Written by / 6/19/2014 / 1 Comment / , , ,

AN ECLECTIC BAGFUL OF ARCHIVE SUMMARY REVIEWS

1956 rating: ***1/2
FORBIDDEN PLANET: The 1950's were full of some pretty bad science fiction movies, so here's a good one... Not only did FORBIDDEN PLANET shape many other of its kind, it was an inspiration for a television show that would premiere a decade later... called STAR TREK!

Plot centers on American astronauts landing on a planet inhabited by one American scientist, sole survival of a past mission, his gorgeous indigenous-birthed daughter, and some kind of phantom wraith. The mystery builds nicely with the gradual investigation of this new world and its past civilization, and the actors, especially the three leads, keep you lightly interested enough through some cerebral-heavy dialogue. The dated but still worthy special effects coincide with great battle scenes. And thankfully the twist ending doesn't have an overly-obvious anti-nuke message, a nice surprise since most old school sci-fi flicks lean (and sometimes topple) in that direction.

1967 rating: ***
THE FLIM-FLAM MAN: Quirky and frolicking depression-era adventure about a famous (or infamous) charlatan who travels around conning people along the way.

He meets young naive drifter Michael Sarrazin, who learns the ins-and-outs of rambling-trickery and being one step ahead of the law: which includes Harry Morgan and Albert Salmi as frustrated backwoods cops.

The dialogue can be contrived and corny, the jovial music a bit intrusive (giving away the outcome), but because of Irwin Kershner's action-paced direction, the characters, and storyline, are delivered smoothly from one location to the next.

Gorgeous "Lolita" Sue Lyon has a small but significant role as one of the victims who turns into a love interest for Sarrazin, as he realizes the fleeting life might not be for him. And George C. Scott, constantly jutting his chin, seems to be doing an old man imitation, but its an endearingly memorable character no less.

1983 rating: ****
VIGILANTE: Beginning with one of the coolest guitar-driven opening tracks, we center on a trio of vigilantes, sort of a neighborhood watch that kicks ass, are Fred Williamson, Richard Bright, and Joseph Carberry. The gang of vicious cold-blooded blood-thirsty thugs include shit-talkin' leader Willie Colin and henchman Don Blakley.

Beginning as a character in the background, everyman machinist father/husband Robert Forster, friends with the (secret) vigilante group, is in denial about how bad society is until his child and wife are attacked by the gang...

Eventually, everything collides wonderfully in this exploitation-DEATH WISH that delivers on every level, including street fights, prison survival, and an awesome guitar-driven soundtrack.

Too classy for grindhouse and too gritty for mainstream, this is the perfect synergy of blood, guts, guns, and best of all, sweet revenge. Especially once we deal with Forster's plight ranging from a court room tirade, a suspenseful prison stint and finally, a chance to set things bloody straight. Sure, there could have been more Fred "Hammer" Williamson during the final act, but he'd provided Forster enough street wisdom to carry matters through. 

1973 rating: *
BADGE 373: The continuing adventures of Popeye Doyle, the tough narcotics cop played by Gene Hackman in THE FRENCH CONNECTION, now with Robert Duvall as Eddie Ryan: both Doyle and Ryan based on real life detective Eddie Egan who, like in CONNECTION, has a small part here.

But unlike that Oscar winning film, gloriously directed by William Freidkin with a spontaneous free-rolling gritty documentary style, this feels like the pilot for a TV series that never was. And it's not even that good.

The sluggish pace, vapid dialogue and contrived plot... Ryan investigating his partner's death... strips away any realism.

The great Robert Duvall, one of the all-time resilient and brilliant actors, is reduced to working hard for very little payoff. Even the action scenes are muddled and boring.  But what can you do... The 1970's was the greatest decade, but nothing is perfect.

1970 rating: **1/2
TROPIC OF CANCER: Henry Miller's rousing poetic pornography is brought to the screen with the always-watchable Rip Torn as the controversial author wandering Paris from one situation to the next, either narrating Miller's words over various shots of the famous city, or dealing with, and suffering through, random confrontations with crazy women and even crazier men.

Reminiscent of how Charles Bukowski's life would be attempted years later in BARFLY and FACTOTUM... stream-of-conscious odysseys never settling into one particular melodrama for too long... this film's progressively-racy dialogue seems awkward and forced.

Some of the side-actors don't fit the (for 1970) groundbreaking template, at times feeling like an X-rated episode of MARY TYLER MOORE. Torn, although not entirely believable as Miller, is intriguing to watch, and along with a few quick sexy scenes with Ellen Burstyn, solely owns this obscure curio that seems borrowed otherwise.

1967 rating: ***
DEVIL'S ANGELS: Sixties biker flicks are usually the same...

Noisy hog-riders roll into a small quiet town making a mess of things. One of the bikers takes things too far and a "freak verses pig" battle ensues. That's it in a nutshell here...

The adventure doesn't venture far from the single peaceful town where, after crashing an afternoon carnival, The Skulls are (falsely) accused of raping a local girl stupid enough to party with them.

Leo Gordon, as the understanding Sheriff, adds essential realism and John Cassavetes, as the thinking-man's gang leader, while embodying his usual askew charm, seems more like an acting teacher than a ruffian; more attributes of "Franco", his scruffy, scene-stealing character in THE DIRTY DOZEN, were needed.

But no matter, this Roger Corman-produced biker-outing delivers the goods just-good enough, and is exactly as entertaining as it should be. It's a biker flick, after all. 

1990 rating: *****
MILLER'S CROSSING: You can't trust anyone, not really, in this classy yet just as gritty 1990 gangster opus written and directed by the Coen Brothers during one of their several artistic peaks.

The film plays out like something the duo probably always wanted to see: a cutthroat gangster film with more dialog than action, more brains than brawn, more bickering than bullet holes, more gossip than guns... but when the guns happen, do they ever.

Albert Finney breaks the aging chief mobster template: not only does he lead with an iron fist behind a desk, but he takes out a gang of hoods like he were a lean, hungry youth. John Tuttero plays the rat-fink-jerk with annoying perfection...

Meanwhile Jon Polito, the Coens very own Akim Tamiroff, as the villainous counter-don, all but steals the show, going off on sometimes angry, sometimes sarcastic tangents most would consider overboard unless it was during the Golden Age, when bad guys were aloud to really let loose; and not forgetting J.E. Freeman as his giant thug henchman and Marcia Gay Harden as the tough-as-nails gun moll.

But the film belongs to star Gabriel Byrne as a working-man's debt-burdened con-artist smoothly wheeling and dealing all the characters to get what he wants, which eventually turns out to be his own life and keeping it... Not only one of the greatest directed films ever made, but the script is without comparison.
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  1. MILLER'S CROSSING is why I know who the Coen brothers are, or care who they are in the first place. RAISING ARIZONA and BARTON FINK did nothing for me. I love Miller's Crossing, such an awesome movie. FORBIDDEN PLANET I of course love and I definitely need to see VIGILANTE. Great mashup of reviews.

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