royal Rascal", one of the young flappers in the audience comments to her girlfriend about the sophisticated screen image that Lina's beauty projects: "She's so refined. I think I'll kill myself." Studio boss R. F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell) congratulates Lina for her smash-hit performance.

Simpson: Lina, you were gorgeous.
Cosmo: Yeah, Lina, you looked pretty good for a girl.
Lina: F' heaven's sake, what's the big idea? Can't a girl get a word in edge-wise? After all, they're my public too!

Lina: Donny, how can you let him talk to me like that, your fiansee?"
Don Lockwood: Now Lina, you've been reading those fan magazines again. Now look Lina, you shouldn't believe all that banana oil that Dora Bailey and the columnists dish out. Now try to get this straight. There is nothing between us. There has never been anything between us. Just air.

Don Lockwood: What's the matter with that girl? Can't she take a gentle hint?
Cosmo: Well, haven't you heard? She's irresistible. She told me so herself.

One day, to escape from overenthusiastic fans, Don jumps into a passing car driven by Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). She drops him off, but not before claiming to be a stage actress and sneering at his undignified accomplishments. Later, at a party, the head of Don's studio, R.F. Simpson, shows a short demonstration of a talking picture, but his guests are not very impressed. Don runs into Kathy again at the party, after she jumps out of a cake. To his amusement and her embarrassment, he discovers that Kathy is only a chorus girl, part of the entertainment. Furious, she throws a cake at him, only to hit Lina right in the face. After weeks of searching for her, Don makes up with Kathy after she is found in another Monumental Pictures production, and they begin to fall in love.

Don Lockwood: Kathy, all the stories about Lina and me are sheer publicity.
Kathy: Oh? It certainly seems more than that. From all those columns in the newspapers and articles in the fan magazines...
Don Lockwood: You read the fan magazines?
Kathy: I pick them up at the beauty parlor or the dentist's office, just like anybody.
Don Lockwood: Really?
Kathy: Well... I buy four or five a month.
Don Lockwood: Four or five...
Kathy: But anyway, to get back to the point, you and Miss Lamont do achieve a certain intimacy in all your pictures...
Don Lockwood: Did you say all our pictures?
Kathy: I guess if I think about it I've seen eight or nine of them.
Don Lockwood: You know I remember someone saying, "If you've seen one you've seen 'em all."

After a rival studio releases its first talking picture, "The Jazz Singer", and it proves to be a smash hit, Simpson decides he has no choice but to convert the new Lockwood and Lamont film, "The Dueling Cavalier", into a talkie. The production has many difficulties that reportedly did take place during the early days of talking pictures, by far the worst is Lina's comically grating high-pitched voice. A test screening is a disaster largely because of her shrill, screechy New York accent. She asks: "What's wrong with the way I talk? What's the big idea? Am I dumb or somethin'?" And in one scene Don repeats his own line "I love you" to Lina over and over, to the audience's laughter.

Phoebe Dinsmore: (giving Lina diction lessons) Repeat after me: Tah, Tey, Tee, Toe, Too.
Lina Lamont: Tah, Tey, Tye, Tow, Tyo.
Phoebe Dinsmore: No, no, no Miss Lamont, Round tones, round tones. Now, let me hear you read your line.
Lina Lamont: And I cayn't stand'im.
Phoebe Dinsmore: And I can't stand him.
Lina Lamont: And I cayn't stand'im.
Phoebe Dinsmore: Can't.
Lina Lamont: Cayn't.
Phoebe Dinsmore: Caaaan't
Lina Lamont: Cayyyyn't

Don's best friend, Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor), comes up with the idea to dub Lina's voice with Kathy's and they persuade Simpson to turn "The Dueling Cavalier" into a musical titled "The Dancing Cavalier". At the end of production, Lina finds out that Kathy is dubbing her voice. She is furious and does everything possible to sabotage the romance between Don and Kathy. Lina becomes even angrier when she discovers that Simpson intends to give Kathy a screen credit and a big publicity buildup. Lina, having consulted lawyers, blackmails Simpson into backing down.

Cosmo Brown: Why bother to shoot this film? Why not release the old one under a new title? You've seen one, you've seen them all.
Don Lockwood: Hey, what'd you say that for?
Cosmo Brown: What's the matter?
Don Lockwood: That's what that Kathy Selden said to me that night.
Cosmo Brown: That's three weeks ago, you still thinking about that?
Don Lockwood: I can't get her out of my mind.
Cosmo Brown: How could you--she's the first dame who hasn't fallen for your line since you were four.

The premiere of "The Dancing Cavalier" is a tremendous success. When the audience clamors for Lina to sing live, Don, Cosmo, and Simpson improvise and get Lina to lip-synch while Kathy sings into a second microphone while hidden behind the stage's curtain. Later, while Lina is lip-synching, Don, Cosmo and Simpson open the stage curtain behind her, revealing the deception. Lina then flees in embarrassment. When Kathy tries to run away as well, Don stops her and introduces the audience to "the real star of the film", creating the film's expected happy resolution.

(last lines)
Don Lockwood: Ladies and gentlemen, stop that girl, that girl running up the aisle. Stop her! That's the girl whose voice you heard and loved tonight. She's the real star of the picture. Kathy Selden!
(theater audience applauds and cheers)
Don Lockwood: Kathy...
(Don and Kathy sing "You Are My Lucky Star")

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is a musical that even people who hate musicals love. Whether or not you consider it the best musical ever created by Hollywood is a matter of personal preference. But no matter where you personally rank it, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is certainly one of the best, a film that simply gains in critical and popular stature with every passing year, a national and world treasure of cinematic art. It's a high-energy, witty, and sparkling movie laced with period songs by Arthur Freed, a film that many regard as the single finest musical to emerge from Hollywood. The plot was derived from ONCE IN A LIFETIME (1932), a hilarious adaptation of the Moss Hart-George S. Kaufman 1930 play set during the time of panic surrounding Hollywood's transition to talkies.

In many respects it is a throwback to the early musicals of the era it satirizes, for many of its musical numbers have absolutely nothing to do with the story it tells. But unlike such early musicals the storyline is exceptionally strong, and since the film is about the creation of an early "all talking, all dancing, all singing" movie in which such musical numbers were typical, they have here a certain validity that could not otherwise be achieved. The cast is absolutely flawless, and Kelly, Reynolds, O'Connor, and Hagen give the finest performances of their careers. Musical numbers are brilliantly performed, each the definition of perfection. The art designs are meticulous, beautiful, and recreate the late-silent and early-sound era of Hollywood with considerable charm. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN has an energy and vitality that is timeless.

This musical was originally conceived by MGM producer Arthur Freed as a vehicle for his catalog of songs written with Nacio Herb Brown for previous MGM musical films of the 1929-39 period. Screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green contributed lyrics to one new song. Except for two songs, all have lyrics by Freed and music by Brown. The films listed below mark the first time each song was presented on screen.

* "Fit as a Fiddle (And Ready for Love)", from COLLEGE COACH (1933), with music by Al Hoffman and Al Goodhart.
* "Temptation" (instrumental only), from GOING HOLLYWOOD (1933)
* "All I Do Is Dream of You", from SADIE McKEE (1934)
* "Singin' in the Rain", from HOLLYWOOD REVIEW OF 1929 (1929)
* "Make 'Em Laugh", considered an original song, but a near-plagiarism of Cole Porter's "Be a Clown", used in another Freed musical, THE PIRATE (1948). In the lead in to the song, Cosmo sarcastically references the tragic line "ridi pagliaccio" ("Laugh, clown") from the opera "Pagliacci".
* "Beautiful Girl Montage" comprising "I Got a Feelin' You're Foolin'" from BROADWAY MELODY OF 1936 (1935), "The Wedding of the Painted Doll" from THE BROADWAY MELODY (1929), and "Should I?" from LORD BYRON OF BROADWAY (1930)
* "Beautiful Girl", from GOING HOLLYWOOD (1933) and from STAGE MOTHER (1933)
* "You Were Meant for Me", from THE BROADWAY MELODY (1929)
* "You Are My Lucky Star", from BROADWAY MELODY OF 1936 (1935)
* "Moses Supposes" (music by Roger Edens, lyrics by Comden and Green)
* "Good Morning", from BABES IN ARMS (1939)
* "Would You?", from SAN FRANCISCO (1936)
* "Broadway Melody Ballet" composed of "The Broadway Melody" from THE BROADWAY MELODY (1929) and "Broadway Rhythm" from BROADWAY MELODY OF 1936 (1935) with music by Nacio Herb Brown and Lennie Hayton.

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN was co-directed by Stanley Donen and dancer choreographer Gene Kelly, and is a charming, up-beat, graceful and enjoyable experience with great songs, lots of flashbacks, and wonderful dances, including the spectacular Broadway Melody Ballet with Cyd Charisse. This is another example of the "integrated musical" in which the characters express their emotions. Song and dance replace the dialogue, usually during moments of high spirits or passionate romance. Over half of the film is composed of musical numbers.

