Thursday, August 31, 2023



This is a film that is completely ridiculous and stupid to boot. The idea of a killer sloth is a funny premise from the get go, so it is not too hard to figure out that this is a comedy, disguised as a horror film. If you took all the clever parts of this year's earlier film "Megan", with its animatronic doll killer, and replaced them with a stuffed puppet of a sloth that is never convincing, you would get the joke immediately. The film makers here are having a lark and they know that there is nothing remotely legitimate about their film story. So they lean into the stupidity and have some fun, and that ends up working. 

"Slotherhouse" is a pun that gets a groan in the film, and it is the kind of joke you will see repeatedly if you catch this movie. "Alpha" the sloth, becomes an internet sensation at the sorority house where she ends up. There are parodies of all the social media tropes now present in the culture. They even laugh at the idea that an "influencer" gets paid for doing nothing but spouting off. That story line gets mixed with a sorority mean girls plot and thus you have the movie. There are nods to other horror films as well, so maybe you can see it an an homage. 

How this got rated PG-13 is not clear. There is no bad language, no nudity, virtually no blood, and all of the violence happens off screen except for the climax, which is no worse than most Saturday cartoon. It is not at all scary, although the director knows all the shots that need to be copied from a slasher film, but then uses the jump scares for laughs instead. In the end, it succeeded in entertaining me. I laughed a lot during the film. Most of the time I was laughing at how stupid everything happening is. I think the script and director know that and they just let the chips fall where they will. 

In all fairness, I enjoyed this movie much more than "Barbie" or "Cocaine Bear", although both of those are far superior to it. This is one of those movies you laugh at, not with, but in this case the film makers know that this is going to be the result. How else can you explain a sloth that learns how to use social media to spread the word about it's own murderous ways? When Alpha makes her way to the hospital, you know at that point that the story is completely designed like a sketch, this is an SNL moment that is better than most of the stuff on SNL itself.

I can't recommend the film to you, it is not good. I will tell you however that if you do watch it, you will laugh a lot. So, you decide how to take that. It's entertaining and funny, but at the expense of any story. #killerslth, #housesloth, #whatthehellgoseeit. 

Amadeus-Paramount Summer Classic Film Series


This film came out during one of the greatest years in film history. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year, and in my opinion, it is the best film of that decade. I have written about the film before on my retrospective blog "30 Years On". It is doubtful that any of you reading this will be unfamiliar with the film, but if that is the case let me briefly sum the story up. Antonio Salieri the court composer, develops a degree of envy of Mozart that leads him to plot a complicated revenge. 

F. Murray Abraham was a character actor who was given the keys to a fantastic part, and he floors it all the way to a well deserved Academy Award for Best Actor. Salieri has charm, and guile and anger that he channels at all the right times. Abraham has a great range, and is the most duplicitous friend a great composer could have. Abraham makes us both pity and hate Salieri at the same time. The scenes that I find most effecting however, are not the plot driven moments, but the character points, especially the sequences where he waxes about the music. His own compositions are not worthy, as he discovers when comparing himself to Mozart. When he describes listening to Mozart's Operas, he is carried away with envy and passion. 

The best moments of the film occur at the climax, fittingly soaking up the talent of his rival and grateful to be a participant in writing it down. The fact that Salieri plans to steal the Requiem that is emotionally draining Mozart, is almost irrelevant to the moments of intense joy he experiences in seeing how Mozart works and participating in just a little bit. Both Abraham and Tom Hulce, who played Mozart, were nominated for the acting honors and this scene earned them both a place in history. This past weekend, CBS Sunday Morning had a little piece on the actor who played Mozart's alleged assassin. You can watch it here:

My only reservation about last night's screening is that it was the so called "Director's Cut", which is a 2002 revision. I'd seen the material on a a Laserdisc Special Edition from 1995. There, Director Miloš Forman explained why the material was left out, it mostly had to do with time. Figuring with a DVD release, that time was not an issue, they went back to the original script. I don't think it works as well in a theater. I think the right choice was made when the film originally came out in 1984. While there are a few moments that are enhancements (a longer version of the Opera Don Giovanni for instance), most of the time it feels like padding and the narrative is undermined a little. I'd still say it was better than any other film of the decade, except for the original version. 

What makes the film more memorable and powerful than the play is the way that music can be integrated into the story. We see segments of the Operas, we hear key pieces used for dramatic purpose in the score. The mix of aural and visual is simply superb in this film. The opportunity to see "Amadeus" on the big screen does not come up as frequently as those for "Lawrence of Arabia", if it did, you would see far more entries on this site.


Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Blue Beetle


Superhero/comic book fatigue may be a real thing, or it may simply reflect the decline in original and interesting stories in those sources. "Blue Beetle", regardless of it's original iteration, feels like a weak version of "Iron Man" with just a little bit of alien technology and a central character of a different ethnicity. Maybe throw in a little "Venom" to boot, and you have a formula film that feels loke a mock-tail concoction. 

Let's begin with some positive things about the film. The star, Xolo Maridueña, is an appealing actor with a youthful attitude and a friendly smile. The look of the film, heavy on CGI, is solid when it comes to the "Blue Beetle" technology, but a little less convincing and somewhat disappointing when it comes to the environment. This may reflect the fact that the film was originally going to be a streamer from HBO Max and not a theatrical release. The family plot line, a well worn path, is also a plus, at least in the first half of the movie. When the action climax shows up, the family connection becomes preposterous. 

Now, some of the drawbacks. Almost everything that George Lopez does in the film as Uncle Rudy, is off putting. Most of the words from his mouth would make a comic book character blush at having to say them. His bigoted demeanor stands out in comparison to his brother, sister in-law, and Mother. Jaime, who becomes the Blue Beetle, fortunately has been most strongly influenced by his parents and not the xenophobic, culture victim that Rudy is. Unfortunately, his sister aligns more with Rudy and her attack on privilege by taking a dump in the mansion bathroom, is an extension of an ugly victim attitude that permeates the whole film.

Susan Sarandon is the villain of the story, and you can tell it is a comic book movie because her character is a comic book level person. In an "us vs. them" story, she represents the stereotypical "them" like a cartoon. She is privileged, disrespectful, thoughtless and can't be bothered to see anyone as an individual, including the Hispanic men she is using as part of her plot. She can't be bothered to learn their names. This attitude is presented as universal when the receptionist at the Office building for her corporation, can't be bothered to get Jaimie's name right, even though he corrects her repeatedly. All of this takes place in a location dominated by Latin culture so obviously, the rich and white who have been living there their whole lives, are ignorant and self centered.   

