Throwback Thursday -Bandolero! (1968)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

One last throwback to a movie from 1968.

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Sometimes It’s Hard To Tell The Good Guys From the Bad – Bandolero! (1968)

***SPOILER WARNING! Yeah, the movie is almost 50 years old, but as I’ve often noted, if you haven’t seen it before, then it might as well have come out yesterday. Plus, it’s not one of those that’s well enough known that the plot twists (and there are a few) would be popularly known, and this is the kind of movie that does depend on bringing a couple of twists to the table. Plus, I’ll be discussing, at least in vague ways, the ending of the movie, so the warning, while perhaps not necessary, does seem appropriate. SPOILER WARNING***

Flipping through Netflix a couple of nights ago, trying to find something quick and easy to watch, (nothing foreign, nothing too complex, nothing that would be too much of a downer) I ran across the 1968 western Bandolero!. (Yes, the onscreen title does include the exclamation point.) Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, and starring Dean Martin, James Stewart, Raquel Welch, and George Kennedy, Bandolero! is the kind of relatively light western movie that I really tend to enjoy.

(Here’s a quick rule of thumb: if a western stars either Jimmy Stewart or Dean Martin, then it’s probably going to be right up my alley. Put them together, and well…)

The story opens with Martin’s character Dee Bishop and his gang arriving in a small Texas town with a plan to rob the local bank. Unfortunately, they are noticed by sheriff July Johnson (George Kennedy) who immediately goes on guard. When things go wrong during the robbery and the just arriving Maria Stoner (Welch)’s husband is killed, the gang is arrested by Johnson, locked up and sentenced to be hanged.

Word of the gang’s capture quickly spreads, and Stewart, upon hearing it immediately heads toward the town. In a seeming coincidence he just happens to meet the hangman who is scheduled to perform the hangings, and finds out all he can about the gentleman and his profession. That evening, the hangman arrives in town, but it turns out to be Stewart in disguise. It turns out that Stewart and Martin are actually brothers, and Mace (Stewart) has come to rescue the gang.

After a dramatic escape, Dee and his gang come upon Mrs. Stoner and take her hostage as they flee across the Mexican border from Sheriff Johnson and his posse. Unfortunately, they have escaped right into bandolero country so not only do they have to deal with the lawmen behind them, but the bandits all around also.

Finally arriving at the small town they had planned to use to gather supplies and refresh themselves before moving further into Mexico, the outlaws find themselves instead in a ghost town. Nonetheless, they decide to hole up there for the night. Unfortunately, it’s not long before the posse catches up to them and then the bandoleros also enter the fray.

I started this review calling this movie a relatively light western, and while that’s true, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the film has a happy ending, nor that everyone one might want to comes out unscathed or even alive.

One of the most interesting things that the film does is to use the natural and easy-going charm of both Martin and Stewart to get the viewer to root for them even though they are nominally the “bad guys”. This is also achieved by making the rest of Dee’s gang even worse than they are, and by Kennedy’s portrayal of Sheriff July as single minded in his pursuit of the gang not so much in order to bring them to justice, but because, as Mrs. Stoner notes, they have taken the one thing that he has always wanted: her.

So in the end, while Bandolero! may not have the “gravitas” of many of today’s westerns, nor is it filled with special effects and explosions, opting instead to explore its characters and give them some depth and dimension beyond simply being stereotypical “good guys” and “bad guys”, it is definitely a very entertaining way to spend 106 minutes on an otherwise quiet evening, and it’s a movie I would highly recommend for those of you just looking, as I was, for exactly that.

Here’s the trailer:

By the way, I have never read the book nor watched the mini-series that it inspired, but according to Wikipedia,

Larry McMurtry, the author of the novel Lonesome Dove, reportedly paid homage to Bandolero! by using similar names for the characters in his book. Both tales begin near the Mexico border and involve bandoleros. Both have a sheriff named July Johnson and a deputy Roscoe who travel a great distance in search of a wanted criminal and the woman who has rejected the sheriff’s love. Both stories have a charismatic outlaw named Dee, who is about to be hanged and who wins the love of the woman before he dies. In the Lonesome Dove miniseries, the main characters twice pass directly in front of the Alamo—or at least a set built to replicate the Alamo.