The cast also includes: Cyd Charisse (Dancer), Douglas Fowley (Roscoe Dexter), Rita Moreno (Zelda Zanders), Dawn Addams (Teresa), Kathleen Freeman (Phoebe Dinsmore), Madge Blake (Dora Bailery), John Albright, Betty Allen, Sue Allen, Marie Ardell, Bette Arlen, Jimmy Bates, Marcella Becker, Margaret Bert, David Blair, Madge Blake (Dora Bailey), Gail Bonney, Gwen Carter, Bill Chatham, Mae Clarke, Lyle Clark, Harry Cody, Chick Collins, Pat Conway, Jeanne Coyne, Fred Datig Jr., Bert Davidson, Robert Dayo, Patricia Denise, Kay Deslys, Gloria DeWerd, John Dodsworth, King Donovan, Michael Dugan, Phil Dunham, Helen Eby-Rock, Marietta Elliott, Richard Emory (Phil - Villain in Barroom Brawl), Betty Erbes, Charles Evans, Tommy Farrell (Sid Phillips), Don Fields, Ernie Flatt, Bess Flowers, Robert Fortier, Dan Foster, Robert Foulk (Matt - Policeman), Kathleen Freeman, Lance Fuller, Jeanne Gail, Glen Gallagher, Jon Gardner, Diane Garrett, Jack George, Shirley Glickman, Inez Gorman, A. Cameron Grant, Beatrice Gray, Marion Gray, William Hamel, Betty Hannon, Timmy Hawkins, Dean Henson, Jean Heremans, Stuart Holmes (J. Cumberland Spendrill III), Joyce Horne, Don Hulbert, Frank Hyers, Pat Jackson, Ivor James, Morgan Jones, David Kasday, Jan Kayne, Jimmy Kelly, Kenner G. Kemp, Mike Lally, Judy Landon (Olga Mara), Joi Lansing, Janet Lavis, Virginia Lee, William F. Leicester, Peggy Leon, Diki Lerner, Bill Lewin (Bert), Sylvia Lewis, John Logan, and many others. The original musical score was composed by Lennie Hayton. Adolph Green and Betty Comden wrote the story and screenplay. Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly directed.

This MGM picture is the American musical that consistently ranks among the 10 best movies ever made. It's not only a great song-and-dance piece starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and a sprightly Debbie Reynolds, it's also an affectionately funny insider spoof about the film industry's uneasy transition from silent pictures to talkies. Surprisingly, this great film shot for a cost of $2.5 million was basically ignored by film critics when released and treated with indifference by the public, with a box-office of $7.7 million worldwide. It received only two Academy Award nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Jean Hagen), and Best Musical Score (Lennie Hayton) but didn't win any awards.

According to the audio commentary on the 2002 Special Edition DVD, the original negative was destroyed in a fire, but despite this, the film has been digitally restored for its DVD release. The new digital transfer is stunning for both video and audio. Many reviewers have complained about the commentary track and it is the low-point of this edition. The second disc is a goldmine. First, there is the excellent PBS documentary on the Arthur Freed Unit, "Musicals Glorious Musicals". This is an often revealing 90-minute film about the musical films Freed produced. It includes plenty of great excerpts, too. There is a new documentary, "What A Glorious Feeling," on the making of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. Watching both these documentaries, you don't need the commentary track because most of it was lifted from these documentaries. In addition, this supplementary disc includes the songs used in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN as they first appeared in their original films and later films that used the songs again. And there is another whole section of audio excerpts from the recording sessions. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN was not shot in widescreen, but in the only format used for studio pictures before the end of 1953, the "Academy" or "Standard" aspect ratio. It was designed to be shown in 1.37:1, which is about the same as most TV screens.

The movie is frequently described as one of the best musicals ever made, topping the American Film Institute's 100 Years of Musicals list, and ranking fifth in its updated list of the greatest American films in 2007. In 1989 SINGIN' IN THE RAIN was also deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Jaws (1975) * * *

(first lines)
Tom Cassidy: What's your name again?
Christine Watkins: Chrissie.
Tom Cassidy: Where are we going?
Christine Watkins: Swimming

At a late night beach party on Amity Island in New England, Christine Watkins (Susan Backlinie) decides to go skinny dipping. She strips on the beach and dives into the water, where she is suddenly jerked around and then pulled under by an unseen force. The next morning, Amity's new police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) is notified that Christine is missing. Brody and his deputy Len Hendricks (Jeffrey Kramer) find her mutilated remains washed up on the shore. The medical examiner informs Brody that the victim's death was due to a shark attack. Brody heads out to close the beaches, but is intercepted and overruled by the town mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), who fears that reports of a shark attack will ruin the summer tourist season which is the town's major source of income. The medical examiner says he was wrong about a shark attack and tells Brody that it was a boating accident. Brody reluctantly goes along with this.

Mayor Vaughn: Fellows, let's be reasonable, huh? This is not the time or the place to perform some kind of a half-assed autopsy on a fish... And I'm not going to stand here and see that thing cut open and see that little Kintner boy spill out all over the dock. Martin, it's all psychological. You yell barracuda, everybody says, "Huh? What?" You yell shark, we've got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.

A short time later, a young boy named Alex Kintner (Jeffrey Voorhees) is attacked and killed by a shark while swimming off a crowded beach. Mrs. Kintner (Lee Fierro) places a $3,000 bounty on the animal, sparking an amateur shark hunting frenzy and attracting the attention of local professional shark hunter Quint (Robert Shaw). He interrupts a town meeting to offer his services, and his demand for $10,000 is taken "under advisement". Brought in by Brody, expert marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) conducts an autopsy on Chrissie's remains and concludes she was killed by a "rogue" Great White shark.

Mrs. Kintner: Chief Brody?
Brody: Yes? (Mrs. Kintner slaps Brody and sobs)
Mrs. Kintner: I just found out, that a girl got killed here last week, and you knew it! You knew there was a shark out there! You knew it was dangerous! But you let people go swimming anyway? You knew all those things! But still my boy is dead now. And there's nothing you can do about it. My boy is dead. I wanted you to know that. (she walks away)
Mayor Vaughn: I'm sorry, Martin. She's wrong.
Brody: No, she's not.

Mayor Vaughn: (to reporter) I'm pleased and happy to repeat the news that we have, in fact, caught and killed a large predator that supposedly injured some bathers. But, as you see, it's a beautiful day, the beaches are open and people are having a wonderful time. Amity, as you know, means "friendship".

Soon after a large tiger shark is caught by a group of novice fishermen, leading the town to believe the problem is solved, but an unconvinced Hooper asks to examine the contents of the shark's stomach. Because Vaughn refuses to make the "operation" public, Brody and Hooper return after dark and learn that the dead shark does not contain human remains, just fish, a car license plate, and garbage. Scouting aboard Hooper's state-of-the-art boat, they come across the half-sunken wreckage of local fisherman Ben Gardner's (Craig Kingsbury) boat. Hooper dons a wetsuit and discovers Gardner's severed head and a huge shark tooth. Mayor Vaughn still refuses to close the beach. On the Fourth of July the beaches are covered in tourists. While a prank triggers a false alarm and draws off the authorities' attention, the real shark enters an estuary, kills a man, and nearly takes the life of Brody's oldest son Michael (Chris Rebello). Brody forces a stunned Vaughn to hire Quint. Brody and Hooper join the hunter on his boat, the Orca, and the trio set out to kill the man-eater.

Hooper: Ah. Just like I thought... He came up with the Gulf Stream--from southern waters. (he pulls a Louisiana license plate from the shark. Brody examines it)
Brody: He didn't eat a car, did he?
Hooper: Naw, a tiger shark's like a garbage can, it'll eat anything. Someone probably threw that in a river.

At sea Brody is given the task of laying a chum line, while Quint uses a large fishing pole to try to snag the shark. The first results are inconclusive and Quint and Hooper grow increasingly agitated with one another. As Brody continues his task, the enormous shark suddenly looms up behind the boat. A horrified Brody announces its presence: "You're gonna need a bigger boat!" Quint and Hooper watch the great white shark circle the Orca and estimate that it weighs 3 tons and is 25 feet long. Quint harpoons the shark with a line attached to a flotation barrel, designed to prevent the shark from being able to submerge as well as to track it on the surface. But the shark pulls the barrel under and disappears.

Night falls without another sighting, so the men retire to the boat's cabin, where Quint and Hooper compare their various scars and Quint tells of his experience with sharks as a survivor of the World War II sinking of the USS Indianapolis. The shark reappears while the men sing, damages the boat's hull, and slips away before the men can harm it. In the morning, while the men repair the engine, the barrel suddenly reappears at the stern. Quint destroys the radio to prevent Brody from calling the Coast Guard for help. The shark attacks again, and after a long hard chase, Quint harpoons it to another barrel. The men tie the barrels to the stern, but the shark drags the boat backwards, forcing water onto the deck and into the engine, flooding it. Quint harpoons it again, attaching three barrels in all to the shark, while the animal continues to tow them. Quint is about to cut the ropes with his machete when the cleats are pulled off the stern. The shark continues to attack the boat and Quint heads towards shore with the shark in pursuit, hoping to draw the animal into shallow waters, where it will be beached and drowned. In his obsession to kill the shark, Quint overtaxes his damaged engine, causing it to seize.

Hooper: Boys, oh boys... I think he's come back for his noon feeding.

With the Orca immobilized, the trio try a desperate approach. Hooper dons his scuba gear and enters the ocean inside a shark proof cage, intending to stab the shark in the mouth with a hypodermic spear filled with strychnine nitrate. The shark instead destroys the cage, causing Hooper to lose the spear and flee to the seabed.

Quint: (seeing Hooper's equipment) What are you? Some kind of half-assed astronaut?
(examining the shark cage) Jesus H Christ, when I was a boy, every little squirt wanted to be a harpooner or a sword fisherman. What d'ya have there--a portable shower or a monkey cage?
Hooper: Anti-Shark cage.
Quint: Anti-shark cage. You go inside the cage? (Hooper nods) Cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark's in the water. Our shark. Hooper, what exactly can you do with these things of yours?
Hooper: Well, I think I can pump 20 cc's of strictnine nitrate into him, if I can get close enough.
Quint: Can you get this little needle through his skin?
Hooper: No, I can't do that. But if I can get him close enough to this cage, I think that I can get him in the mouth or the eye...
Brody: That shark will rip that cage to pieces!
Hooper: You got any better suggestions?

As Quint and Brody raise the remnants of the cage, the shark throws itself onto the boat, causing the boat to begin sinking. Quint slides down towards the shark, slashing at it in vain with his machete before being pulled under and devoured. Brody retreats to the boat's cabin, which is now partly submerged, and throws a pressurized air tank into the shark's mouth when it rams its way inside. Brody equips himself with an M1 Garand rifle and climbs the mast of the rapidly listing vessel. After temporarily driving the shark off with a harpoon, Brody begins shooting at the air tank still wedged in the shark's mouth. He finally scores a hit, exploding the tank and blasting the shark's head to pieces. As the shark's carcass drifts toward the seabed, Brody reunites with Hooper. They cobble together a raft out of debris from the Orca and paddle back to Amity Island.