For comic effect, it is fun to have Grandma hoist a weapon that is too large for her, and then pose like the Terminator with the canon, but it sends off a vibe that is not really where the movie was headed. The symbiotic interface needs to have a little more character so that it does not simply become a tool for an on and off switch at plot convenience. Finally, the love story could be fleshed out a little more so that we care about what happens a little more, it felt tacked on.

Overall, the film was fine, but not special. If you see it on Max next month, it will be a reasonable experience, but I can't say I would spend much to see it before then. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Jurassic Park 30th Anniversary National Cinema Day


It's hard to believe that it has been 30 years since "Jurassic Park" opened. It was June of 1993, and I remember were we saw the film, who I was with and there is even a little story about the evening that made it stand out a bit more. My kids were five and seven and I was not going to take them that first night. Grandma and Grandpa babysat and we went to see the movie with out friends Tim and Jamie Martin. We got together two or three times a year for a movie or dinner so it was sort of a special evening, not just another Friday at the movies.

The Edwards Atlantic Palace Theater in Alhambra was just a couple of years old, it was in pristine condition and one of the first really nice multiplex theaters that would come along in the 90s. The audience was packed, we were seated about two thirds back from the screen, in the center section. Three or four teen boys sat in front of us and I was a little concerned because I know kids can be a little full of themselves when they are on their own. Those guys were cutting up for each other and smarting off about the crowd, but I ignored it through the trailers. When the movie starts, the screen is dark and the ominous music and thumping begins the film. One of the kids in front of us shouts out so everyone in the theater of 500 people can hear, "Oooh, Scary!" and he and his buddies laugh out loud. I leaned forward and said to them in a voice menacing and loud, "You haven't seen scary until you've pissed me off. Knock it off!" They looked back at me, with my shaggy long hair and beard and I think they thought they had crossed paths with Charles Manson. They shut up and we did not hear from them for the rest of the film.

This lead to a great evening of entertainment where we could marvel at how well Steven Spielberg could engage us, scare us, ratchet up the tension and then release it with some humor. The screening we went to last night was a 3-D presentation. Unfortunately, the audience was full of restless kids younger than seven, and the AC in our theater was off. It was National Cinema Day, the second year that Theaters have tried to get folks back in front of their screens, and it seems to have worked.  The house was packed. In spite of the deficiencies and distractions, the movie still works.

I'm not sure why it worried me that Nedry loses all the embryos or that Dr. Grant throws away his velociraptor claw, but those things still seem important, even though they are not. The way Tim and Lex bond with Dr. Grant is what gives the movie it's heart, and everything Jeff Goldblum does gives it a mind and a sense of humor. The movie works on a lot of levels and it still tickles me that the T-Rex ends up being more hero than villain in the story (with the exception of the blood sucking lawyer).

Enjoy some memories or make some new ones. Watch Jurassic Park, go to the movies. Just take the little kids to something more appropriate for them, and be a little bit considerate to your fellow theater companions. 

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Psycho-Paramount Summer Classic Film Series


The above is the famous Alfred Hitchcock promo for his film "Psycho". It is a six and a half minute trailer, it is an amusing tour of the location for the movie with some dry commentary from the master himself.

This was the final film in the Hitchcock week of films and sadly it was the only one I could make it to this summer. "Psycho actually screened once before, earlier in the week, but the demand for the film was such that the Saturday matinee was packed also, and there was plenty to be excited about. 

"Psycho" is the precursor to all the slasher films to come, and they still all have failed to live up to it's legendary status. That's because those films focus on the horror of the murders but they have paper thin characters. "Psycho" has a half dozen interesting characters and two leads that are among the finest performances ever in a film, much less a horror film. Janet Leigh exits the film in twenty minutes, but up to Marion Crane's death she is a terrific character filled with lust, sadness, guile, guilt and regret. Her story arc is interrupted by her murder but we understand in the end that she was a good woman who simply went mad for a moment. Norman Bates on the other hand, has been mad for years, and it is only for a few moments at a time that he seems sane.

The clash between the thief with regret and the mother's boy with sexual hang-ups is so perfectly played out in the scene in the office parlor of the motel. Marion is thoughtful, sympathetic and friendly with Norman, in spite of his obvious quirks. Norman is outgoing, sad, resentful and shy as he talks with Marion over a cheese sandwich and a glass of milk. The surroundings look comfortable, until you notice all the stuffed birds in the room, and suddenly his quirks are a little more disconcerting. Leigh and Perkins are both brilliant in this scene and it is my favorite in the movie.

Martin Balsam has been in a number of films I have loved over the years. His private detective Arbogast, is surprisingly warm in this film. He is looking for someone who has run away and has a small fortune in her purse, but his relentless search is not malevolent, he seems to want to help Marion as much as find her. His sympathy toward Lila, her sister, and even Sam Loomis, comes across as real rather than just a tool to put them at ease. Even his dogged questioning of Norman is done with velvet gloves. His moment is the opposite of Marion's. She was a victim of a slow build up that the audience sees coming, his encounter with Mrs. Bates is shockingly quick and almost a jump cut. 


The title sequence and the Bernard Herrmann theme are enough to get most people salivating at the thought of the whole movie. The work of Saul Bass is legendary and his design for the title sequence is simple and exquisite. Combine that with the string saturated violence in Herrmann's score and you know a treat is coming. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023


 Liam Neeson action film. A Video Review

Gran Turismo


Very much like hockey, I am not a fan of car racing in the real world. It seems loud, it deals with machines that are way out of my league or understanding, and I just never got interested in it. Also like hockey however, I seem to have a soft spot for movies about the subject. From "Speed Racer" to "The Fast and Furious" movies, along with "Rush" and "Ford vs. Ferrari", heck even "Cars", I have enjoyed a bucketload of car racing movies. I am happy to add "Gran Turismo" to the list. This is a slick, very well made and very familiar story, but as they say, it hits on all cylinders. 

This movie comes from Play Station Productions, so it seems like a video game film, but as is emphasized by several characters in the movie, it is a simulation not a game (in spite of the fact that the lead goes on line and plays against others). It appears that the designers have been meticulous in creating environments and feedback that replicate much that goes on in formula one racing. I looked up the guy who is the basis for the movie and there is a reason this film got made. His emergence as a driver did derive from his sim play and there was success on a level that seems impressive for someone with that background. Frankly, as I read about all of the racing formulas, levels, classes, championship circuits, my eyes glazed over. There is too much for a non-fan to take in, but I was convinced he was legit.

