Classic Film Reviews
Some films have a special power to lift us out of the mundane cares and anxieties of our everyday lives. They can make sense of a painful experience, shed light on a difficult situation, or touch a place in our hearts that needs to be reached.
The following cinematic releases will provide you with insights about those exceptional films that can illuminate our lives.
More than a synopsis of the story, these reviews will reveal the unique visions and revelations that these great works of art can offer us.
Cinematic Link Mate: Interested in finding out what movies were "raspberries", visit http://www.razzies.com, the home of the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation.
"Laura" Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews
"Anne of the Thousand Days"
"Gone with the Wind" Vivien Leigh
"Dr. Zhivago" Omar Sharif
"A Place in the Sun" Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift
"Vertigo" James Stewart, Kim Novak
"Sunset Boulevard" Gloria Swanson, William Holden
"Lawrence of Arabia" David Lean directs, Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness
"The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt
"Road to Perdition" Tom Hanks Paul Newman, Sam Mendes directs
"The Talented Mr. Ripley" Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Rebhorn
Director: Otto Preminger
Starring: Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb
Who can forget the haunting musical score by composer David Raskin. Gradually, the normally steely New York detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) becomes obsessed by the radiant portrait of the enigmatic beauty"Laura" (Gene Tierney). At the film's outset it is revealed that the title character has been brutally murdered. We first meet McPherson as he deftly interrogates the prime suspects: arrogant, bitchy critic Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), smooth as Southern Comfort socialite Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price)-and, of course, we encounter the classic Laura posthumously. With the meticulous directorial hand of Otto Preminger and the smokily lit, film noir camerawork by Joseph LaShelle, we soon become immersed in the glamorous, high powered world of Laura Hunt.
ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS (1969)
Director: Charles Jarrott
Starring: Richard Burton as Henry VIII
Genevieve Bujold as Anne Boleyn
Irene Papas as Catherine of Aragon
Director Charles Jarrott weaves a haunting tapestry of life at the court of Henry VIII in 16th century England. Richard Burton's commanding performance as Henry vividly brings to life the lust, ego and indominatable will of the infamous monarch. Genevieve Bujold gives a moving portrayal of Anne Boleyn, bright, headstrong, yet the tragic target of Henry's insatiable lust, who in the end gives birth to the future Queen Elizabeth, rather than the son Henry so desired. The lavish period musical score by French composer Georges DeLeRue faithfully recreates the lilting nuances of the Renaissance, and the authentic settings of castles and palaces recreate the rich ambience of Tudor England.
GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)
Director: Victor Fleming
Starring: Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
Clark Gable as Rhett Butler
Olivia De Havilland as Melanie Hamilton
Lesley Howard as Ashley WilkesBuy from amazon.com
No American film has captured the passion and romance of America's greatest conflict the way this classic does. The Civil War is the setting for this spectacular story, faithfully transcribed to the screen from the blockbuster novel by Margaret Mitchell. In Scarlett O'Hara, magnificently portrayed by Vivien Leigh, Mitchell created an archetype of a proud, vain, yet touchingly vulnerable young woman. With Rhett Butler, brilliantly acted by Clark Gable, Mitchell gave us the ultimate image of a strong, witty, independent man who becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman. No two cinematic characters have portrayed star-crossed lovers more powerfully and shown the tragic effect they had on each other's lives.
DR ZHIVAGO based on the Nobel Prize winning novel by Boris Pasternak
Director: David Lean
Starring: Omar Sharif as Dr. Yuri Zhivago
Julie Christie as Lara
Rod Steiger as Victor Komarovsky
Geraldine Chaplin as Tonya
From the bittersweet strains of the hauntingly beautiful theme song to the immortal last line by Alec Guinness "Ah,then its a gift!", this is one of those rare films that engages viewers' hearts and minds from start to finish. The romantic world of the Russian Revolution is brilliantly recreated by director David Lean, whose faithful adaptation of Boris Pasternak's Nobel Prize-winning novel captures the poetry and pathos of this timeless love story. A stellar cast brings to life all of the immortal characters from the novel. Omar Sharif plays the charismatic Dr. Zhivago, the luminous Julie Christie plays his lover Lara, ingénue Geraldine Chaplin plays Zhivago's faithful yet hapless wife,Tonya. Rod Steiger portrays the venal and ubiquitous Victor Komarovsky, and Tom Courtenay plays the dangerously zealous Strelnikov. By the end of this magnificent masterpiece you will understand exactly how it feels to sacrifice everything for the love of an exceptional woman.
A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951)
Director: George Stevens
Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift & Shelley Winters
This stark, vibrantly touching film classic directed by George Stevens in 1951 was adapted from the brilliant Theodore Dreiser novel appropriately entitled "An American Tragedy". Here Stevens cast two of the most attractive and passionate actors of their generation to play the leads. As George Eastman, Montgomery Clift gives one of his most tortured and edgy performances. As the ravishing socialite Angela Vickers, Elizabeth Taylor mesmerizes with her now famous close-up with Clift while she purrs "Tell Mama, Tell Mama all". The striking cinematography vividly portrays the glaring contrasts between the alternate worlds of working class Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) who falls hard for Eastman and the elegance and glamour of Angela's world.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: James Stewart as John (Scotty) Ferguson
Kim Novak as Madeleine Elster & Judy Barton
Vertigo, a panic reaction to a fear of heights, nearly kills homicide detective
John "Scotty" Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) as he chases a killer across the rooftops of San Francisco in the opening scene. By the tragic closing sequence of this archetypal suspense film, we experience the ecstasy and pain Scotty endures as he pursues his obsession with the mysterious and ephemeral beauty, Carlotta Valdez and her physical twin Judy (both played by Kim Novak). The surreal, Daliesque special effects of the opening credits, the gripping musical score by Hitchcock's veteran composer, Bernard Herrmann, as well as the intensely affecting, moody direction by Alfred Hitchcock combine to make this a classic film you will want to watch over and over again.
SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)
Director: Billy Wilder
Starring: Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond
William Holden as Joe Gillis
Eric von Stroheim as "Max"
Cecil B. DeMille as himself
The film opens with a shot from below of a handsome young man face down in the pool of a Hollywood mansion. Who he is and how he got there is a story that grips the viewer from the first moment to the last incredible scene. The era of the founding movie moguls, the screen diva and the elegant excesses of the lifestyles of Hollywood's silent film stars are all portrayed in rich detail, contrasted with the hard edged film noir milieu of the 1950s. This tragic tale of a silent screen legend whom time has passed by, and who cannot let go of her former glory is told with achingly beautiful pathos.
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
Director: David Lean
Starring: Peter O'Toole, