J. Lee Thompson – Cape Fear (1962)

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Plot Synopsis by Hal Erickson

After an eight-year prison term for rape and assault, Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) is set free. Immediately making a beeline to Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck), the former prosecutor responsible for Cady’s conviction, Cady laconically informs Sam that he intends to “pay back” the attorney for his years behind bars. Conducting a meticulous campaign of terror, Cady is careful to stay within the law. Sam, realizing that Cady intends to wreak vengeance by raping the attorney’s wife (Polly Bergen) and daughter (Lori Martin), tries to put the ex-criminal behind bars, but has no grounds to do so. Chief Dutton (Martin Balsam) tries to help Sam with a few strong-arm tactics, but succeeds only in having the courts take Cady’s side in the matter. Things come to a head when Sam moves his family to the “safety” of a remote houseboat on Cape Fear river. Cady shows up unannounced and is about to ravage Bowden’s wife and daughter and when Sam turns the tables. Continue reading

J. Lee Thompson – Taras Bulba (1962)

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Plot synopsis:
The spectacular hordes of Cossack horsemen flying across the steppes to do battle with first one enemy and then another are the highlights of this otherwise thinly scripted costume drama set in the 16th century in the Ukraine. After the Cossack leader Taras Bulba (Yul Brynner) makes a pact with the Poles to join forces against the Turks and drive them from the European steppes, victory brings betrayal as the Poles then turn on their ally and force the Cossacks into the hills. From there, Taras Bulba decides that one of his sons, Andrei (Tony Curtis), will be sent to Polish schools to better learn the nature of their enemy. While away from home and hearth, the adult Andrei falls in love with a Polish noblewoman, Natalia (Christine Kaufmann, who would become the second Mrs. Curtis). As time progresses, the tensions between father and son, loyalty and love, ethnic identity and assimilation steadily increase until they end in tragedy. Taras Bulba was nominated for a 1963 Academy Award for “Best Music”, scored by Franz Waxman (By Eleanor Mannika, from Allmovie). Continue reading

J. Lee Thompson – Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

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Quote:
The fourth Planet of the Apes film is set in 1991, 20 years since the assassination of talking, time-traveling apes Cornelius and Zira at the end of Escape From the Planet of the Apes. The couple’s infant son, Caesar (Roddy McDowall), has grown to adulthood in the care of kindly circus owner Armando (Ricardo Montalban). Meanwhile, a plague has wiped all dogs and cats from the face of the Earth; speechless primitive apes have therefore been domesticated and turned into first pets, then servants of humankind. Caesar becomes outraged at the treatment of these simian slaves and accidentally reveals his powers of speech in front of the militaristic authorities, who kill Armando when he tries to protect his friend’s identity. His cover blown, Caesar kick-starts a revolution that pits chimps against humans, paving the way for eventual ape ascendency. Caesar was the second of McDowall’s three Planet of the Apes characters; he also portrayed Cornelius in the first and third films and Galen in the short-lived 1974 television series. After taking over the franchise with this picture, Hollywood veteran J. Lee Thompson would become the only director to helm two Planet of the Apes films when he returned for the fifth and final installment. ~ Brian J. Dillard, All Movie Guide Continue reading

J. Lee Thompson – Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)

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Quote:
The fifth and last of the original series of motion pictures based upon author Pierre Boulle’s imaginative novel Monkey Planet, this science fiction film was the least-liked by the series’ legion of fans. Roddy McDowall returns as Caesar, the rebellious intelligent chimp of the previous film, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972). Caesar led his brethren in a revolution against their human masters earlier, but humanity has since nearly destroyed itself in a nuclear apocalypse, and survivors are second-class citizens within ape society. Now a beneficent ruler of his people, Caesar encourages a fragile, peaceful coexistence with humans, despite the protests of militaristic gorilla leader General Aldo (Claude Akins). When Caesar learns that recordings of his murdered parents may exist in the Forbidden City, he journeys to the irradiated wasteland with the human MacDonald (Austin Stoker) and the wise orangutan Virgil (Paul Williams). Although Caesar finds what he’s looking for, he also attracts unwanted attention: mutant humans who still dwell underground in the devastated war zone follow the search party back home, leading to a climactic battle and Aldo’s tragic challenge of Caesar’s authority. Suffering greatly due to penny-pinching studio 20th Century Fox’s low budget, Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) is most notable for a cameo by director John Huston as an ape named “The Lawgiver,” who appears in a wraparound segment. ~ Karl Williams, All Movie Guide Continue reading

J. Lee Thompson – The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975)

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Quote:
What if you could remember the details of a past life? And what if you found that in that past life you were a total dick? Such is the fate of Peter Proud (Michael Sarrazin) whose past life has come back to haunt him. J. Lee Thompson (director of the original 1962 Cape Fear) directed this offbeat sexed-up thriller and really gives us a great taste of 70’s culture. The outstanding cast also features a pre-Superman and Amityville Horror Margot Kidder and Jennifer O’Neill, star of Lucio Fulci’s Sette Note in Nero and Luchino Visconti’s last film L’Innocente. Continue reading