Hmmm… sounds like there might be just a bit more than simply “paying homage” to me, but I’ll let those of you who have seen it form your own opinions.


Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

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Throwback Thursday -Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

Another look back at another S&S Top 250 movie from 1968.

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Top 250 Tuesday: #078 – Once Upon A Time In The West (1968)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #144 on the list, Sergio Leone‘s Once Upon a Time in the West. For a longer introduction and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are in the sidebar) where I’ll be posting that info later in the day.

Once upon a time, Italy’s greatest director of spaghetti westerns teamed up with one of the all-time greatest composers of music for film scores and an all-star cast in an effort to create the best movie ever in that genre.

They succeeded.

The end.

I’m actually tempted to leave my comments on this film right there, because really Sergio Leone’s masterpiece Once Upon a Time in the West is one of those movies that is hard to write about without sounding like one is simply gushing superlatives. Still, I feel like I owe you guys a bit more than that, so let’s see what I can do.

There are times when I approach these movies in the top 250 wondering what it is about them that has put them on this list. Sometimes, as the film develops it becomes fairly obvious. Other times, for instance with The Conversation, it’s not until the very end that I understand the power of the movie or the skills on display. There are even even times when I simply make no connection with the movie at all or have a negative reaction that I’m still left wondering at the end just what it is that so many people love about a film.

That’s definitely not a problem that I had with this one. From the opening moments of the film it’s obvious that we are dealing with a director who is at the top of his game and is bringing everything that he has learned in his previous outings to the film, and thereby getting the most not only out of the performers we see onscreen, but from all of his behind the camera associates as well, especially cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli, with whom he had also worked on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The beginning also serves to put the audience on notice that they are in for a different experience with this movie than with any of the director’s previous outings.

The film begins in media res, with no explanation of who the characters are that we are seeing, or why they are there, and it is only through later flashbacks and exposition that we really gain insight into what we are seeing, and the significance of the events that follow, and this is actually a technique that Leone uses to great effect throughout the movie as characters weave in and out of the film, some of them seemingly only tangentially relating to the ongoing narrative until later they become much more significant. Indeed, instead of using the opening to explain the characters or the setting, Leone instead uses a number of long (some would probably say slow) takes to create a sense of atmosphere, of dread and foreboding, that sets the entire mood of the film.

That’s not to say that this is a dark movie. Far from it. It’s actually quite a bright film with an incredibly saturated color palate. However even the brightness, especially when it’s coming from the outdoor sun, carries with it a sense of the ever-pervasive and inescapable heat that also at times seems to be a character in this film. It also, perhaps helps to explain why the title of the movie focuses the viewer’s attention on its setting in the “west”, rather than its characters as the previous film’s title did.

So does that mean that the characters get short shrift here? No, far from it. Again, it is to Leone’s credit that he not only gives his individual characters time to develop, time to breathe and become living beings that we care about, but also to develop their own individual quirks and moments that make them more than just performers hitting their marks and saying their lines, but real characters who you know have past lives (some of which we again become aware of as the film progresses, some of which are only hinted at) that inform each performance and which the actors for the most part use to enhance their interpretations of these people.

Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that Leone is working with a pretty incredible cast here. The choice to feature Henry Fonda, for instance as lead “bad guy” Frank not only provides immediate interest for the audience, bringing as it does all of the memories and expectations that we have from seeing Fonda in the exact opposite of this role, but also gives Fonda himself extra motivation to show that he can stretch, that he can actually be as vile and nasty as the character calls for him to be, and it is something that he pulls off very well. And the rest of the cast, from Charles Bronson‘s “Harmonica” on down all seem to realize that they are truly in something that is special, and they all bring, to use the cliche, their “A game” to elevate this film from what could have been a fairly typical outing to something that is truly spectacular.

And perhaps, in the end, that really is the key here. I tried to indicate at the beginning of this post that this movie really is a truly collaborative effort, one that really does live up to that probably overly used cliche about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, but really, when the parts are individually as great as these, and when they are being brought together by a master craftsman such as Leone, it’s probably inevitable that what is going to wind up on the screen is going to be one of the best films ever.

Plus, let’s face it: don’t all of the best stories begin with the phrase “Once upon a time…”?

So what are your thoughts on Once Upon a Time in the West? Is it a movie that you’ve seen or would like to? If you have seen it, is it one that would make your own Top 10 list? Or would it not even crack your Top 250? Let me know below.


Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Throwback Thursday -Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

Another look back at a previously written in movie from 1968, this time from the Professor Damian days

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Tuesday Terrors: Night of the Living Dead (1968)

You know, Kiddies, it occurs to me upon thinking about the upcoming release of George Romero’s latest “living dead” project, Survival of the Dead, that the franchise has actually become not unlike its eponymous monsters – a thng that is not-quite-living, not-quite-dead; seemingly unstoppable as it continues its progression across the landscape; stirring up memories of things that once were; but ultimately, by this point, brainless and simply out to consume.

Ok, perhaps that’s actually a bit harsh. One certainly has to respect Romero for staying true to his vision and for keeping the franchise low-budget and independent. Oh, certainly he’s done his share of big-budget movies, and his share of Hollywood just-for-a-paycheck films, but recently, in his later years, he seems to have re-embraced his independent spirit, taking the franchise which made him a major player back to its roots and at the same time trying to update and innovate within it.

But we’re not really here to talk today about the entire franchise, or even the latest installment. Instead, we’re going back to the beginning, the granddaddy of the modern zombie genre, 1968’s Night of the Living Dead.

This movie is always a tricky one to cover, because there are so many aspects one can talk about – the black and white photography, the origins of the zombies and of the idea, the use of Duane Jones as the lead and the symbolism of his death at the end of the movie, the fact that it was shot in and around Pittsburgh for a budget just around $113,000, the influences, sequels, remakes, and the split between Romero and partner John Russo which resulted in Russo spinning off his own set of “living dead” movies, and so much more. But at the same time, those topics have been done and done and done, and probably better elsewhere than yer Ol’ Professor would in this limited space. So instead, since this is the Public Domain Treasure Chest, what I want to spend just a few minutes on is the p.d. status of the film and the impact that that has had not only on the film itself, but on its legacy and the legacy of George Romero.

So how does a film like Night of the Living Dead end up in the public domain in the first place? Well, it’s pretty simple, actually. In 1968, when the film was made and released, one of the copyright requirements was that prints of the film had to carry a proper copyright notice. The thinking was that if the producers didn’t even care enough to put the notice on the film, then they didn’t care enough to maintain the copyright. This also provided a way for people to know who to contact in caase they wanted to license the film, to perhaps reuse part of it, or even if there was some kind of copyright dispute with the film itself. Unfortunately for Romero, a last minute title change insisted upon by the film’s distributor meant that the copyright notice, which had previously appeared in the same frames as the title, was left off of the prints, resulting in the film immediately entering the public domain.