Brody: Smile you son of a bitch. (he shoots at the air tank, Jaws blows up, and Brody laughs maniacally)

(last lines)
Brody: What day is this?
Hooper: It's Wednesday... eh, it's Tuesday, I think.
Brody: Think the tide's with us?
Hooper: Keep kicking.
Brody: I used to hate the water...
Hooper: I can't imagine why.

Steven Spielberg's breakout film JAWS is widely regarded as the film that began the "summer movie blockbuster era", and is one of the first "high concept" films. With horror, thrills, suspense, and special effects, it's basically a frightening bubblegum potboiler. Not excessively violent or gruesome like traditional horror films, JAWS nonetheless manages to create an icy frost in every viewer's veins. Based on the true story of a Great White shark which terrorized the shores of New Jersey in the summer of 1916, JAWS is an ingenious adaptation of Peter Benchley's 1974 best-selling novel inspired by the incident. With brilliant direction and state-of-the-art special effects, it's an edge-of-your-seat thriller filled with suspense. Sharp editing ensures that not a single scene is wasted, and each builds on that which came before. Overlapping dialogue is completely realistic, and it's a remarkable movie with a perfect pace that simply refuses to slacken.

If ever there was justification for being terrified of sticking a toe in the ocean, it's JAWS. Steven Spielberg's horror masterpiece--arguably the director's finest movie--set the benchmark for summertime blockbusters and few have been able to match its sheer ability to grip an audience. JAWS eventually grossed more than $470 million worldwide, $1.9 billion in 2008 dollars, and was the highest grossing box office film until STAR WARS (1977) debuted two years later. These two films mark the beginning of the new business model in American filmmaking.

The cast also includes: Lorraine Gary (Ellen Brody), Carl Gottlieb (Ben Meadows), Jonathan Filley (Tom Cassidy), Ted Grossman (Estuary Victim), Jay Mello (Sean Brody), Dr. Robert Nevin (Medical Examiner), Peter Benchley (TV Interviewer), Chris Anastasio, John Bahr, Allison Caine, Robert Carroll, Edward Chalmers Jr., Robert Chambers, Denise Cheshire, Fritzi Jane Courtney, Cyprian R. Dube, Paul Goulart, Mike Haydn, Duncan Inches, Belle McDonald, Donald Poole, Peggy Scott, Steven Spielberg, Alfred Wilde, and Dick Young. John Williams composed the original music. The screenplay was written by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb with some dialogue from Howard Sackler, John Milius, and Robert Shaw--based on Peter Benchley's novel. Steven Spielberg directed.

Three mechanical sharks were made for the production: a full model for underwater shots, one that turned from left to right, with the left side completely exposed to the internal machinery, and a similar right to left model, with the right side exposed. Location shooting occurred on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, chosen because the ocean had a sandy bottom which helped the mechanical sharks to operate smoothly and still provide a realistic location. The three mechanical sharks frequently malfunctioned, due to the hydraulic innards being corroded by salt water. They were collectively nicknamed "Bruce" by the production team after Spielberg's lawyer. Disgruntled crew members gave the film the nickname "Flaws".

The DVD looks great, and extras include a "making of" documentary, deleted scenes and outtakes, over 700 photos, a "Get Out of the Water" trivia game, screen savers, trailers, animated menus, and production notes. One of the deleted scenes hints at the romantic subplot that the final version of the film omitted, and one of them features a battle among humans on the water to get the shark and the reward money.

JAWS won Oscars for Film Editing, Music (Original Score) and Sound. John Williams's score was ranked at # 6 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years of Film Scores. The main "shark" theme is an eerie and haunting simple alternating pattern of two notes, E and F, a classic piece of suspense music synonymous with approaching danger. In 2001 the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The film was followed by three sequels, none with the participation of Steven Spielberg or Peter Benchley: JAWS 2 (1978), JAWS 3-D (1983) and JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987). A video game titled "Jaws Unleashed" was produced in 2006. All sequels failed to match the success of the original. In fact, their combined domestic grosses barely cover half of the original's.

JAWS 2 (1978) has a similar storyline. Four years have passed since the events of the first film. During a diving expedition to the wreckage of the Orca, a shark attacks the divers. Police Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) becomes convinced that another Great White is lurking in the waters around Amity when he discovers a camera from the doomed diving expedition, a beached whale, and the remains of a woman. He orders Deputy Jeff Hendricks (Jeffrey Kramer) to investigate and recover the underwater camera from the missing divers. Meanwhile, the shark attacks a water skier named Terri (Christine Freeman) and drags her into the water. Terri tries to pull herself up but fails and gets eaten. The driver of the speedboat defends herself by first throwing a gasoline tank at the shark and then igniting the fuel with a flare gun. The shark begins to burn, as does the inside of the boat and the driver. Then the fire ignites the actual gas tank and the speedboat explodes.

A woman who lives on the beach sees the explosion and reports it to the authorities. The shark manages to escape, but is severely scarred. Brody becomes suspicious after no remains of the water skier or the driver are found in the wreck. Meanwhile, Deputy Hendricks searches for the remains of the victims, accidentally hooking an underwater power line. In an attempt to get rid of what he thinks is the shark, he is fired from his job as police chief. His two sons sneak off with some friends to go sailing--unaware of the shark that is lurking in the water beneath them, just waiting to strike. The plot is similar to that of a slasher film, in which the main antagonist stalks and kills teenagers one by one. In the end the shark gets electrocuted and is killed. Brody paddles a raft over to the wreckage of a sailboat and helps Jackie Peters (Donna Wilkes) and Sean Brody (Marc Gilpin) get into the raft. He then paddles them back towards the others at Cable Junction to await rescue.

JAWS 2 became the highest-grossing sequel in history at the time of its release and remained in the all-time Top 25 for more than two decades. The film's tagline, "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...", became one of the most famous in movie history and has been parodied and homaged several times. Although there are two further films in the series, JAWS 2 is generally regarded as the best of the sequels. However, it is repetitive and unsatisfactory, just made to cash in on the success of JAWS.

The film was released on DVD in 2001. Many reviewers praised it for the quantity of special features, with DVD Authority asserting that it had "more than a lot of titles labeled as 'Special Edition' discs". It includes a 45 minute documentary produced by Laurent Bouzereau, who is responsible for many of the documentaries about Universal films. Actor Keith Gordon reminisces in a short feature, and Szwarc explains the phonetic problems with its French title, "Les Dents de la mer 2". The disc also contains a variety of deleted scenes. One such scene shows the selectmen voting to fire Brody. The Mayor (Murray Hamilton) is the only person to vote to save him. Also included is footage of the shark attacking the coast guard pilot underwater after his helicopter had capsized. The scene was cut because of the struggle with the ratings board to acquire a PG certificate. Although the audio was presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, a reviewer for Film Freak Central comments that "Williams' score often sounds deceptively stereophonic". The BBC, though, suggest that the mix "really demands the added bass that a 5.1 effort could have lent it".

JAWS 3-D (1983) (aka JAWS 3) is a horror–thriller film directed by Joe Alves and starring Dennis Quaid. It is the second sequel to Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic JAWS. At SeaWorld, a new water park with underwater tunnels and lagoons, a baby Great White shark infiltrates the barrier, attacking and killing water skiers and park employees. Once the baby shark is captured, it becomes apparent that it was the mother, a much larger shark, which was the real killer.

The oldest son from the first two Jaws films, Michael Brody (Dennis Quaid) now works as the chief engineer of SeaWorld in Florida. Michael lives with his girlfriend Katherine Morgan (Bess Armstrong), who is senior biologist at the park. Katherine and her assistants wonder why the dolphins are so afraid of leaving their pen. Shelby Overman (Harry Grant), one of the mechanics, dives into the water to repair the gates. He is attacked by a shark and killed, leaving only a severed arm. The baby Great White is captured and nursed to partial health and it is exhibited as the first Great White in captivity. However, it soon dies, and the film goes on and on. In the end Michael kills the villainous Great White shark with a grenade.

This film is notable for making use of 3-D film during the revived interest in the technology in the 1980s, among other horror films such as FRIDAY THE 13th Part III (1982) and AMITYVILLE 3-D (1983). Cinema audiences could wear disposable cardboard polarized glasses to create the illusion of a three dimensional film for some scences. Several shots and sequences were designed to utilise the effect, such as the shark's destruction. Since the 3-D is ineffective in home viewing, the alternative title JAWS III is used for television broadcasts and DVD releases. JAWS 3-D is unexciting, boring, noisy, and strangely unrelated to JAWS and JAWS 2. But the 3-D effects are excellent.

JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987) (aka JAWS 4) is a horror–thriller film directed by Joseph Sargent. It is the third and final sequel to Steven Spielberg's classic JAWS. This movie is a mediocre superfluous retread of the others. It proves that each sequel is progressively worse--and it is the worst! The film focuses on Ellen Brody's (Lorraine Gary) convictions that a shark is stalking her family, and the story returns to the Brody family in Amity Island. Martin Brody had died of a heart attack, although his widow, Ellen Brody claims that "it was the fear of the shark that killed him." She discusses with her youngest son Sean (Mitchell Anderson) and his fiance Tiffany (Mary Smith) arrangements for the Christmas season. Now working as a police deputy in Amity, Sean is dispatched to clear a log from a buoy. As he does so, he is attacked by a shark and his arm is torn off. When the shark comes again, he is killed as his screams are drowned out by the carol singers on the island.

