Frank Perry – Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970)

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Review by Michael Costello

Frank Perry’s bleak study of the lot of a beleaguered Manhattan housewife features three excellent performances. Carrie Snodgress stars as the wife of a lawyer (Richard Benjamin) whose unbearable status-anxiety drives her into the arms of an equally neurotic emotional sadist (Frank Langella). Made during the nascent days of the women’s movement, the film is a strident and simplistic take on the woman-as-victim, yet in some scenes captures the miserable details of this woman’s life with such precision and vividness, that it still has residual power. Benjamin’s overbearing lawyer is memorable as one of the most irritating characters ever to appear onscreen, and in his insane hunger for social status, he’s something of a precursor to American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. Snodgress is so brilliantly effective in her Academy Award-nominated performance, that it becomes painful to watch what amounts to the torture of her passive, emotionally abused housewife. As a narcissistic womanizer with an amazingly well-modulated voice, Langella is also exceptional, and his subsequent 15 minutes as a sex symbol speaks volumes about how differently women saw themselves at the time. While the film’s failure to examine these characters in greater depth, and the director’s lack of vision ultimately leaves one unsatisfied, it remains a provocative work which undoubtedly still speaks to the plight of many women. Continue reading

Thorold Dickinson – The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939)

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IMDb user:
There are several reasons to relish this curio. It was an apprentice work by Thorold Dickinson, the Hitchcock assistant and cutter who would shoot “Gaslight” and “The Queen of Spades” before becoming Britain’s first professor of film. It is one of the earliest sports movies to feature real sportsmen – acting very woodenly, as befits stiff-upper-lip soccer stars. It is anchored by a mischievously eccentric performance by Leslie Banks, who a few years later was to be the magnificent Chorus of Olivier’s “Henry V”. Continue reading

Gene Saks – The Odd Couple [+Extras] (1968)

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by Bill Gibron:
There was a time, a little less than four decades ago, when Neil Simon was the literary benchmark of both Broadway and the Silver Screen. After a successful stint as a TV scribe on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, the soon to be phenomenon went on to create such Great White Way staples as Barefoot in the Park, Sweet Charity, Plaza Suite, and The Prisoner of Second Avenue. In 1966, he had four shows running at once and it wasn’t long before Hollywood came calling.

After adapting his Come Blow Your Horn and Park for the big screen, Simon was given the complicated task of translating his mega-hit The Odd Couple as a movie. While the studios would accept Oscar- and Tony-winner Walter Matthau as Oscar, Art Carney’s cinematic clout as Felix was questioned. Luckily, director Gene Saks hired friend and Fortune Cookie co-star Jack Lemmon as the notorious neat freak. The rest, as they say, is motion picture history. Continue reading

Boris Sagal – The Omega Man (1971)

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Sure, this sci-fi action drama has its cheesy moments but it remains one of the most beloved genre flicks of the 1970s. Your humble editor (at the tender age of 9) saw this on the big screen when it was first released. It’s been a personal fave — a cherished guilty pleasure, if you will — ever since.

This is the second film based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, the first being the 1964 Italian production The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price. That film, actually adhering more closely to the novel, had Price’s sole survivor besieged by blood-drinking vampires spawned by a deadly plague; they’re repelled by garlic and Price drives stakes through their hearts to kill them. The Charlton Heston vehicle eschews such horror elements in favor of action, more befitting the actor’s swaggering, tough guy screen image. There aren’t any vampires in The Omega Man. Instead our hero is pitted against a fanatical cult of bio-mutants — light-sensitive albinos — with a religious zeal to destroy the last “normal” human left alive. Continue reading

William Dieterle – The Devil And Daniel Webster aka All That Money Can Buy [+Extras] (1941)

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Jabez Stone is a hard-working farmer trying to make an honest living, but a streak of bad luck tempts him to do the unthinkable: bargain with the Devil himself. For seven years of good fortune, Stone promises “Mr. Scratch” his soul when the contract ends. When the troubled farmer begins to realize the error of his choice, he enlists the aid of the one man who might save him: the legendary orator and politician Daniel Webster. Directed with stylish flair by William Dieterle, The Devil and Daniel Webster brings the classic short story by Stephen Vincent Benét to life with inspired visuals, an unforgettable Oscar-winning score by Bernard Herrmann, and a truly diabolical performance from Walter Huston. Continue reading

Billy Wilder – The Apartment (1960)

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Immediately following the success of Some Like It Hot, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond wished to make another film with Jack Lemmon. Wilder had originally planned to cast Paul Douglas as Jeff Sheldrake; however, after he died unexpectedly, Fred MacMurray was cast.

The initial concept for the film came from Brief Encounter by Noël Coward, in which Celia Johnson has an affair with Trevor Howard in his friend’s apartment. However, due to the Hays Production Code, Wilder was unable to make a film about adultery in the 1940s. Wilder and Diamond also based the film partially on a Hollywood scandal in which high-powered agent Jennings Lang was shot by producer Walter Wanger for having an affair with Wanger’s wife, actress Joan Bennett. During the affair, Lang used a low-level employee’s apartment. Another element of the plot was based on the experience of one of Diamond’s friends, who returned home after breaking up with his girlfriend to find that she had committed suicide in his bed. Continue reading

José Luis Borau – Furtivos aka Poachers (1975)

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Synopsis:
Furtivos (Poachers) is a 1975 Spanish film directed by José Luis Borau. It stars Lola Gaos, Ovidi Montllor and Alicia Sánchez. The script was written by Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón and José Luis Borau. The film is a stark drama that portraits an oedipal relationship and its dire consequences. A great critical and commercial success, it won best picture at the San Sebastián International Film Festival in 1975. Furtivos is considered a classic of Spanish cinema.
@wiki Continue reading