Considering the impact and legacy of the film, George Romero has at times been understandably bitter about this development, even claiming that the distributor “ripped us off.” (Note, by the way, that it is the distributor that Romero blames, not the copyright system. Everyone knew what needed to be done, and had the distributor followed through on placing the proper notice on the prints, things would have turned out differently.) However, over the years he also seems to have mellowed his stance some, realizing that it is the public domain aspect of the film that has, in large part, led to its fame and ubiquity. Had the film retained its copyright status, it’s likely to have been just another forgotten little horror film among many from that era. However, during the home video boom, when releasing companies were looking for anything that they could throw onto VHS (and later DVD) for cheap, they found this absolute gem of a movie. Therefore anyone who had access to the equipment was putting out their own print of the film. According to Wikipedia, as of 2006, the IMDB listed 23 copies of NOTLD being sold on DVD and 19 on VHS. Also, as of this writing, the film was the second most dowloaded film on the Internet Archive with almost 650,000 free downloads. It’s also a late-night perennial, and a film that I dare say almost every horror host in the country working since its release has featured on his or her show.

Certainly, this is the film that (deservedly) made Romero’s name, and led him to go on and make a whole string of other films besides the sequels, and it’s doubtful that we’d be sitting here 42 years later waiting for the latest of those sequels if the original had not gained the kind of widespread viewership and appeal that it has through these many viewings and showings and incarnations made possible through the public domain.

Ok, enough talk. Let’s have a peek at the film itself:

And here’s the skinny:
Title: Night of the Living Dead
Release Date: 1968
Running Time: 96min
Black and White
Stars: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea
Directed by: George Romero
Produced by: Karl Hardman, Russell Streiner
Distributed by: The Walter Reade Organization

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Throwback Thursday – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

So since the theme for this month is 1968, it seems appropriate to look back at past takes on movies from that year for Throwback Thursday. This week we look back at one of the most famous and rightfully celebrated (and for some, controversial) films of the year.

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Top 250 Tuesday #006 – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #006 on the list, Stanley Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.

***SPOILER WARNING: Okay, today I’m writing about a movie that is 45 years old. One might think that a spoiler warning would be unnecessary. However, in keeping with the rules that I have set up for this blog, and my own personal belief that there are probably a LOT of people who have never actually seen this film and that everyone deserves a chance to see it without knowing too much about it, and due to the fact that I am going to be discussing the plot in detail and that there really is no way to write about it it in the way that I want to without discussing the ending, I am throwing the big old spoiler advisory up here, just so you know ahead of time what you’re going to be getting into. You have been warned. END WARNING***

There are some movies that one simply watches. There are other films that one experiences. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is definitely a film that one experiences. Moreover, it is a film that, I would argue, if you haven’t seen it on the big screen, you have not really seen it.

Just last week, thanks to a special screening at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre, I had the chance to – for a second time, actually – experience this film on the big screen, along with a presentation and Q&A session by Frederick Ordway, who was one of Kubrick’s science advisers during the making of the film. Obviously it was not a chance I was going to pass up.

The “plot” of 2001, despite its sheen of ambiguity and the various interpretations that have been laid upon it, is actually quite thin. The movie begins at “The Dawn of Man”, and shows two warring tribes of proto-humans as they are going about their lives. Soon, a mysterious black monolith appears before one of the tribes, and sparks within them the next step in their evolution, the idea of using things around them as tools. (The fact that the first use of these tools is for destruction and the second for killing – first of animals to sate their hunger and not long after of their enemies is something that I could make more of, but I think I’ll save that for another time.)

Also, one other important thing happens: the monolith begins to emit a sound. A signal, perhaps?

After that, the movie shifts forward in time and we encounter Dr. Heywood Floyd, who is on his way to a meeting at the Clavius moon base. Once at the base, Floyd is informed of a mysterious artifact that has been dug up at the site: what has been found is a monolith, identical to the one that appeared earlier in the film. It is stated that the monolith seems to have been deliberately buried millions of years ago. An expedition is mounted to examine the object, and once it is reached, Dr. Floyd reaches out and tentatively touches the object, much the way his ancestors did oh so long ago. And in an echo of that first encounter, the object again begins to emit an almost deafening sound. Another signal?

Skip ahead another 18 months, and we join the crew of the spacecraft Discovery One on a mission to Jupiter where, unbeknownst to the ship’s crew who have largely been kept in the dark about the real purpose of their mission, yet another black monolith has been found in orbit around the planet.

This is, of course, the most popular (or at least most quotable) sequence, since it is the part that features the malfunctioning computer HAL 9000. However, in terms of the actual narrative of the film, it is actually perhaps the least important part of it, since the sequence, much like the actual mission of the trip, is really there only to bring the last survivor of the trip, David Bowman, into contact with the monolith. Upon seeing the monolith, Bowman, in a pod outside the Discovery One, again makes tentative contact with the monolith via one of the arms of the pod, and is seemingly sucked into some kind of time/space vortex, seeing at first simply brightly colored lights, and eventually, in a scene that to modern audiences probably evokes the feel of similar scenes in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks ( even though the film predates the TV show by a couple of decades) appears to be in an oddly decorated hotel room where he encounters various versions of himself through time, until he finally finds himself as an extremely elderly bed-ridden man.

It is at that point, just as he lies in the bed, seemingly at the point of death, that the monolith makes its final appearance, and, as Bowman once again reaches out to make contact with the object, he, like the proto-humans millenia ago is transformed, and takes yet one further evolutionary step, transforming into the so-called star-child, thus completing (?) the monolith’s purpose and preparing mankind to enter into the galactic civilization.

Okay, so that takes care of the plot of the film. Complex, perhaps, at least on the face of it, but really rather straightforward and not all that complicated once one actually gets to the core of it.

It also strikes me, especially upon this most recent viewing, that it is actually the least important – and really, least interesting – aspect of this film.

You see, to me, in a way, 2001 is – perhaps intentionally, perhaps not – pretty much the definition of arthouse cinema. It’s a film that is all about the combination of visuals and sound, experimenting with both, trying to push both to the limit, and inviting the viewer to experience film in a way that perhaps they never have before. The fact that it manages to do this and yet still have turned out to be commercially successful and to have turned into something that was actually popular with film goers at the time and remains so today simply speaks to the magnitude of craft that Kubrick brought to his creation.

Much has been made of the “silent” portions of the film, though actually, there are very few of these. True, there are moments in the space sequence that are silent, because, of course, there is no sound in space, but these are actually very few. What there are, really, are two lengthy (almost 25 minutes apiece) segments that are dialogue free, yes, but they are far from sound free. Instead they are overlaid with various classical pieces that set the mood and tone of what is happening in the visuals in a way that combines to make for a truly stunning experience. Indeed, if these segments had contained some sort of dialogue, or even worse – as was especially considered at one point for the opening Dawn of Man segment – some sort of narrative voice-over, the end result would have been much less than the piece of true cinematographic art that is the final whole.

In fact, sound is such an integral part of this film, and the pieces that Kubrick selected so fitting, that in this most recent viewing there were moments when I was tempted to close my eyes and simply take in the aural delights that make up the soundtrack. I resisted that temptation, of course, because I didn’t want to miss seeing how they blended with the gorgeous cinematography of Geoffrey Unsworth, who is perhaps one of the most overlooked creators who had a hand in the making of this film, but whose shots are so incredibly composed and thought through that he definitely deserves more praise than he is given.

Hmmm… perhaps here is a good place to also mention another aspect of the movie that I had really overlooked until this viewing, but it speaks volumes, both about Unsworth’s cinematography and Kubrick’s vision for this film. You see, it struck me that there is a definite parallel between the physical spaces that are depicted in the movie and the development of the theme of evolution which is carried on throughout the narrative. At first, when the world of the proto-humans is very small, encompassing basically the small space that they inhabit, the watering hole that they fight over and the adjacent extremely small hunting ground, the cinematography is also very tight, closed in, its sound-stage bound nature really somewhat apparent, especially in this new digital print, and indeed there is a definite claustrophobic nature to the entire scene, especially when we see the tribe at night, huddle close in their cave, fitting into crevasses big enough for only one or two of them to fit into. This is a definite reflection of their view of their entire world, which for them is a very small area, and fits with the idea that they have far to go before they are ready to begin exploring further afield.