Ellen is convinced that the shark had deliberately targeted Sean due to some evil curse, and visits her eldest son Michael (Lance Guest) in the Bahamas. Michael now works as a marine biologist. Fearing he will be attacked next by the shark, Ellen hopes to convince him to take up a new job on dry land. She meets Hoagie (Michael Caine), and they begin dating. Michael's wife Carla (Karen Young) is an artist and one day during her art exhibit, Ellen's granddaughter Thea (Judith Barsi) asks if she can go out on a banana boat with her friend Margaret and her mother (Diane Hetfield). The shark attacks the boat with Thea on it. The shark ends up devouring Margaret's mother in the process with blood flying everywhere, leaving Thea unharmed but in a state of shock. Ellen becomes convinced that the shark has tracked her family to the Bahamas. She takes a boat out to sea on her own, intent on confronting and killing the shark to break the curse, or sacrificing herself hoping the shark will leave her family alone.

Hoagie flies Michael and his friend Jake (Mario Van Peebles) out to sea so that they can find Ellen quickly. He lands the plane on the sea, but the shark sinks it. Looking out for the shark while using a device that emits electromagnetic impulses to drive the shark mad, Jake moves to the end of the prow. The shark unexpectedly leaps from the surface of the water to grab Jake, biting into him and dragging him beneath the surface in a gory fashion. The device causes the shark to repeatedly leap out of the water and Ellen steers the boat directly for the shark, impaling it on the broken bowsprit, which puts presure on the device and causes it to explode. After killing the shark, they find Jake mauled but alive. Near the end of the film, Ellen is relieved that the curse of the shark is no longer on her family. The film ends too abruptly as Hoagie flies Ellen back to Amity Island.

No reference is made to the character development or events depicted in JAWS 3-D. In its predecessor, Michael is an engineer for SeaWorld, whereas here he is a marine research scientist. Sean is not associated with the police force in JAWS 3-D, and there is no mention of their partners. Even one of the Universal Studios press releases for JAWS: THE REVENGE omits JAWS 3-D by referring to JAWS: THE REVENGE as the "third film of the remarkable Jaws trilogy."

JAWS: THE REVENGE was filmed on location in New England and in the Caribbean, and completed on the Universal lot. Like the first two films of the series, Martha's Vineyard was the location of the fictional Amity Island for the opening scenes of the film. Although financially successful, the film received a poor critical reception, and earned the lowest amount of money from the franchise. It is considered by film critics to be one of the worst movies ever made.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunset Boulevard (1950) * * *

(first lines)
Joe Gillis: Yes, this is Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California. It's about 5 0'clock in the morning. That's the homicide squad, complete with detectives and newspaper men.

SUNSET BOULEVARD starts with its end, as we see a murdered corpse floating face down in a swimming pool at a Hollywood mansion. A narrator explains that the dead man was an unsuccessful screenwriter. The film fades into a flashback as the narrator takes us back to the beginning to find out what happened. We meet struggling hack screenwriter Joseph C. "Joe" Gillis (William Holden), who needs $300 to keep his car, so he hits his contacts to scrape up some work. He heads to Paramount to meet a producer named Sheldrake (Fred Clarke) where he pitches a baseball script he has written, "Bases Loaded". That fails because story consultant Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson) dislikes his plot, dismissing it as mediocre work. Rejected, Gillis leaves and then manages to locate his agent, who's playing golf in Bel-Air and will not help Gillis with a personal loan. That and other attempts also flop, so Joe is just about ready to head back to Ohio and his old newspaper job.

Returning to Hollywood along Sunset Boulevard, Gillis is spotted by two auto repossession men and a chase ensues. Earlier, he had claimed the car was on loan to a friend. When a tire blows on Gillis' car during the pursuit, he swerves into a driveway of an old mansion in order to escape the repo men and discovers that he has entered the grounds of what he assumes is a deserted building. Hiding his car in the dilapidated garage, he is startled when a woman's voice from an upstairs veranda of the mansion summons him to come into the house. He meets faded silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and her butler Max Von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim). They live in this lavish abode and plan to bury a former resident, a chimp. Norma thinks Joe is there as the monkey's undertaker.

Norma Desmond: I'd like the coffin to be white, and I want it specially lined with satin. White... or pink. Maybe red! Bright flaming red! Let's make it gay!
Joe Gillis: I'm not an executive, just a writer.
Norma Desmond: You are... writing words, words, more words! Well, you'll make a rope of words and strangle this business! But there'll be a microphone there to catch the last gurgles, and Technicolor to photograph the red, swollen tongues!

When she learns he is a screenwriter, the pair chat, and we find that Norma wrote a screenplay based on the Salome story intended for her "return". Norma hates the term “comeback”. Joe reads the terrible text and pretends interest in it to gain a job as its editor. Eventually, this leads him to move in, and he quickly turns into Norma’s boy toy. The demented old movie queen lives in the past and Joe becomes her literary and romantic gigolo.

Joe Gillis: You're Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.
Norma Desmond: I am big. It's the pictures that got small. They took the idols and smashed them, the Fairbankses, the Gilberts, the Valentinos! And who've we got now? Some nobodies!
Joe Gillis: I didn't know you were planning a comeback.
Norma Desmond: I hate that word. It's a return, a return to the millions of people who have never forgiven me for deserting the screen.
Max Von Mayerling: She was the greatest of them all. You wouldn't know, you're too young. In one week she received 17,000 fan letters. Men bribed her hairdresser to get a lock of her hair. There was a maharajah who came all the way from India to beg one of her silk stockings. Later he strangled himself with it!
Norma Desmond: We didn't need dialogue. We had faces! You're a writer, you said.
Joe Gillis: Why?
Norma Desmond: Are you or aren't you?
Joe Gillis: That's what it says on my Guild card.
Norma Desmond: And you have written pictures, haven't you?
Joe Gillis: I sure have. Want a list of my credits?
Norma Desmond: I want to ask you something. Come in here.
Joe Gillis: Last one I wrote was about Okies in the Dust Bowl. You'd never know because when it reached the screen, the whole thing played on a torpedo boat.

Working out of Desmond's house, Gillis is soon financially dependent on Norma, who lavishes attention on him and buys him expensive clothing. While he occasionally shows discomfort, he makes no effort to change his situation. When he questions Max about why there are no locks in the house, he is told Norma suffers from occasional "melancholy" and has taken attempts on her life before, so he has taken precautions to ensure her safety. Gillis is then prepared for a New Year's Eve party at the house. He soon realizes that no other guests will be attending, and is horrified when Norma reveals that she is in love with him.

Rejecting her attempt at seduction, he hitches a ride to his friend Artie Green (Jack Webb), where he again meets Betty Schaefer. Although she’s dating Artie, some romantic sparks fly between Betty and Joe. A party is underway, and Betty tells him that despite the rejection in Sheldrake's office regarding "Bases Loaded", she has read some of Gillis' other submissions and one in particular shows promise. Inspired to continue his writing, Gillis phones the Desmond house to say he will be moving out, but Max tells him Norma has attempted suicide. He rushes back to the mansion, where he comforts her and stays. This puts him back into his old submissive position. Betty tries to get in touch with him to work on one of his story ideas, but he remains isolated in the mansion with Norma. Eventually, Joe does connect with Betty again, which complicates matters even more.

Joe Gillis: Audiences don't know somebody sits down and writes a picture. They think the actors make it up as they go along.
Norma Desmond: Don't be silly. (she hands Joe a present) Here, I was going to give it to you at midnight.
Joe Gillis: Norma, I can't take it, you've bought me enough.
Norma Desmond: Shut up, I'm rich! I'm richer than all this new Hollywood trash! I've got a million dollars.
Joe Gillis: Keep it.
Norma Desmond: Own three blocks downtown, I've got oil in Bakersfield, pumping, pumping, pumping! What's it for but to buy us anything we want!
Joe Gillis: Cut out that "us" business!
Norma Desmond: What's the matter with you?
Joe Gillis: What right do you have to take me for granted?
Norma Desmond: What right? Do you want me to tell you?
Joe Gillis: Has it ever occurred to you that I may have a life of my own? That there may be some girl I'm crazy about?
Norma Desmond: Who? Some car hop, or dress extra?
Joe Gillis: What I'm trying to say is that I'm all wrong for you. You want a Valentino, somebody with polo ponies, a big shot!
Norma Desmond: What you're trying to say is that you don't want me to love you. Say it. Say it! (slaps his face and threatens suicide again)
Joe Gillis: Oh, wake up, Norma, you'd be killing yourself to an empty house. The audience left twenty years ago.

Norma continues preparing for her movie "return". When she considers her "Salome" screenplay to be complete, the plot thickens when Max delivers the script to Paramount, and they need to deal with its reception. She receives telephone calls from Cecil B. DeMille's office at the studio and assumes he is interested in filming the project. Norma travels to the studio and meets with him. Gillis and the butler learn the studio only wants to hire her vintage Isotta-Fraschini car for use in a film and has no interest in her script. The two of them keep this from her. By now, Max has revealed he was the first of her three husbands, and is a former film director who had discovered her.

(Norma Desmond has come to see Cecil B. DeMille)
First assistant director: I can tell her you're all tied up in the projection room. I can give her the brush.
Cecil B. DeMille: Thirty million fans have given her the brush. Isn't that enough?
First assistant director: She must be a million years old.
Cecil B. DeMille: I hate to think where that puts me. I could be her father.
First assistant director: I understand she was a terror to work with.
Cecil B. DeMille: Only toward the end. You know, a dozen press agents working overtime can do terrible things to the human spirit.

Meanwhile, Joe has secretly begun meeting with Betty to work on a screenplay together, and they fall in love. When Norma discovers this, she phones Betty and insinuates what sort of man Joe really is. Joe returns to the house in time to hear what Norma has said and takes the phone from her. He tells Betty to come to the house, where he explains his side of the situation before turning Betty away. Misunderstanding his actions, Norma is grateful to Joe, but he brushes her aside and begins packing to leave. Norma threatens to shoot herself but he does not take her seriously. As he walks away, she follows and shoots him three times before he falls into the pool and dies.

Joe Gillis: (narrating) Well, this is where you came in, back at that pool again, the one I always wanted. It's dawn now and they must have photographed me a thousand times. Then they got a couple of pruning hooks from the garden and fished me out... ever so gently. Funny, how gentle people get with you once you're dead.