Obviously, the real events have to be fashioned into a story, and the script will contain no surprises at all. Jann, played by  Archie Madekwe, is a gaming phenomena in his local gaming den, and has a reputation across the internet as a formidable driver. He is also alienated from his father played by Djimon Hounsou, a former professional soccer player who does not understand the obsession with a "video-game". Jann gets recruited through an on line invitation to the "GT Academy" which is designed to hone the skills of sim players into actual race car drivers. Orlando Bloom plays a marketing executive who is trying to sell Nissan Motorsports on the idea of making a sim player a driver for their team. Once he gets that idea approved, he has to find an engineer/mechanic who can teach the gamer kids how to be real drivers. David Harbour is the reluctant former driver who takes up the challenge after being fed up with the snot faced racing team he is currently working for. So antipathy from his family, a mentor with a tragic past, a team of competitors that he has to beat to get his chance, does all of this seem familiar? It feels like a hundred other movies but here is the thing, it is executed precisely. The Academy montages, the setbacks and recoveries, the philosophical talks and lectures have all happened in plenty of movies before. I was expecting Jack Salter, the trainer played by Harbour, to say at one point, " You're gonna eat lightnin' and you're gonna crap thunder!".

Meanwhile, director Neill Blomkamp, who made "District 9" so many years ago, creatively puts Jann in sim cars that turn into real cars and real cars that turn into sim cars, so that we can see the relationship between the two experiences. Jann proves himself to his mentor now the two of them have to prove their concept to the world. There are several races where Jann is trying to qualify for his racing license, I'm a little unclear as to how that works, but in the context of the story it is fine. Those races are staged imaginatively, including one spectacular crash that provides the major moment of doubt before the last act. One thing I did notice in the racing scenes is that the shots frequently have the camera facing the opposite direction and running past the cars, not simply matching speed and showing the forward progress. This has the nice effect of making the speeds seem even faster as we are watching.

The emotional journey of Jack and Jann is fairly standard, but there is a reason for that, it works. The goal of our two protagonists are to prove themselves and gain redemption. The excellent car racing scenes show us why the process is complicated and give us enough context to know that the two leads have to have their ducks lined up in a row to achieve the end result. There are plenty of obstacles that have to be overcome, and there are the bonding moments that will emotionally satisfy. David Harbour is especially effective as the guy who knows where it's at because he could not get there himself. I was surprised to see that Jann's Mom, who has one scene of anguish while watching a race, was played by former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell. She was a nice match with Hounsou.

The film is not groundbreaking, but it is very entertaining and well worth your investment in time and money. I found plenty of suspense in the right spots, and a little bit of humor in others. Maybe the reconciliations and moments where the a-hole competing drivers get shown up are a little conventional, but that sort of reassurance is what you see a movie like this for. 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

KAMAD Throwback Thursdays 1975: The Eiger Sanction

Throwback Thursday #TBT

Throwback Thursday on the KAMAD site will be a regular occurrence in the next year. As a motivational project, to make sure I am working on something, even in a week where I don't see a new film in a theater, I am going to post on movies from 1975. Along with 1984, this is one of my favorite years for movies and it is full of bittersweet memories as well. 1975 was my Senior Year in High School and my Freshman Year in College. The greatest film of the last 60 years came out in 1975, as well as dozens of great and not so great cinematic endeavors. Most of the films in this weekly series will have been seen in a theater in 1975, but there are several that I only caught up with later. I hope you all enjoy.

The Eiger Sanction

This is the second time I have written about this film for the blog. The first was on my original Movie a Day project that started the whole blog. "The Eiger Sanction" was number 73 on that summer countdown. As one of the few films on the project from Clint Eastwood, that was not a western, it should stand out a little more. I was probably a little underwhelmed when I wrote about it thirteen years ago because it was a slow burn that took ninety minutes to get to the featured premise of the movie, mountain climbing spy action. 

In filling the time before we actually arrive in Switzerland to ascend the Eiger, there first is a series of scenes and plotlines that feel only slightly connected to the plot. The best is Clint going to Europe to execute one of the killers he has been sent to "sanction". He is Johnathan Hemlock, an executioner for a secret agency known as C-2, that is directed by a mysterious Albino called Dragon. Hemlock wants out and is refusing to continue to work for C-2, but Dragon blackmails him into performing this last sanction by threatening his art collection, which is Hemlock's main motivation for working in the field in the first place. Like Charles Bronson in "The Mechanic", Hemlock appreciates art and music and uses his wealth to acquire a fantastic collection that today would be worth hundreds of millions. 

In my original post I warned that this film might be a little tough for modern audiences to accept. The intervening years have made that even more the case. Hemlock passes himself off at one point as an effeminate delivery man to throw off the prey he is after. When he gets a chance to gain revenge against a former friend who is a raging homosexual by 1970s standards, he is particularly cruel. The name the antagonist has for his dog is not only insensitive but nearly as objectionable as if he had named to dog with the "N" word. Like Ethan Hunt or James Bond, Hemlock ends up in bed with another asset of the company and gets trapped into carrying out an even more elaborate "sanction" of an as yet unidentified counter agent. That woman is named Jemima Brown, and there are plenty of jokes about pancakes and ethnicity. There is an extended sequence of Hemlock training for a climbing expedition, and an attractive woman of Native American heritage becomes a sex object with the added bonus of jokes about Cowboys and Indians. 

A few things that I do want to draw attention to. First of all, the opening section of the film is set in Zurich, as a man drinks his beer next to a canal or river, and then strolls through some older traditional parts of the city to his apartment. All the while, there is no dialogue and the music is by the great John Williams. 

I feel like I have seen a dozen movies from the era that repeat the same kind of sequence at the start. It was a trope of the era and if you listen to the music clip above, you will hear a familiar piano style tune that has been enhanced with some jazz and electronic tools to make it sound more mysterious. It's not a bad thing at all, it just feels overly familiar, although it may not have been so when the film first came out. 

The main reason to see the film is for the suspenseful climbing sequences that take place in the last half hour of the film. The movie was made on location and there are no blue/green screen composite shots in the film. Eastwood did his own climbing in this section as well as some the ascent of the Totem Pole edifice in Monument Valley (although he and George Kennedy were helicoptered to the top and professional climbers did the main ascent). 

On the Eiger, there were dangerous shots that actually lead to some injuries to  a camera operator, and a another climber, helping with camera shots was killed by falling rocks. Eastwood did the ultimate stunt at the end of the film when dangling by a rope several thousand feet above the valley floor. He actually drops when he cuts the rope above him, it is hard to imagine that a movie studio could get insurance for an actor/director in that scenario today (Tom Cruise being the exception maybe). 

The plot gets convoluted as it usually does with a spy film. There are double crosses, mixed motives, and attacks from unanticipated sources around every corner. There is a sense that this is a more serious sort of James Bond film, but then "Dragon" runs the command from his light free subterranean lair, and the other operative we see is an ineffectual lug who has less knowledge of karate than I do. I will say there is one trick I learned from this film. If someone is following to close behind me, instead of tapping the breaks which interferes with my momentum, I sometimes turn on my head lights which activates the rear lights and makes whoever is following, think you are breaking. 

I will recommend the film to those who like a slow burn, a satisfying action climax and don't mind a little 70s sexism and racism spicing up the film.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

The Last Voyage of the Demeter


Earlier this year, we got a variation on the Dracula legend that followed the supporting character of Renfield. That film was primarily a comedy, but the twist of focusing on a secondary story component as the basis of a film is what seems to have produced this movie as well. The film directly gives credit to the Captain's Log from the original Dracula novel. If you have never read Dracula, you might be surprised to find that it is structured not as a singular narrative, but as a series of letters, journal entries, legal communications, telegrams and such. The Captain's Log is one such document that fills in the story. This film attempts to fill in the log.

The set up of the story is pretty effective with a group of Roma men delivering a set of crates to be delivered to England, dockside. Their are anxious to leave before sundown and will not assist in loading the crates. A young man, anxious to get back to England, ultimately hires on as a hand to set things in motion. The story telling convenience is that he is a doctor. Why would a medical professional have to join the crew of the Demeter to get back to England?  The plot creates a reason that he is unable to get work as a doctor, because he is a black man. These two contrivances are the only things at the start of the story which feel a little forced. Otherwise, it all works at building the situation pretty well with a little bit of mystery. 

We get a plotline that has been pretty well established over the years in horror films. The crew gets wiped out one at a time by a malevolent evil on board (I just saw Alien again last week, and the parallels are obvious). Unlike some previous films, like Alien, we don't quite get to care about the crew as much as we might need to. The manner in which they are dispatched is usually pretty interesting and creepy, but it does not feel particularly surprising. Maybe that's because of the prologue at the start of the film that lets us know from the beginning that everyone is dead.

"The Last Voyage of the Demeter" is a good looking film, with a production design that convincingly shows us the environment and operating of the ship. The CGI effects are pretty heavy and the vessel in the long shots from the sea is not quite as convincing as the moments on the deck or down in the hold. The creature effects are fine but we see Dracula too soon and too often in the film. The only surprise that comes in the climax are the wings, but we were tipped to that earlier and that also diminishes the horror effects. There is a coda section that does not make much sense, and it seems designed to justify a sequel, which also does not make any sense. 

It is not an essential film in the Dracula portfolio of films. I was mildly entertained by the film but I was not impressed by it. I like the idea of trying a variant on the story while using a part of the original plotline, but it seems a bit ambitious for what is ultimately a simple story. When I see it in the five dollar blu ray bin at Wal-mart or Best Buy, I will add it to my collection, but I won't feel compelled to buy a special edition 4K release, it just is not that special. 

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Clash of the Titans-Paramount Summer Classic Film Series


I have been a fan of Ray Harryhausen since I can ever remember seeing a movie. "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms" played on the Saturday Night Creature Feature on KHJ TV Channel 9, sometime in the mid-sixties and that's where it started. "Mysterious Island" was always my favorite although "Jason and the Argonauts would give it a fierce fight in my heart. The stop motion effects in movies always felt magical to me, even when they were not always convincing, I think that's what a child's imagination can fix. I still prefer the motion effects tauntauns in "The Empire Strikes Back" to the CGI monsters of the Star Wars Prequels. 

Yesterday at the Paramount Theater in Austin, the Summer Classic Film Series offered Harryhausen's final film, "Clash of the Titans" as a matinee feature, and it was part of the 🎬 Robert Rodriguez Presents, series where Austin based filmmaker Robert Rodriguez introduces the films he has chosen and shares some information about the movie and the people who made it. As part of his presentation, he had a set of pictures that he shared with the audience, from one of his film sets, where Ray Harryhausen had come by to watch him work. Seeing the smiles on the faces of the people making the movie, including Quentin Tarantino and Tom Savini, as well as Rodriguez,  tells you everything about how these contemporary movie people felt about Mr. Harryhausen and his work. He also shared some clips from his soon to Debut on Netflix Spy Kids Movie. It features several scenes with creatures that are clearly inspired by Harryhausen's work. 

"Clash of the Titans" tells the story of Perseus, the favored son of Zeus, who has been cast adrift with his mother by an angry grandfather, the King of Argos. Zeus intervenes, and has Argos destroyed and Perseus saved, so that he can meet his ultimate destiny. The gods and goddesses of Olympus are played by well known actors, including Laurence Olivier himself portraying Zeus. Jealous Goddesses play tricks on the character, putting him in a series of dangerous situations but also providing him with tools to face those situations with.

Basically, the film is a set of events that allow Harryhausen to show off his technique. Perseus battles Calibos, each of them captures Pegasus at some point, a giant Vulture picks up and delivers Andromeda in her dream state,  scorpions and other monsters need to be defeated. The ultimate goal is for Perseus to obtain the head of  Medusa to use against the Kraken which will soon be set on the city of Joppa, home to Andromeda and her mother Cassiopeia. It's all very convoluted with the actors on Olympus doing very little except standing around on the set. There is plenty of wanton destruction in the film and the loyal soldiers of Joppa who accompany Perseus on his mission are decimated by the time the climax of the film shows up.

Magic helmets that create invisibility, swords that can cleave marble and a mechanical owl with intelligence are all assets that Perseus uses and that Harryhausen gets a chance to integrate into the action at times. The pace of the film seems to lag between the animated pieces, and the actors are not particularly dynamic, but any moment something wonderous will show up so be patient, your eyes will be rewarded.

The 35mm print that was used to show the film has some color inconsistencies that have resulted from aging, but the effects look pretty vivid on film. The audience was appreciative and the host was excellent. My praise for the host is maybe a little biased, he asked the audience about when they had first seen the film and which other Harryhausen films we'd seen. I am not a shrinking violet, so I shouted out my answers and Rodriguez asked me in particular some follow ups. He then called me down to the front of the proscenium and awarded me a book on the Art of Ray Harryhausen. I am grateful for the gift and I was even more pleased when I got home and found that Mr. Rodriguez had signed the book as well. This was a terrific cap to my afternoon at the Paramount, which has essentially been my summer home this season. Still looking forward to some great films to finish August.   