However, when man has begun to reach out, when he is ready to make the second contact with the monolith on the moon, the space, and the cinematography employed both open up, and we are brought into the much more open and bright lobby of the space hotel where Dr. Heywood has his layover before reaching the base upon the moon. Just as man’s intellectual capacity and outlook has broadened, so have the visuals which accompany the narrative.

So why then, do we eventually return to the relative claustrophobia of the Discovery One and the space pod before the third contact is made? Well, one could argue that this isn’t really true, that much of the cinematography is focused on the space outside of the ship, thus depicting yet again, man’s even broader outlook on his place in the galaxy along with his furthered intellectual capacity, and while there is much justification for this, I would also argue that the return to the much smaller space of the pod is necessary because it signifies that although mankind has made such leaps, in a way, he is still as evolutionarily stunted as the proto-humans, and must once again have his horizons expanded, which is what occurs in the visual light show that makes up a large part of the final act of the film, and brings us eventually to the point where, as the star-child, the newly-born citizen of the cosmos, man is depicted in the vastness of space, almost as one with the galaxy itself.

Thus, then, we finally reach that last act of the film, and the visual tour-de-force that is that (again, perhaps, at least for now) final step in the evolution of mankind.

This is also, where Kubrick again is truly trying to challenge not only the audience, but himself and his fellow creators, to see just how complex and visually stunning a film he can make. And again, this is an area where his artistry truly shines through.

One thing that a modern viewer has to keep in mind is that all of the effects work that was done on this film was truly limited by what could be done in 1968, long before the advent of computer-aided graphics and the now-possible seemingly almost anything goes effects work of today. However, rather than let that limit his vision, instead of saying, well, there’s really no way to depict what he was trying to say and bring it to the screen, Kubrick went for a much more abstract rather than literal evocation of his thematic intentions.

Of course, this is also the segment that seems to have lost so many viewers and caused them to simply throw up their hands and say that the film either makes no sense, or to claim that they “just don’t get it”. What these viewers don’t seem to realize, what they fail, in a way to understand, is that there really is nothing here to get. This is, again, where the film itself could be said to evolve into pure art. This is, again, one of the reasons that I said up above that 2001 is a perfect example of what could be called arthouse cinema, because, at least for a few moments, it completely abandons the narrative (though it is still being carried along by it and carrying it along) and simply becomes both a visual and audio tour-de-force.

In fact, those who say that this portion of the film “makes no sense” have, in my opinion, kind of missed the point. In a way it makes perfect sense. In another, it is not meant to. Instead, this is one of those moments in cinema history that is meant to be simply evocative, that is meant, as I noted at the very first, not merely to be viewed, but to be experienced, It is also one of the reasons that I said that if you haven’t seen this movie on the big screen – with the sound all around you, and the visuals fully engulfing your field of vision, swallowing you up into them and bringing you, along with Bowman into a new kind of narrative, fully engaging all of your senses and giving yourself over to that moment – if, instead, all you have seen is some smaller screen version of the film with all of the accompanying shortcomings and distractions that that kind of viewing inevitably bring to it, you haven’t truly seen the film at all.

And that’s a shame, because 2001: A Space Odyssey truly is one of the greatest cinematic accomplishments of its own, or any time. There is a reason why it is number six on this list, and why it has to be considered a contender in any discussion of what film can be when it truly is taken on as a challenge by the director and everyone involved, and then offered as the same kind of challenge to its audience. It is not a movie that is aimed at the lowest common denominator movie-goer – though it can certainly be enjoyed in that way. Instead, like the enigmatic monolith that is at the heart of it, it is a film that invites the audience on a journey of expansion, a journey of discovery, a journey of evolution, and an exploration of just what film can be.

So what are your thoughts on 2001: A Space Odyssey? Is it a movie that you’ve seen or would like to? If you have seen it, is it one that would make your own Top 10 list? Or would it not even crack your Top 250? Also, I’m curious about what you think about my argument that some movies simply have to be seen on the big screen before one can even really judge them. And if you agree with it, what films you would put into that category. Let me know in the comments below.


Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Throwback Thursday – Mel Blanc: The Man of 1000 Voices

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

Since we took a look at The Story Lady for this week’s OTR Tuesday, this seemed like a good time to revisit one of the great documentaries about the man whose company was behind that production, Mr. Mel Blanc. This was first posted in 2013.

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The Voices In His Head – Mel Blanc: The Man of 1000 Voices

Mel Blanc is a man who entertained millions of people both during his lifetime and after, and though his name is well known in certain circles, for most people he did so largely anonymously. Fortunately, the documentary Mel Blanc: The Man of 1000 Voices goes a long way towards bringing this wonderfully talented man, who provided the voices for most of the characters of the Warner Brothers cartoons (you know, characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, Porky Pig, and literally countless others), out of the recording studio and giving him the spotlight he so richly deserved.

For those unfamiliar with the man, or who don’t understand just how important he is in popular culture, here’s a short clip of him being interviewed on the David Letterman show in 1981:

Watching that, seeing how seamlessly he is able to move from voice to voice, from character to character, he makes someone much more renowned like Robin Williams seem like a manic piker. Anyway, for those fascinated by the man, his characters, or even simply the history of animation, this documentary is well worth watching, as it gives a great sense of the man who not only gave thousands of characters a voice, but really, gave them life.

 

 

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Throwback Thursday – Love Laughs At Andy Hardy (1946)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

One of the nice things about running this blog the way that I do is that I rarely have to write about movies that I don’t like, or that I don’t at least find interesting. Every once in a while, though, and I suppose this was more true back in the Professor Damian days when I was trying to feature more films that would appeal to everyone, there would be the occasional movie that… well, let’s gently say I wasn’t particularly a fan of.

Here’s a look back at one of those.

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Thursday Romance – Love Laughs At Andy Hardy (1946) – Starring Andy Hardy

You know, kiddies, there are those who think that irony is a recent development in films, who think that the films of the 40’s were way too straightforward and earnest, and that there is no hint of self-awareness or realism, especially in the romances of the period. Today’s movie, however, definitely proves that not to be the case. The irony is dripping from the film right from the moment the title flashed on the screen. Because though love may be laughing at Andy Hardy, hardly anyone in the audience will be.

Except for an aborted attempt to revive the character in 1958’s Andy Hardy Comes Home, this was the last of Rooney’s 16 films as Hardy, and it is easy to see why. The film actually has a number of potentially good comic set-ups, but each time pulls back as if afraid to really follow through with them. The result is a movie that is genteel and at times amusing, but never really takes off and provides the viewer with any genuine laughs.

The basic plot revolves around young Andrew Hardy, the son of the town judge, who has just returned home from fighting in World War Two. Battle-hardened, both his mind and body scarred by the things he experienced overseas, his plan is to return to college and take back up with the girlfriend he left behind.

However when his girlfriend is shot down on the streets in front of him by Nazi conspirators and his rival for her affections makes the joke that if Hardy had been taller the bullet would not have whizzed over his head and into his girl’s once-lovely face, Hardy snaps, gets the machine gun he brought back with him from the war and goes on a rampage of carnage throughout the college campus. Now hunted as a fugitive, he makes his way back to the small town where he was raised, seeking shelter in the care of his father the judge. Instead, the stern man rejects him, threatening to turn him over to the police because he must pay for what he has done. In a fiery cataclysm, Hardy blows up himself and the courthouse, though his father narrowly escapes. Looking at the destruction his son has wrought, the judge is forced to reconsider not only his own attitudes, but the effects that war can have on a young man, and he is left shaking his head as debris rains around him.