Having explained the corpse in the pool, the film returns to the present, where Norma, seated before a mirror in her bedroom, appears to be lost in a fantasy. The house has been flooded with reporters and curious passersby. News cameras arrive to film her and she thinks she is on the set of her new film. Norma slowly descends her grand staircase and makes a speech declaring her happiness at making a new film. It culminates in the film's most famous line: "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." She reaches for the camera, the screen fades to white and the narrator concludes that Norma's dream of performing for the cameras has in an unexpected way come true for her.

(last lines: to newsreel camera)
Norma Desmond: And I promise you I'll never desert you again because after "Salome" we'll make another picture and another picture. You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!... All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up.

Director Billy Wilder's noir-comic classic about death and decay in Hollywood remains as powerful as ever in its ability to provoke shock, laughter, and astonishment. This lively, creepy, and cynically compelling film is one of those great movies that has become a part of popular culture. It may not be as obsessed with the topic as THE BIG PICTURE (1989), but it delves into that subject in a vicious way. It doesn't treat Hollywood with kid gloves. Instead, it launches into a bitterly comedic exposé, and it doesn’t succeed just because it bites the hand that feeds it. From it's bold introduction to its unforgettable ending, SUNSET BOULEVARD is a well-crafted masterpiece. The structure is classic and the execution is flawless.

The movie features a confrontation between styles. Holden’s naturalistic approach is butted up against Swanson’s lavishly theatrical tendencies, and the results are surprisingly well integrated. Dialogue alternates between hard-hitting and florid. Most of it doesn't seem like speech you’d hear in real life. Swanson made Norma a force of nature. If nothing else, she offered some of the most fascinating line deliveries in history, with pronunciations like “sit dowwwwnnn” and “gay-rage”. Swanson has always come across as an unappealing pretentious snob in real life and in her movies, so she is perfect for the role of Norma Desmond.

Surprisingly cynical and blunt given its era, the movie shredded the movie industry and also offered a deep and vigorous character drama. The best work created by a legendary director, SUNSET BOULEVARD deserves its status as a classic. William Holden's dead-pan narration as a hack screenwriter of B-movies is as sad and funny as it ever was. This scathing portrait of Hollywood shows how it discards people when they are no longer useful. The casting of the film is inspired, as if the parts were written specifically for them. However, SUNSET BOULEVARD was actually written for Mae West, who rejected the role of Norma Desmond because her art requires her to play a beautiful young woman in her 20's. At age 83 she played a woman in her 20's in SEXTETTE (1978). Mary Pickford also rejected the role because she was afraid it would destroy her wholesome image. The street after which the film is named has been associated with Hollywood film production since 1911 when the town's first film studio opened on Sunset Boulevard. And this movie features an impressive parade of movie star cameos that creates a realistic Hollywood setting.

The cast also includes: Lloyd Gough (Morino), Franklyn Farnum (animal undertaker), Larry J. Blake (First Finance Man), Charles Dayton (Second Finance Man), Cecil B. DeMille (Himself), Hedda Hopper (Herself), Buster Keaton (Himself), Anna Q. Nilsson (Herself), H.B. Warner (Himself), Ray Evans (Himself), Jay Livingston (Himself), Fred Aldrich, Joel Allen, Gertrude Astor, Ken Christy, Ruth Clifford, John Cortay, Archie R. Dalzell, Eddie Dew, Peter Drynan, Julia Faye, Al Ferguson, Gerry Ganzer, Kenneth Gibson, Joe Gray , Sanford E. Greenwald, Creighton Hale, Chuck Hamilton, James Hawley, Len Hendry, E. Mason Hopper, Stan Johnson, Tiny Jones, Howard Joslin, Arthur Lane, Perc Launders, Gertrude Messinger, Harold Miller, John "Skins" Miller, Ralph Montgomery, Bert Moorhouse, Jay Morley, Bernice Mosk, Howard Negley, Ottola Nesmith, Eva Novak, Frank O'Connor, Robert Emmett O'Connor, Jack Perrin, Virginia L. Randolph, Bill Sheehan, Sidney Skolsky , Emmett Smith, Roy Thompson, Archie Twitchell, Yvette Vickers, Edward Wahrman, and Henry Wilcoxon. Franz Waxman composed the original music score. Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, and D.M. Marshman Jr. wrote the screenplay. Billy Wilder directed.

The DVD offers good picture quality with decent audio and a fairly positive roster of supplements. It's case indicates that the film is presented in "full screen" format, which is somewhat misleading. It gives the false impression that the film has been "formatted" to fit a standard television. While the image does fit the screen without black bars on the top and bottom, the original aspect ratio of the film has been preserved. That is because it is not a widescreen film. SUNSET BOULEVARD was not shot in widescreen, but in the only format used for studio pictures before the end of 1953--now known as the "Academy" or "Standard" aspect ratio. It was designed to be shown in 1.37:1, which is just about the ratio of most TV screens. The movie looks gorgeous. The black and white picture is rich and crisp, the sound is re-mastered and the story is as compelling as ever.

On this single-sided, double-layered DVD, several extras are included. Some are standard like the inclusion of the film's theatrical trailer, English subtitles and a French language track. Another is a map of actual locations used in the film. For example, the exterior of Norma Desmond's home was not located on the 10000 block of Sunset Boulevard as depicted in the film, it was located on Wilshire Boulevard near the corner of Irving Blvd. Ed Sikov's scene-by-scene commentary on the film is very good. He provides many insights into the making of the film and the presentation is generally well-organized and carefully thought out, but a bit dry.

The documentary on the disc does a good job of demonstrating just how unique the tone of this story is, how it perfectly navigates between funny and sad. Not everyone in Hollywood saw the funny side when it was released, and it lost to ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) at that year's Oscars. Besides the documentary, you can read two screenplay drafts of an excised opening sequence, explore 1950's Hollywood with an interactive map and watch the film with audio commentary by a critic and historian. The special features add to the richness of the film. You may already know that Eric von Stroheim directed Gloria Swanson in silent films. But did you know that the drugstore where all the screenwriters hang out in the movie is the drug store where F. Scott Fitzgerald had a heart attack in 1940? This extra is rich with Hollywood history.

Though not immaculate, the movie has relatively few source flaws. There is some light grain on occasion, a few print defects, a smattering of specks, hairs and marks as well as sporadic blotchiness. Overall it's a fine transfer. The monaural soundtrack of Sunset Boulevard also is acceptable. Speech is reasonably accurate and distinct, although lines sound a little flat at times. Music comes across as fairly bright and lively, but with a limited dynamic range. Effects also display generally accurate tones but lack very clear highs or tight lows. Some bass response sounds a bit boomy and heavy. There is some light background hum and a little noise, but the audio is decent although not spectacular. The synopsis on the back of the DVD reveals some important "spoiler" information that doesn’t come out until the third act.

Praised by many critics when first released, SUNSET BOULEVARD was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won three. It is widely accepted as a classic, often cited as one of the most noteworthy films of American cinema. In 1998 it was ranked # 12 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 best American films of the 20th century, however dropping to # 16 on the 10th Anniversary edition published in 2007. The movie's line "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." was voted as the # 6 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007. Deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the U.S. Library of Congress in 1989, SUNSET BOULEVARD was included in the first group of films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mogambo (1953) * * *

MOGAMBO is set in Africa and focuses on the safari and animal export business of Victor Marswell (Clark Gable). The hardworking big game hunter has never married and runs a business in Kenya procuring wild animals for zoos and circuses with two white employees and a large group of Africans. His employees, who both play important roles in the film, are the cultured John Brown-Pryce (Philip Stainton) known as "Brownie" and Leon Bolchak (Eric Pohlmann).

Eloise Y. "Honey Bear" Kelly (Ava Gardner) arrives at a remote African outpost looking for a rich maharajah acquaintance, who unfortunately had left a week before she arrived. She is a jet setting woman of the world, independent and feisty. While waiting for the next river boat out, she toys with Marswell, who initially has no respect for her. There is an immediate attraction between her and Marswell despite their verbal sparring. When the river boat returns it brings with it Linda Nordley (Grace Kelly) and her husband Donald Nordley (Donald Sinden), an anthropologist who has paid Marswell to take them on safari. They wish to see the mountain gorillas, but as this involves a long and arduous journey through tsetse fly country, Marswell is not keen. He changes his mind after finding himself attracted to the prim, proper but very attractive Mrs. Nordley, basically a blonde twit. He decides to take them on safari in order to continue his relationship with Mrs. Nordley, who seems to return his affections.

Honey Bear Kelly: Look, Buster, don't you get overstimulated with me!

Kelly departs on a river steamer. Later that day Mr. Nordley is taken ill with a reaction to his Tse tse fly inoculations. Later that night Kelly returns in a row boat after the river steamer has run aground farther down river. There is some friction between Kelly and Mrs. Nordley while her husband recovers after Kelly witnesses Mrs. Nordley and Marswell together. Soon we are in the middle of a love quadrangle.

After Donald Nordley has recovered, Marswell agrees to go up into the gorilla country, taking Kelly halfway to join the District Commissioner and travel back by that route. However, when they get there, they find the commissioner badly wounded by natives who have recently become belligerent. With armed reinforcements days away, the small party is barely able to escape, taking the mortally wounded commissioner with them. Honey Bear Kelly is forced to continue with the Nordleys and Marswell.

A serious romance is developing between Marswell and Mrs. Nordley, and everyone in the party is aware except Mr. Nordley. The situation is so bad that it is leading to clashes between Mr. Nordley and other members of the group. Kelly tries to warn Mrs. Nordley of Marswell's character but is rebuffed. Marswell sets up to photograph and capture gorillas with Nordley, and tries to tell Nordley about the affair with his wife, but a charging bull gorilla cuts him off and he has to shoot the beast.

Having killed the leader of the gorillas, Marswell is depressed and that night in camp begins a drinking bout in his tent. Then Honey Bear Kelly shows up and throws herself across his lap and asks for a drink too. She and Marswell are drowning their sorrows as friends, and their drinking leads to some light-hearted kissing and caressing, at which point Mrs. Nordley appears. Marswell's dismissive remarks on her infatuation with him as "the White Hunter" enrages her, and she takes Marswell's pistol and shoots him as he tries to flee the tent, wounding him in the right arm. When the rest of the camp shows up, Kelly explains that Marswell has been making advances at Mrs. Nordley for some time, and now having done so in a drunken state, has forced her to shoot him as a last resort. Everyone laughs and goes off, with Mr. Nordley saying that Marswell is lucky his wife did the shooting, since he would have done the deed himself more effectively. This episode resolves the tension between Kelly and Mrs. Nordley, ends the relationship between Mrs. Nordley and Marswell, and finally ends the estrangement of Mrs. Nordley from her husband. Also, this dramatic scene clears the air without ever allowing the cuckolded husband, Donald Nordley, to know what was really going on.

Honey Bear Kelly: Let me jump to my own conclusions.
Victor Marswell: I make my contribution to this mixed-up community they call the world.
Honey Bear Kelly: This is no Sir Galahad who loves from afar. This is a two-legged boa constrictor. The only lions I ever want to see again are the two in front of the public library.
Victor Marswell: Sometimes it (alcohol) gets you nasty enough to get a nasty job done.
Honey Bear Kelly: You and nobody else is gonna wring me out and hang me up to dry again.
Linda Nordley: Doesn't a woman's reputation count for anything here?
Victor Marswell: Only if I'm pesonally interested.

The next day, the party decamps, leaving Marswell behind to try to capture some young gorillas to pay for the safari. Marswell is able to bring himself to make a proposal of marriage to Kelly but she now rebuffs him. As the canoes are pulling away down the river, she watches him stand on the bank and she jumps in the river and part swims and part wades back to him. The two embrace and the movie ends.

MOGAMBO is a remake of the 1932 classic RED DUST, based on Wilson Collison's 1928 Broadway play "Red Dust". The "devilishly handsome" Clark Gable reprises his role of a rubber plantation owner, this time playing a big game hunter. He is Dennis Carson in RED DUST but named Victor Marswell in the remake. Gable was in his early 50s but still looks svelte and youthful, and his performance is amazing. Playing the same character 20 years later, he uses his maturity and experience to flesh out the role to a greater extent than before. In RED DUST Gable is great, but in MOGAMBO he is positively magnificent. Some think Gable was too old for this movie, but that doesn't take into account the durable movie-star appeal of the "King of Hollywood". He certainly looks every inch the Hemingwayesque hunter, and it's easy to imagine Gardner and Kelly attracted to him. In fact, he and Grace Kelly had an offscreen affair during shooting. It's a thought provoking movie about sophisticated people and mature love.

It was filmed on location in Okalataka, French Congo; Mount Kenya, Thika, Kenya, where you can see Mt. Longonot, Lake Naivasha both in the Kenyan Rift Valley and Fourteen Falls near Thika as backdrops; Kagera River, Tanganyika; Isoila, Uganda; and at the MGM British Studios, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England, UK. The film offers some of the best wildlife shots taken of the African continent at the time. However, there were never Gorillas in Kenya so the locations are an odd mix from a naturalist perspective. Mogambo translates as "passion" in Swahili.

The movie is very enjoyable with a good screenplay that has lots of great one liners and verbal barbs between all three of the leads. But action sequences have not aged well with the gorillas obviously being nowhere near the cast. Light levels and plants are completely different between the shots of the gorillas and the shots of the actors, who are supposedly scared of them. The only thing that appears in the same frame as one of the actors is a dead gorilla. Frankly, it looks like they brought in Ed Wood to edit the mismatched gorilla scenes, but some of the other animals such as the big cats do appear to be in the same place at the same time.

As expected, Clark Gable plays the macho romantic lead in this film. There are two female leads in the film, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly, both vying for Gable's attention. They were both nominated for Academy awards for their performances and Grace Kelly won the supporting actress Golden Globe. The music is all performed by local native tribes, except for Gardner accompanied by a player piano singing "Comin Thro the Rye", and the film records a traditional Africa that has long since passed. For these sequences alone the film is worth watching. The interplay among the main characters as well as the supporting cast is very amusing. Settings and cinematography are first rate. The satisfying conclusion ties up the plot into a neat little package, but you don't see the ending coming until the last minute.

An interesting anecdote about the on location shooting of the film concerns Frank Sinatra's enormous endowment, one of the biggest in Hollywood. Ava Gardner's third and last marriage (1951-1957) was to the famous singer and actor. While filming in Africa for MOGAMBO, a group of natives showed Ava Gardner their impressive endowments. Ava kept commenting, "Nope...not as big as Frank's."

The cast also includes Laurence Naismith (skipper), Denis O'Dea (Father Josef), and Asa Etula (young native girl). John Lee Mahin wrote the screenplay from Wilson Collison's stage play. John Ford directed.

On DVD the video quality is surprisingly good for a film of this age. It is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio non-16x9 enhanced which is probably the original aspect ratio, or it may have been the academy ratio of 1.37:1. The picture is reasonably clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. As is normal with films of this vintage, close-ups of the leads are quite soft. There is grain noticeable throughout. It is mostly light, but gets heavier in some scenes, especially where foreground characters are superimposed on location backgrounds, which happens quite often. The color is excellent throughout with some minor color bleeding from candles and the like. There are significant film artefacts present during this movie, mostly small black specks and lines. Generally they are not too bad, but are more noticeable in some scenes. A complete restoration is needed. There are subtitles available in 7 languages, plus English and Italian for the hearing impaired. The English ones are clear, easy to read and close to the spoken word. The layer change occurs at 73:17 minutes and includes an obvious pause.

RED DUST (1932) is an American romantic drama film scripted by Donald Ogden Stewart and directed by Victor Fleming, the second of six movies Clark Gable and Jean Harlow made together. One of the film's slogans proclaimed: "He treated her rough--and she loved it!" It was produced during the Pre-Code era of Hollywood.

Conditions are spartan on sweaty roughneck Dennis "Denny" Carson's (Clark Gable) Indochina rubber plantation during a dusty dry monsoon. The latest boat upriver brings Carson an unwelcome guest: Vantine (Jean Harlow), an earthy, sexy, wise-cracking, platinum blonde prostitute fleeing from Indo-Chinese police in Saigon. Stranded on the plantation of unshaven Carson after her steamship breaks down, she says, "Don't mind me, boys. I'm just restless...Guess I'm not used to sleeping nights anyway." Carson must let her stay until the next boat arrives, and he is initially uninterested but soon succumbs to Vantine's charms. In many scenes, there is tremendous sexual chemistry between them: when they get to know each other, while discussing each other's cheese preferences, and when he impulsively pulls her into his lap and tells her, "You talk too much but you're a cute little trick at that. Why haven't you been around before?"

She attempts to seduce him, asking: "Denny, have you got a headache?...Would you like me to rub your forehead?...Well, could I get you a drink of something, uh?" Rejected by him, she replies, "Well, let's forget about the drink. I'll just rub your forehead with sandpaper." The most memorable scene is her infamous naked rain barrel bath scene, while Carson stands by and watches her, ignoring her wishes. Vantine says, "Gee, can't a girl take a bath in privacy?" and orders, "Hey, Denny, scrub my back."

Then Gary Willis (Gene Raymond), ill with malaria, and his stunning wife Barbara "Babs" Willis (Mary Astor) show up. Near the beginning of the film, Carson watches Babs undress into her nightgown through a bedroom window. He ends up talking to her and says, "My room is that front one off the porch if you should want me during the night." Sexual rivalry emerges in a love triangle when Carson falls in love with the refined, well-bred Babs. He kisses her for the first time after rescuing her in his arms from a rain-drenching storm. The scene is set up in a way that it appears very adulterous to the viewer. At the conclusion of the film, after Babs shoots Carson in a jilted rage, Vantine performs a surgical operation on him to clean up his bullet wound. While recuperating and bed-ridden from the gunshot wound, Vantine sits by Carson on his bed, reading from a newspaper with exaggerated baby talk about a rabbit that goes hippity-hop, hippity-hop--as he's "hippity-hoppity-ing" his hand up her leg by making little walking motions with his fingers up her thigh as he moves his hand up her leg. While reading, she asks herself a sexually-disguised question, "A chipmunk and a rabbit. Hey, I wonder how this comes out?"

The entire film was shot on an MGM sound stage, a fabricated Indochinese landscape complete with working river. Live moths were released before every take, and the indoor rain storms created a rather foul smelling jungle. The hot lights vaporized the water creating waves of steam on clothes and skin, and the prop man had to heat water in a teakettle to pour on the actors before each take.

RED DUST is a hot-blooded example of a lot of things that would soon be banned from the movies until the 1960s. Jean Harlow is a slut, Mary Astor an adultress, and Clark Gable is a two-timing cad. No one suffers for the sins of the flesh, and nothing happens that is the least bit subtle or ambiguous. You are invited to create your own carnal images with each suggestive fade-out. Harlow's Vantine is either a good girl with a streak of badness or a bad girl with a streak of goodness. Either way, her unique vulgarity, humor and slovenliness create the rarest of Hollywood goddesses, the beautiful clown.

This movie violated the Motion Picture Production Code in many different ways. Various parts of the film consist of adulterous acts and clips that suggest sex and seduction. One of the major parts of the plot involves Carson trying to seduce the already married Barbara Willis. Before there was a movie ratings system, there was the Production Code. Censorship had existed in one form or another since cinema's beginnings. But after the financial double-whammy of the "talkies" and the Great Depression, Hollywood excitedly turned to tried and true formulas: blood and guts and sex. As Thomas Doherty wrote in "Pre-Code Hollywood": "They look like Hollywood cinema, but the moral terrain is so off-kilter they seem imported from a parallel universe." These films, made between 1930-34, in image and language, implicitly and explicitly, point to the road not taken. Prior to 1934, there was lots of racy sex, and crime did pay. Thanks to the Legion of Decency, after 1934 there was Shirley Temple.