Friday, August 18, 2023

Alien-Paramount Summer Classic Film Series


Many have said the trailer above is the greatest film trailer of all time. It establishes that there is a mystery, that it involves horror, that there is action, and it shows tidbits of information without giving anything away about the plot. It also has the greatest tagline of a movie, ever. Last night, at the Paramount Theater, you could hear the screams. "Alien" continues to be one of the best fright films ever made, with a stellar cast, a terrific production design and the tension ratcheted up by director Ridley Scott. When we got on the elevator in the parking structure to go over to the film, two guys saw our shirts and knew we were headed to the film. We chatted very briefly, and one of the young men said he was seeing the film for the first time. I envied him. This is a movie with surprises and scares and seeing it for the first time in a theater is the best way to experience it.

The premise of the film is that Earth Conglomerates have started mining the universe for minerals and that they are also interested in other valuable properties as well. If you have not seen the movie, proceed with caution because I am going to dance around a couple of potential spoilers here. The crew of the Nostromo, a towing vehicle with a full load, is awakened from their interplanetary slumber, to investigate a signal that cannot be natural but must have some kind of intelligent design, maybe an SOS. The crew are working stiffs with their own hierarchy, reflecting a chain of command but also the jobs that they perform. There are some normal resentments about pay and working conditions, but everyone shares the discomfort of the job and wants to get home. The detour to a nearby planet to investigate the signal, results in a series of events that are catastrophic but also may be deliberate. As a late 70s film, the plot is thick with conspiracies, suspicions about the motives of the corporation, and distrust of various crew members. If it were not a science-fiction/horror film, it could easily have fit in with other conspiracy based movies of the era.

Slow burn set up was typical of movies in those days and that is what we get here. All the characters are introduced, we know a little about them. The routines of the job are shown and the work space is mapped out for us a bit. All of that is needed and it takes a half hour before we get to the first terrifying moment of the film. Of course the score by Jerry Goldsmith has been building up the tension from the beginning, but it is not until Dallas, Lambert and Kane are on their expedition to the derelict ship, that we know it is time for our sphincters to tighten.

Sigourney Weaver dominates the film, in spite of being third billed because her character has the biggest story arc. She has to be a hard ass bureaucrat, then a tender hearted animal lover, and a inquisitory third in command who is rapidly moving up to a position of even greater authority. She is a character who gets mocked at one point, ignored at a critical junction and then has to take charge. The suspicions that she develops about one of the crew come from legitimate questions about procedure and not just personal animus. It's a little ironic because the Weylan-Yutani Corporation might have sabotaged their secret agenda, if everyone followed the rules the company had set up in the first place. Ripley is a great character, who expands even more as a compelling presence in the sequel film. I've said it before, when people ask me which film I like the best, "Alien" or "Aliens", the answer always depends on which one I saw last. So for today, Alien is my favorite. 

There is only one shot in the film that struggles to work for me, and it is an aggressively obvious transition shot that just could not be done except with an awkward edit. It is over quickly though and the remainder of the scene is really creepy and effective. Sure, in the end, the film is about the elimination of the crew one by one, but the journey is filled with great characters, funny moments, some great jump scares and a lot of technical detail. On the way out of the theater last night, I heard someone saying that the film worked well for an older movie. I'll take the practical effects and gritty sets over CGI imitations anytime. That "old" movie line was used in "Infinity War" and it got a laugh, because people who remember the film, don't see old, they see "classic". 

Thursday, August 17, 2023

KAMAD Throwback Thursdays 1975: Jaws

 Throwback Thursday #TBT

Throwback Thursday on the KAMAD site will be a regular occurrence in the next year. As a motivational project, to make sure I am working on something, even in a week where I don't see a new film in a theater, I am going to post on movies from 1975. Along with 1984, this is one of my favorite years for movies and it is full of bittersweet memories as well. 1975 was my Senior Year in High School and my Freshman Year in College. The greatest film of the last 60 years came out in 1975, as well as dozens of great and not so great cinematic endeavors. Most of the films in this weekly series will have been seen in a theater in 1975, but there are several that I only caught up with later. I hope you all enjoy.


This was a hectic day and I didn't get a chance to rewatch a film for the project, so I'm sharing with you some of the material from the past on the greatest film of 1975. 

I had two theatrical presentations of Jaws this year, one in May, and the second in July.  Of course I have seen the movie at home a couple of times earlier in the year. Frankly, I could watch this movie ten times a year rather than the four or five that have been standaard for me over the last couple of decades. This is the movie that I know I have seen the most and it is also the one I have written about the most.

Back in 2015, on the fortieth Anniversary of the film, I did an extensive set of posts celebrating the four decade long reign of this film as my favorite (At least of the second half of the twentieth century). 

Here are some links for you to go back and see from that time frame.

A list of non-shark shark sightings in the film.  

Everyone knows the most famous line from the film, here are some other good ones.

We have probably added a dozen to the collection in the last eight years, this was Amanda's Closet in 2015.

The three leads are not the only great characters in the picture.

Here's to swimming with bow legged women.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off-Paramount Summer Classic Film Series


Let's face it, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" only pretends to have a social value buried in it somewhere. It is not really there. Cameron is a puppet, Sloane is a trophy, and Mr. Rooney is the Coyote to Ferris's Roadrunner. It's a live action cartoon set in Chicago, featuring misbehaving high school kids against the world. We root for them because their antagonists are so exaggeratedly drawn that you want them to succeed in spite of how obnoxious they can be.  Ferris is an entitled brat, Cameron is a put upon drone and Sloane is the eye candy they drag along with them. That said,  he's very popular. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads - they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude, and for the most part so do I.

Ferris is living out a fantasy of a day skipping school. You get your best friend, your best girl, in the coolest car possible, and you lead them on an adventure that will be talked about the rest of their lives. Of course we love it, we all wish we could do some of those things, and boy do John Hughes and Ferris Bueller sell us on that dream. I remembered the review from Siskel and Ebert when Gene complained that the kids didn't do anything very interesting on they day off. They went up in the Sears Tower, ate at a fancy restaurant, went to a Cubs game at Wrigley field (Gene's big complaint was that they didn't sit in the bleachers), spent time at the Art Institute of Chicago, hijacked a parade in an elaborate fantasy moment, and outwitted their nemesis at every turn. He had a pretty high standard for what a good day in Chicago would be. He also complained that the breaking of the fourth wall was not funny. Before it was used in every comedy show in the 2000s, it was not typical for characters to address the situations they were in from a third person perspective, now that is everywhere, Hughes was just ahead of his time.