Or maybe not.

Actually, Hardy seems as affected by his time at war as if he had instead been on a weekend vacation in the Hamptons. Other than the fact that time has passed and he spends part of the film dressed in his khakis, there really is no indication of what he might have been doing. The actual plot of the film involves Andy’s desire to get his college sweetheart to agree to marry him. I’d love to say that much mayhem ensues, but unfortunately…

Ok, here’s a preview – this is the “jitterbugging” scene the above still is taken from. The disapproving older couple, by the way, are Andy’s parents who have come to the dance thinking they are going to meet the girl that Andy is planning to ask to marry him. (She unfortunately had to miss the dance because of a family emergency.) Unfortunately, again, what could have been an extended bit of humorous misunderstanding is cut short when the judge quickly realizes what is going on and lets Andy off the hook.

Ok, here’s the skinny:

Title: Love Laughs at Andy Hardy
Release Date: 1946
Running Time: 93 min
Black and White
Starring: Micky Rooney
Directed by: Willis Goldbeck
Produced by: Robert Sisk
Released by: MGM

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,

-Professor Damian

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Throwback Thursday -D. O. A. (1950)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

Back during the Professor Damian days, Wednesdays were mystery day. Here’s one of my favorites from “Whodunnit Wednesday”.

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Whodunnit Wednesday – D.O.A. (1950)

“I want to report a murder.”
“Sit down… Where was this murder committed/”
“San Francisco. Last night”
“Who was murdered?”
“I was.”

Ok, seriously, Kiddies, with an opening like that it’s obvious that while the title of today’s film may be D.O.A., the movie itself definitely isn’t.

Edmond O’Brien plays  Frank Bigleow, an accountant in the town of Banning California who walks into the homicide division of the local police station to make the above announcement. Oddly, the detective he is talking to (unlike the audience) not only doesn’t seem surprised at what he says, but seems to have been expecting him. From there we are told the story in flashback from Bigelow’s perspective.

Surprising his secretary/lover by announcing he is suddenly taking a trip out of town, Bigelow soon hooks up with a group of conventioneers upon arriving in San Francisco. While out on the town at a local jazz club, we see that, unknown to him, Bigelow’s drink is swapped for another. When he awakens the next morning feeling badly, he goes to a doctor who tells him that he has been poisoned. from there on, the film turns into a true noir mystery with Bigelow trying to track down not only who killed him but why, and to do it before the clock runs out on his own life. There is a growing sense of desperation throughout the film as the poison begins to take effect and Bigelow feels his life slipping away with every tick of the clock. Can Bigelow find out what and who is behind his poisoning, or is he destined to die without even knowing why?

On its initial release, D.O.A. was not exactly a critical darling, with the New York Times, for instance, calling it “fairly obvious and plodding recital, involving crime, passion, stolen iridium, gangland beatings and one man’s innocent bewilderment upon being caught up in a web of circumstance that marks him for death”, but I think that focuses way too much on the plot. The true appeal of this movie is in the performances and the atmosphere, and this has been reflected in later reviews, such as the one from A.K Rode which states “The lighting, locations, and atmosphere of brooding darkness were captured expertly by [director Rudolph] Mate and director of photography Ernest Lazlo.” or Michael Sragow’s review which calls it a “high-concept movie before its time.” The film has also been recognized and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress which cited it as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

I’m gonna give you a bit of a different trailer today. Apparently this was done as a school assignment and posted to YouTube by ShadowMaster0511. It’s not official, but i think it actually does a pretty good job of giving you the essentials and picking up on the tone and atmosphere of the film. And it’s a good example, since the film is part of the public domain, of one of the things that can be done with it:

Ok, here’s the skinny:
Title: D.O.A.
Release Date: 1950
Running Time: 83min
Black and White
Starring: Edmond O’Brien
Directed by: Rudolph Mate’
Produced by Leo C. Popkin
Distributed by: United Artists


Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.