The Motion Picture Production Code was written in 1930 by an industry watchdog group. For a variety of reasons it was not enforced until the Legion of Decency applied pressure in 1934, threatening government interference unless the movies were "cleaned up". Just a few of the Code principles that RED DUST violated: No plot should present sin or evil alluringly. The triangle, that is the love of a 3rd party for one already married, needs careful handling, if marriage, the sanctity of the home and sex morality are not to be imperiled. Adultery is not a fit subject for comedy, and should not be made to appear either delightful or daring. Seduction, when essential to the plot, must not be more than suggested. Scenes of passion and lustful and prolonged kissing should not be presented in such as way as to arouse or excite the passions of the ordinary spectator. Exposure of the body for the sake of exposure and scenes of undressing are to be avoided, and so on.

During the filming, Jean Harlow's husband, MGM executive Paul Bern, either committed suicide, or was murdered by his common law wife, who committed suicide shortly afterwards. He left a famous note which read in part, "last night was only a comedy..." (regarding their attempt at sex with a dildo because of his small endowment). The studio was called before the police, and evidence was removed and replaced. Protecting a valuable star property was vital and scandals, even murders, had been covered up in Hollywood before. In fact, Clark Gable killed a pedestrian with his car while drunk, but got away with it. Harlow was never under suspicion. Shortly after Bern's funeral she went back to work, and RED DUST became one of 1932s biggest moneymakers. Audiences may have come to search her face for traces of tragedy, but the picture was too good to be only a source of morbid curiosity. For the first time, a star survived a scandal.

In 2006, RED DUST was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) * * *

(first title card)
Title Card: It is the stated position of the U.S. Air Force that their safeguards would prevent the occurrence of such events as are depicted in this film. Furthermore, it should be noted that none of the characters portrayed in this film are meant to represent any real persons living or dead.

(first lines)
Narrator: For more than a year, ominous rumors had been privately circulating among high-level Western leaders that the Soviet Union had been at work on what was darkly hinted to be the ultimate weapon: a doomsday device. Intelligence sources traced the site of the top secret Russian project to the perpetually fog-shrouded wasteland below the Arctic peaks of the Zhokhov Islands. What they were building or why it should be located in such a remote and desolate place no one could say.

Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) is a mentally unstable commander of a United States Air Force base who plans to attack the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons, hoping to thwart a Communist conspiracy to "sap and impurify" the "precious bodily fluids" of the American people with fluoridated water. This theory came to him during sexual intercourse, and he believes it to be the cause of his post-coital fatigue.

Ripper: Mandrake, do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk... ice cream. Ice cream, Mandrake, children's ice cream.
Mandrake: Lord, Jack.
Ripper: You know when fluoridation first began?
Mandrake: I... no, no. I don't, Jack.
Ripper: Nineteen hundred and forty-six. Nineteen forty-six, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works.
Mandrake: Uh, Jack, Jack, listen, tell me, tell me, Jack. When did you first... become... well, develop this theory?
Ripper: Well, I, uh... I... I... first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love.
Mandrake: Hmm.
Ripper: Yes, a uh, a profound sense of fatigue... a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I... I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence.
Mandrake: Hmm.
Ripper: I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women uh... women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I, uh... I do not avoid women, Mandrake.
Mandrake: No.
Ripper: But I... I do deny them my essence.

Ripper orders the nuclear armed B-52s of the 843rd Bomb Wing past their failsafe points--where they normally wait for possible orders to proceed--and into Soviet airspace. He also tells the personnel of Burpelson Air Force Base that the US and the USSR have entered into a "shooting war". Although a nuclear attack should require Presidential authority to be initiated, Ripper uses "Plan R", an emergency war plan enabling a senior officer to launch a retaliation strike against the Soviets if everyone in the normal chain of command, including the President, has been killed during a sneak attack. According to the movie's plot, Plan R was intended to discourage the Soviets from launching a decapitation strike against the President in Washington to disrupt U.S. command and control and stop an American nuclear counterattack.

Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers), an RAF exchange officer serving as General Ripper's executive officer, realizes that there has been no attack on the U.S. when he turns on a radio and hears pop music instead of Civil Defense alerts. When Mandrake reveals this to Ripper, and Ripper refuses to recall the wing, Mandrake announces that he will issue the recall on his own authority, but Ripper refuses to disclose the three-letter code necessary for recalling the bombers and locks the two of them in his office.

Ripper: The base is being put on Condition Red. I want this flashed to all sections immediately.
Mandrake: Condition Red, sir, yes, jolly good idea. That keeps the men on their toes.
Ripper: Group Captain, I'm afraid this is not an exercise.
Mandrake: Not an exercise, sir?
Ripper: I shouldn't tell you this, Mandrake, but you're a good officer and you've a right to know. It looks like we're in a shooting war.
Mandrake: Oh, hell. Are the Russians involved, sir?
Ripper: Mandrake, have you ever seen a Commie drink a glass of water?
Mandrake: Well, no, I can't say I have. Do I look all rancid and clotted? You look at me, Jack. Eh? Look, eh? And I drink a lot of water, you know. I'm what you might call a water man, Jack--that's what I am. And I can swear to you, my boy, swear to you, that there's nothing wrong with my bodily fluids. Not a thing, Jackie. If you don't put that gun away and stop this stupid nonsense, the court of Enquiry on this'll give you such a pranging, you'll be lucky if you end up wearing the uniform of a bloody toilet attendant.

In the War Room at The Pentagon, Air Force General "Buck" Turgidson (George C. Scott) briefs President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers). Turgidson tries to convince Muffley to take advantage of the situation to eliminate the Soviets as a threat by launching a full-scale attack. Turgidson believes that the United States is in a superior strategic position, and a first strike against the Soviet Union would destroy 90% of their missiles before they could retaliate, resulting in a victory for the U.S. with "acceptable" American casualties of "no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops... depending on the breaks". President Muffley instead invites Soviet Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky (Peter Bull) to the War Room, contacts Soviet Premier Dmitri Kissoff on the hotline, and insists on giving the Soviets all the information necessary to shoot down the American planes before they can carry out their strikes.

President Muffley: But this is absolute madness, Ambassador! Why should you build such a thing?
Ambassador de Sadesky: There were those of us who fought against it, but in the end we could not keep up with the expense involved in the arms race, the space race, and the peace race. At the same time our people grumbled for more nylons and washing machines. Our doomsday scheme cost us just a small fraction of what we had been spending on defense in a single year. The deciding factor was when we learned that your country was working along similar lines, and we were afraid of a doomsday gap.
President Muffley: This is preposterous. I've never approved of anything like that.
Ambassador de Sadesky: Our source was the New York Times.

Over the phone, a drunken Premier Kissoff reveals to the Soviet Ambassador that their country has installed an active Doomsday device which will automatically destroy all life on Earth if a nuclear attack ever hits the Soviet Union. The Doomsday Device is operated by a network of computers and has been conceived as the ultimate deterrent: as a safeguard, it cannot be deactivated, or it will set itself off, because its hardware and programs have been configured in such a way that an attempt at its deactivation would be recognized as sabotage. This weapon is described as based on "cobalt-thorium-G"--this was inspired by the real idea of a cobalt bomb, conceived by nuclear pioneer Leo Szilard, founder of Council for a Livable World.

President Muffley: Why haven't you radioed the plans countermanding the go-code?
Turgidson: Well... I'm afraid we're unable to communicate with any of the aircraft.
President Muffley: Why?
Turgidson: As you may recall, sir, one of the provisions of Plan R provides that once the go-code is received, the normal SSB Radios on the aircraft are switched into a specially coded device which I believe is designated as CRM-114. Now, in order to prevent the enemy from issuing fake or confusing orders, CRM-114 is designed not to receive at all. Unless the message is the correct three-letter recall code prefix.
President Muffley: You mean to tell me, General Turgidson, that you will be unable to recall the aircraft?
Turgidson: That's about the size of it. However, at this moment our men are plowing through and transmitting every possible three-letter combination of the recall code. But since there are over 17,000 permutations... it's going to take us about two-and-a-half days to transmit them all.
President Muffley: How soon did you say our planes will be entering Russian radar cover?
Turgidson: About 18 minutes from now, sir.

The President next calls Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers), a former Nazi and strategy expert. Dr. Strangelove is also known as Dr. Merkwürdigliebe, the German translation of Strangelove. The wheelchair-bound Dr. Strangelove is a mad scientist whose eccentricities include a severe case of alien hand syndrome. His right hand, clad in a black leather glove, occasionally attempts to strangle Strangelove or make a Nazi salute. Dr. Strangelove occasionally addresses the President, as either "Mein President" or even "Mein Führer".

Strangelove explains the principles behind the Doomsday Device, which he says is "simple to understand... credible and convincing". He also points out that a Doomsday Device kept secret has no value as a deterrent. The Soviet Ambassador admits that his government had installed it a few days before they were going to announce it publicly to the world, because Kissoff "loves surprises".

U.S. Army paratroopers sent by the President arrive at Burpelson to arrest General Ripper. Because Ripper has warned his men that the enemy might attack disguised as American soldiers, the base's security forces, and Ripper himself with a machine gun kept in his golf bag, open fire on them. The Army forces win the battle and gain access to the base, and Ripper, fearing torture to extract the recall code, commits suicide. Colonel "Bat" Guano (Keenan Wynn) shoots his way into Ripper's office, but suspects that Mandrake, whose uniform he does not recognize, is leading a mutiny of "deviated preverts" and proceeds to arrest him. Mandrake convinces Guano that he has to call the President to tell him the recall code, which he has deduced from Ripper's desk blotter doodles to be based on the initials for the phrases peace on earth and purity of essence. Since office phone connections had been knocked out by the fighting at the base, Mandrake is forced to use a pay phone to try to contact the President. Not having the correct change to place a long-distance call to the Pentagon, Mandrake persuades Guano to shoot a Coca-Cola vending machine to get the change out of it, and eventually is able to forward the likely code combinations to Strategic Air Command.