When Ferris addresses the audience, he says things that the target audience will relate to. "I'm not going to live in Europe so why do I care if they are socialist?" He is the unstoppable force that is impervious to the barriers that are thrown up against him. Cameron points out the fantasy at one point, "He never gets caught".  We see that superpower played out repeatedly and we are in on the joke. We know it is a fantasy and that's what helps make it so much fun. Of course Ferris did not choreograph the parade watchers and participants in the dance sequence in downtown Chicago, that is just the dream and it is an enjoyable one. 

Matthew Broderick was becoming a big star at the time and this role sent him to the top. He was never lumped in with the brat pack actors of his era, and he managed to play a lot of parts that showcase him as the star, not just one in an ensemble. His supercilious delivery of his lines and attitude to everyone else in the film is right, but it could easily be off-putting. Broderick manages to wald the line between everyman and arrogant snot pretty well. The sort of tacked on relationship advice he gives to Cameron seems plausible only because he is a kid as well. 

The parade, the good natured theft and return of the Ferrari, the intricate tricks Ferris used to fake out his parents and anyone else questioning hi illness are all humorous moments that are not meant to be taken literally. It's not really a film about empowerment, it's a film that embraces a philosophy of fun, regardless of how difficult the dream would be to attain. Life moves pretty fast, maybe we ought to enjoy it while we are here. 
I had this poster on the wall of my office at school for several years. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Animal House-Paramount Summer Classic Film Series


Another great comedy to start wrapping up the summer with. Technically, this is the 45th anniversary of "Animal House" but that can't be right can it? This movie feels eternal. I know that sounds strange given that today's climate would not be tolerant of a lot of the things that are used as comedy plotlines here. This movie features cheating, stalking, peeping, underage sex, racial profiling, animal death, theft, drunk driving, shooting guns at others for fun, you know, all the stuff that would put you in Twitter (X) jail forever.

Somehow, it still feels relatively innocent because it is set in a time that was even more repressive than these, and it throws all of this in the face of authority that would try to contain it. It certainly doesn't hurt to have John Belushi as the chaotic dervish at the center of many of these shenanigans. Belushi managed to make even the most twisted sort of behaviour feel like impish fun with his head tilt, shoulder shrug and raised eyebrows. Probably everyone who went to college, at some point knew a loser who was not malicious, but simply clueless as to how they impacted the world around them, Bluto is that guy.

Tim Mathison as "Otter", is the one who really has a story arc, but progress on the plot is not what this movie is about. These are comic character sketches and "Otter" is the slick operator with a pithy comment and detached attitude about the mayhem going on around him. It's interesting that we still sympathize with him when the rival fraternity ambushes him, after all, he just executed the cruelest manipulation to get a date that you are ever likely to see. It is his jovial, devil may care attitude that lets him get away with being a total ass and still we are damn glad to meet him. 

The hovel that is the Delta House is also not too unfamiliar. If you are in the right college town, there is always a dump that will pass as student housing, and it is a two way street, the house gets abused by the residents, sure, but the residents are often behaving in a way that seems befitting of the place they live. Which is the cause and which is the effect? Also, all you have to do to spark stupidity is add alcohol, and kids in college seem to take that as an obligation sometimes. The rituals of a passage in their life. Fortunately, in the movies, it results in minor comic moments as opposed to tragedies. That's another reason we give this a pass, we know it is a story designed to evoke laughter, it doesn't pretend to have any life lessons buried inside of it. 

I wrote about this film in my original project and you can read those comments here. It was also part of a TCM Film Festival Program I attended and there is some information on that screening Here. "Animal House" is politically incorrect, vulgar, anti-authoritarian, and as funny as hell, almost fifty years later. 

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Valley Girl Redux (2023 2nd Edition)


Having written about the film just a week ago, I'm not ready to write any new insights but I did see the film again in the theater and I think I will share a couple of things with you. The video above is a few years old but it does an excellent job of re-visiting the filming locations for "Valley Girl". I ran across it this week and I think you might enjoy. 

Here is a little taste for you of The Plimsouls in the movie. 

It's not the clip from the movie, but the original music video for the song.

Bitchin'! Is this in 3-D?
No, but my face is.

And the montage that makes a grown man cry. Love you Dee.

RRR-Paramount Summer Classic Film Series


[I strongly recommend skipping the trailer if you have not yet seen the movie. It's not so much spoilers as it is the discovery of what you are watching that might matter.]

This film came out a year ago and there were plenty of recommendations from friends in the Cinema Loving Community who recommended it. My only reservation was that it is three hours long and I just needed to find a time that would work. When it showed up on Netflix, I thought, "Good, now I have a chance to catch up with it." I never did. Finally, I saw that it was going to be featured as part of the Summer Film Series at the Paramount Theater in Austin, and I decided to wait so I could experience it for the first time on the big screen. Oh am I glad I waited. 

To begin with, this movie is epic, hyperbolic and inventive as all get out. "RRR" is a an Indian film, made in a language that is not Hindi and it focuses on two legendary revolutionary figures. Historical accuracy has nothing to do with this film. It is set in India, primarily in Delhi in the 1920s. The British Empire is presented as a near totalitarian regime and represented by a Governor who may have emigrated from Nazi Germany. None of that matters one bit. Although it is filled with story lines that are clearly propaganda gone wild, it is the friendship at the center of the story, and the amazing cinematic visuals that make this movie literally sing. Yes, at times it is a musical. 

Comic book movies from Marvel and D.C. have nothing on this superhero story that feature two extraordinary men of strong will, who are divided by circumstances not goals. I don't know anything about the actors or the director, they all apparently have a great deal of success in the  film community of their native language (not Bollywood by the way). This is the kind of breakthrough film that could extend their film fame to a bigger audience, N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan are both charismatic and solid actors. I hope some of their films will make their way into my cinema queue in the future. 
S. S. Rajamouli is the most successful Indian director of all time, and one of the influential artists of the world, and I knew nothing about him, that is going to change.

The movie is filled with over the top emotional moments, including oiled up, muscle bursting training montages and close up, love lorn looks, and seething anger and resentment. All of this is accompanied by the exquisite music from  M. M. Keeravani, who also co-wrote the Academy Award winning song from this movie, "Naatu Naatu".  The dance sequence that is partnered with the song is one of the greatest on screen expression of exuberance in dancing that you will ever see.  It puts those moments in "Barbie" that aspire to do the same kind of thing, to shame. 

As great and entertaining as the singing and dancing moments are, they are matched by some of the most eye popping, jaw dropping, cheer inspiring action scenes you are ever likely to see. Unlike the "Fast and Furious" movies, this film embraces magical realism rather than pretending physics doesn't exist. We can accept some of the outrageous moments because we know this is a fantasy film. The scenes of rescue are heroically out there, and the attack with the animals is so much fun and looks so great that we don't care whether it makes sense. Our heroes can practically fly in some scenes but still we believe because we know this is myth not history.

The best part about waiting to see this was that the audience I was with was fulling embracing the spirit of the film. They hissed at the villains, cheered at the heroes, and when the music was at its most boisterous, you could feel people doing chair dancing in their theater seats. There was applause at several moments in the film and at the end the applause and cheers were loud and passionate. I had sooo much fun seeing this movie. It's an example of something that is purely cinematic, but also completely different from what we see in most western films. If there is any way you can see this in a theater, do that first, if not, make sure you are watching with some other people, you will want to high five and dance with someone while you do. 

Friday, August 11, 2023

Cool Hand Luke-Paramount Summer Classic Film Series


I was once a guest on the Lambcast when we discussed this movie. Some of the other guests seemed befuddled at why the film is so iconic and loved. I recall that one person said that Paul Newman's character did not have a story arc and he was the same at the end of the film as he was at the beginning. That my friends is the point! Luke Jackson was a non-conformist in the days when conforming was to be expected. The story is set in the 1950s, but the film came out in 1967. The social revolution was in full swing, and here was a movie that celebrated it's spirit, even if Luke was not a hippie. He was anti-establishment, ant-authoritarian and the friendliest misanthrope you are ever likely to encounter.

Paul Newman was one of our great actors and he excelled in all sorts of parts where his laconic delivery, crooked smile and deep blue eyes could make even a weak script sing. Here the script is not weak, it is powerful with a defiant message about the soul crushing influence of conformity. At one point, the idea is made extremely clear when it looks like Luke has been broken by the repeated torments of the guards. He confesses to Dragline, his friend played by George Kennedy, that he was broken, but as we see in the last act, he returns to his defiant manner and mocking tone. Luke was a world shaker, in the small world that he occupied, but most of us live in such small worlds. It is our own lives that we need to be accountable for. Newman could smirk at God and still seem humble. Whether winning at cards, losing in a fight, succeeding at escaping or failing to elude captors, Newman let's us know that Luke is not going to be changed by the events of his life. The closest he comes to any such movement was the death of his Mother, but it took the unjust act of the prison captain, to put him in the isolation box to discourage running, that provokes the exact opposite reaction.

If you look at the cast list, you will see a bench so deep as to be unbelievable. The character actors in this film are a who's who of great film and TV actors of the 60s and 70s. Even the ones who have no lines and are just seen in the background, add so much to the ambience of the work camp. Hell, Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton are in this film, and they are swamped by some of the other talent on the scree. George Kennedy deservedly won the Supporting Actor Oscar this year for his character of Dragline. It's a performance that when coupled with Newman almost sucks the air out of the film for any other actor. Almost.

Reader's of this site know that there is a companion site devoted to the great character actor Strother Martin. I would encourage you to visit there and find some other indelible performances, but let me add a few sentences here before I move on to other contributors. The Captain, is one of the most evil characters Martin would ever play, but on the face of it, he seems almost compassionate towards the prisoners. Of course what he says and what he does are two different things. He gives a speech of welcome to the incoming prisoners and he seems mildly interested in them, but allows the man guarding them to abuse the men without any reprimand or reservations. Much of his performance is silent, as he stares at the prisoners and the guards from his porch, taking in the cruelty and abuse from both the inmates and their jail keepers. His gentile voice and disarming twang, suggest some humanity, but look at the dispassionate expression on his face when Dog Boy, played by Anthony Zerbe, breaks down over the death of one of his beloved bloodhounds. The Captain couldn't care less. The façade of  compassion is only broken when Luke mouths off after being captured and beaten. His ego having been attacked sets loose an inner rage that we don't ever see again. It is when Martin tries to restore the image of humanity to the Captain that the famous quote from the movie emerges from his mouth. Not a reprimand but an attempt at explanation. "What we've got here is...failure to communicate."

When Stephen Jannise, the programmer who introduces the films, noted that Stuart Rosenberg is not a household name when it comes to film directors, he is right. but he was nominated five times for DGA Awards, including a nomination for Best Director for this film. Watching the scenes fade in and out, using crane or helicopter shots, is pretty impressive. The sequences where Newman is escaping and trying to throw off the scent that the hound dogs are following, are staged very cleverly and a entertaining as heck. The race of the prisoners to finish tarring the road is a collaboration between Editor Sam O'Steen , Cinematographer Conrad Hall, and Composer, Lalo Schifrin. The visual and music elements are great but Director Rosenberg should get some credit for putting it all together. I think the more often I see the film, the more I am impressed with the technical aspects of the film and not just the performances. Even the title scene deserves some attention for setting up the theme of the film right from the start.

Once more, watching the film with an audience is a treasure to be savored. I heard laughter and groans and intakes of breath for a dozen scenes in the movie. People responded to Like' resilience in the fight scene, they were horrified by the egg eating sequence, and they were cheering the ways Luke tried to outfox the hounds. I have watched this movie dozens of times at home, but the three times I've seen it on the big screen with an attentive audience, are the screenings that will always stand out to me. Classic film fans will always show up for this kind of event, but the rest of the movie going world needs some encouragement. Remember, if you haven't seen it before, it's a new movie for you, regardless of when it was made. So "get your mind right", and make the effort. 

Thursday, August 10, 2023

KAMAD Throwback Thursdays 1975: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother

Throwback Thursday #TBT

Throwback Thursday on the KAMAD site will be a regular occurrence in the next year. As a motivational project, to make sure I am working on something, even in a week where I don't see a new film in a theater, I am going to post on movies from 1975. Along with 1984, this is one of my favorite years for movies and it is full of bittersweet memories as well. 1975 was my Senior Year in High School and my Freshman Year in College. The greatest film of the last 60 years came out in 1975, as well as dozens of great and not so great cinematic endeavors. Most of the films in this weekly series will have been seen in a theater in 1975, but there are several that I only caught up with later. I hope you all enjoy.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother

Once the door had been opened by Mel Brooks with "Blazing Saddles", it became inevitable that there would be comedies coming on a regular basis from the collection of crazies that had put that gem together. The follow up was "Young Frankenstein" and it's a better film, although maybe just slightly so. Parodies of  Silent films, Hitchcock, and Biblical epics would be coming down the pike soon. In addition to Brooks, Gene Wilder would direct some of these 70s and 80s comedies and Marty Feldman would write and star in some of them as well. Today's entry into my Throwback Thursday series is the first movie that Gene Wilder directed.

He had this idea for a comedy take off on Sherlock Holmes while he was working with Marty Feldman and Madeline Kahn on "Young Frankenstein", and Wilder said that if he had been unable to cast the two of them in the film with him, he would have just skipped it. Fortunately, they read the script and liked it and both joined up to continue the shenanigans they had begun with Brooks. This is a farce with it's heart in the right place, and although it does descend to a couple of sex references that are mildly risqué, if you are watching with tweens and teen, you should be OK.

Mycroft was the brother that was mentioned in the original Conan Doyle books, and what Wilder has done is simply added a younger brother, frustrated by being in the shadow of his siblings and anxious to prove himself. Sigerson Holmes is a funny enough name and it fits with the other two Holmes siblings as odd enough but also slightly sophisticated. The name comes from an alias that Holmes used in a short story written by Conan Doyle. Both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are characters in this film but they are mostly in the background, with one big exception. There is a very amusing scene where Holmes and Watson are supposedly leaving London, which is why Sigerson is stepping in for him. It is a subterfuge, and the manner in which it is accomplished is very amusing.

Madeline Kahn was a national treasure who left us far too soon, but not before contributing to some of the greatest comedies of all time. In this film she is the romantic female lead,  and her character seems to be a variation of  Brigid O'Shaughnessy, from "The Maltese Falcon", you can never trust anything she says, and from the beginning Sigerson knows it. Kahn performs several dance hall songs from the era the film is set, the 1890s, and she has a great singing voice and can do the singing in a comic manner that is required. 

Marty Feldman also left us much to early and here he plays a combination of a Dr. Watson/Inspector Lestrade character. The comic bit that they create for him is that he has photographic hearing and sometimes gets stuck in repeating back information and needs a little push like a record that is skipping. As the comic foil to Wilder's Sigerson, the two of them are well matched clowns who carry off both some verbal humor and some slapstick. 

There are some great visual jokes, like the duel on top of hansom cabs and the sets behind the scenes of the opera they participate in. Dom Deluise hams it up as a conspirator in the plan by the well known nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, Professor Moriarty. Leo McKern is the professor with a case of Tourette's syndrome. There is a sword fight near the end  and there was a  "Chekhov's Gun" set up early on. Wilder was in fact proficient in sword play having trained in fencing during his time in a theatrical school.  

This is ultimately a pretty sweet film although it has some distasteful moments. All of that will be forgiven when the Kangaroo Hop comes along. Enjoy.  

The Great Escape-Paramount Summer Classic Films Series


One of the reasons I took the approach I have for this blog, was so I can do exactly what I am doing now, writing about a film I love, because I saw it in a theater. I have watched "The Great Escape" dozens of times, I own it on Laserdisc, DVD, and Blu-ray, but I have never seen it in a theater on the big screen, what a magnificent film! The story of the biggest prisoner escape during WWII is told in a straight forward narrative with plenty of suspense and great characters along the way.

Take a look at this cast, it is very impressive. There are a ton of British actors that you will recognize, even if you don't know their names, and the American cast is stacked with legendary stars like Steve McQueen and James Garner. The film is nearly three hours long but never feels too long because all the pieces are put together so well. The plan is laid out for us, we know who everyone is and what their responsibilities are. There are great character points and a bit of humor here and there, but no one simply exists as comic relief. The one plot line that suggests it was designed to amuse us with humor, ends tragically and sets one of the characters on a different trajectory. 

Donald Pleasance, who had made dozens of things before this, first appeared on my radar as Blythe in this film. His fish out of water forger was sympathetic and ultimately tragic, which I think made him stand out for me for the rest of his career. He was Blofeld in "You Onley Live Twice", he was in "Fantastic Planet", "THX1138", a terrific TV Movie version of "The Count of Monte Cristo" and he is Dr. Loomis in the "Halloween" series. Heck, I even liked his parody of Robert Stigwood in "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band". The relationship he and James Garner develop in the film is one that will resonate well with people who come together under trying circumstances.  Garner is great as a scrounger, he basically played the same character the next year in "The Americanization of Emily". Garner's aw shucks flim flam style will sustain him through a dozen future feature films and the television show "The Rockford Files". 

For a decade,  I was was sure that Charles Bronson was once an Academy Award Nominee for supporting actor for this picture. It wasn't until sometime in the 1990s, when I looked it up on line, that I discovered I was mistaken. Watching his performance however, I can easily see why I thought it was true. His character, Danny, The Tunnel King", is a man of strength who has a weakness that he faces repeatedly, but has finally reached a tipping point. His temporary abandonment of the tunnel as the escape route has some great moments of close up and voice performance. He is so solid in this part, and he mostly is stoic for the rest of his career, I see so much more that did not get played out as it could have in lesser films in his future. 

I don't know if anyone has ever talked about "The Great Escape" without mentioning Steve McQueen, and if they have, how could they do it and Why? McQueen is the top billed star in this film, but it is an ensemble picture, and he is not in it any more than many of the other actors. The reason everyone remembers him in the movie is because he is magnetic. His character is a defiant iconoclast,  who never the less fits into the military structure very effectively. His casual interplay with Richard Attenborough and Gordon Jackson contrasts nicely with the defiant reminder to the German Commandant,  that he is Captain Hilts. That was a moment of charisma so important, that it is reimagined for "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood". Of course the biggest moment for him in the film is the motorcycle escape. My wife and I used to joke that if we watched the film one more time, this time he will make it over that second fence. 

Director John Sturges had a way with masculine adventure stories that seemed to peak in the 1960s. In addition to this film, he made "The Magnificent Seven" (also with Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Charles Bronson) and "Ice Station Zebra" the baby boomers gateway drug to submarine movies. Sturges often used Elmer Bernstein to score his films and in addition the his theme for The Magnificent Seven",  his iconic score for this film is well loved. I read somewhere, probably on IMDB, that soccer fans hum it during games. (I would have thought whistling Colonel Bogey's March would make more sense).

The fact that this is based on a true story and the techniques used by the prisoners were pretty closely followed in the film, give rise to even greater respect fore the fighting men of the Allied forces in WWII. The film makers do what must always be done in creating an entertainment, they romanticize some things, ignore the inconvenient, and have to change characters around. Still the film feels very honest, in part by the fact that there are no speaking roles for women in a P.O.W. camp. Hogan's Heroes would fix that later. This is one of those thousand films you must see before you die. so I have several lifetimes worth of viewing it to my credit.