The correct code "OPE" is given to the planes, and those that have not been shot down return to base--except for one. Its radio and fuel tanks were damaged by a Soviet anti-aircraft missile, with the result that the plane is neither able to receive the recall code nor to reach its primary or secondary target--where, at the urging of the U.S. President, the Soviets have concentrated all available defenses. On the crew's own initiative, the plane proceeds instead to a target of opportunity that is undefended.

As they start their bomb run the damaged B-52's bomb bay doors will not open. Aircraft commander Major T. J. "King" Kong (Slim Pickens) goes down to the bomb bay to open them himself, straddling a nuclear bomb as he tries to fix sparking wires overhead. As the B-52 reaches its target the doors open, triggering the bomb to fall without further warning. Kong rides the bomb to the ground like a rodeo cowboy, whooping, hollering and waving his cowboy hat.

The bomb explodes, triggering the Doomsday Machine. According to the Soviet ambassador, life on Earth's surface will be extinct in ten months. Dr. Strangelove recommends to President Muffley that a group of several hundred thousand people be relocated into deep mine shafts, where the nuclear fallout cannot reach them, so that the U.S. can be repopulated afterwards. Because of space limitations, Strangelove suggests a gender ratio of "ten females to each male", with the women selected for their sexual characteristics, and the men selected on the basis of their physical strength, intellectual capabilities, and importance in business and government--which would include all those present in the room. General Turgidson rants that the Soviets will likely create an even better bunker than the U.S., and argues that America "must not allow a mine shaft gap". Meanwhile, the Soviet Ambassador retreats to a corner of the War Room and starts taking pictures with a spy camera disguised as a pocket watch.

President Muffley: You mean people could actually stay down there for a hundred years?
Dr. Strangelove: It would not be difficult, Mein Führer. Nuclear reactors could--heh, I'm sorry, Mr. President--nuclear reactors could provide power almost indefinitely.

At the conclusion, a visibly excited Dr. Strangelove stands up out of his wheelchair, shouting "Mein Führer, I can walk!". Abruptly, the film ends with a barrage of nuclear explosions, accompanied by Vera Lynn's famous World War II song "We'll Meet Again".

(last lines)
Dr. Strangelove: Sir! I have a plan! (standing up from his wheelchair) Mein Führer! I can walk!

DR. STRANGELOVE, OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB, commonly known as DR. STRANGELOVE, is an American/British comedy film loosely based on Peter George's Cold War thriller novel "Red Alert" (aka "Two Hours to Doom"). Arguably the greatest black comedy ever made, Stanley Kubrick's cold-war classic is the ultimate satire of the nuclear age. It's a perfect spoof of political and military insanity. Beautifully filmed in black and white, it features some impressive sets and effective, documentary-style combat footage. DR. STRANGELOVE is one of dirctor Stanley Kubrick's finest films, uncompromising as it condemns proud macho posturing on all sides. It does it with a weapon more effective in the long run than A-bombs and H-bombs: comedy.

The cast also includes: James Earl Jones (Lt. Lothar Zogg), Tracy Reed (Miss Scott), Jack Creley (Mr. Staines), Frank Berry (Lt. H.R. Dietrich), Robert O'Neil (Adm. Randolph), Glenn Beck (Lt. W.D. Kivel), Roy Stephens (Frank), Shane Rimmer (Capt. G.A. "Ace" Owens), Hal Galili (Burpelson AFB Defense Team member), Paul Tamarin (Lt. B. Goldberg), Laurence Herder (Burpelson AFB Defense Team member), Gordon Tanner (Gen. Faceman), and John McCarthy (Burpelson AFB Defense Team member). Laurie Johnson composed the original music. Stanley Kubrick, Terry Southern, and Peter George wrote the screenplay based on Peter George's novel. Produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Columbia Pictures agreed to provide financing for the film only on the condition that Peter Sellers would play at least four roles, because much of the success of LOLITA (1962), Kubrick's previous film, was based on Sellers' performance. Peter Sellers plays three of the four roles initially written for him. At the start of production he was to play the role of Air Force Major T. J. "King" Kong, the B-52 Stratofortress aircraft commander, but Sellers sprained an ankle and could not play the role, as technical constraints would have confined him to the cramped space of the cockpit set. Sellers improvised much of his dialogue during filming, and Kubrick incorporated the ad-libs into the screenplay, so that the improvised lines became part of the screenplay, a technique known as retroscripting.

The title character, Dr. Strangelove, is not in the original book. He serves as President Muffley's scientific advisor in the War Room, presumably making use of prior expertise as a Nazi physicist. When General Turgidson expresses to Mr. Staines (Jack Creley) that "Strangelove" is a very bizarre name, Staines responds that Strangelove's original German surname was "Merkwürdigliebe", without mentioning that "Merkwürdigliebe" translates as "Strangelove" in English. Twice in the film, Strangelove addresses the President as "Mein Führer". With dialogue such as "You can't fight here! This is the war room!" and images of Slim Pickens's riding a bomb to oblivion, this movie has become a part of our cultural vocabulary.

Kubrick stated: "My idea of doing it as a nightmare comedy came in the early weeks of working on the screenplay. I found that in trying to put meat on the bones and to imagine the scenes fully, one had to keep leaving out of it things which were either absurd or paradoxical, in order to keep it from being funny; and these things seemed to be close to the heart of the scenes in question."

After deciding to turn the film into a black comedy, Kubrick brought in Terry Southern as a co-writer. Peter Sellers is also sometimes considered an uncredited co-writer, as he changed many lines with improvisation. DR. STRANGELOVE was filmed at Shepperton Studios in London, because Peter Sellers was in the middle of a divorce at the time and unable to leave England. The sets occupied three main sound stages: the Pentagon War Room, the B-52 Stratofortress bomber and the last one containing both the motel room and General Ripper's office and outside corridor. The studio's buildings were also used as the Air Force base exterior. The original musical score for the film was composed by Laurie Johnson and the special effects were by Wally Veevers.

Many characters' names involve sexual wordplay. Group Captain Lionel Mandrake's last name refers to the Mandrake plant, which has mythical fertility properties. The Soviet Ambassador Alexei de Sadesky is named for the Marquis de Sade, and Premier Dmitri Kisov's last name is pronounced "Kissoff", a pun on "kiss off". Major "King" Kong rides a phallic-looking H-bomb, which explodes as he approaches the "target of opportunity", when they are unable to reach the primary target. Laputa in Spanish means "the whore". President Merkin Muffley's first and last name crudely imply that he is a "pussy" by nature, since a merkin is a female pubic wig used by prostitutes in the 18th century, and muff, slang for pubic hair, refers to the area where the wig is applied. The name of General Buck Turgid(s)on is derived from turgid, a biological term meaning full of fluid to the point of hardness, as in an erection. And "buck" is an explicit symbol of virility, in other words a military "hard-on". Colonel "Bat" Guano's name is a scatological play on words meaning bat feces, which could echo the slang term bat-shit, meaning insanity.

DR. STRANGELOVE has been released on DVD quite a few times over the years. The 2 Disc Special Edition DVD has about 15 to 20 percent of the screen image removed. If you look, you will see that this edition of Dr. Strangelove is presented in anamorphic widescreen, with a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. This is the first time DR. STRANGELOVE has ever been presented this way because it was not shot that way. It was filmed with a varying aspect ratio, mostly 1.33:1. They did the same with GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) with a pseudo-widescreen version in the late 1960s, and such bastardized versions of movies should be avoided. It diminishes the video quality, ruins the composition, and hides things you are supposed to see. As with the last DVD release, the 45th Anniversary Blu-ray disc gives us a matted 1.66:1 ratio. The crispness of the shades of black and white coupled with solid contrast shows a remarkable level of detail for a film of this age, and the blacks never become muddy or gray. For audio, the original mono track has been included and it sounds excellent. It clearly gives us everything from the front without the sound getting mushy or muddled. Also included is a new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that makes the audio sound even better. The Blu-ray comes with a variety of bonus materials, but most have been released previously on DVD.

"The Cold War: Picture-in-Picture and Pop-Up Trivia Track" is the only new feature to the Blu-ray bonus materials, and it's very informative. Using pop-up boxes and videos, the track discusses the Cold War, real military parallels, the movie, how they all interacted, and how the movie influenced real life. "No Fighting in the War Room or: Dr. Strangelove and the Nuclear Threat" (30:04 minutes) has more discussion about the Cold War. "Inside: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (46:04 minutes) is the making-of feature, quite thorough and several notches above the standard fare. It covers the entire movie, leaving you well informed. "Best Sellers or: Peter Sellers and Dr. Strangelove" (18:27 minutes) features actors, comedians, and famous people gushing over how great Peter Sellers was in this movie and how great he was in everything he ever did. "The Art of Stanley Kubrick: From Short Films to Dr. Strangelove" (13:50 minutes) is a discussion of the life and times of Kubrick up to DR. STRANGELOVE. "An Interview with Robert McNamara" (24:26 minutes) is an interview with the former US Secretary of Defense (1961-68) in which he talks about the Cold War and not about the movie. "Split Screen Interviews with Peter Sellers and George C. Scott" (7:17 minutes) is the oddest bonus item, part of an interview with each, but it is not very informative or interesting. Lastly is a Digibook release and the content inside is a nice mixture of photos and essay.

Kubrick's film regularly appears on film critics' lists of the all-time best. Roger Ebert has DR. STRANGELOVE in his list of Great Movies, saying it is "arguably the best political satire of the century." It is also rated as the fifth greatest film and the highest rated comedy in Sight & Sound’s directors’ poll. In 2000 readers of Total Film magazine voted it the 24th greatest comedy film of all time. It is ranked 15th top movie of all time on TopTenReviews Movies. In addition, the movie is ranked # 6 in the All-Time High Scores chart of Metacritic's Video/DVD section with an average score of 96. It is also currently ranked the 27th greatest movie of all time on the intenet's IMDb. Additionally, it was listed as # 3 on the American Film Institute's "100 Years... 100 Laughs", the top 100 funniest American films of all time. In 1989, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

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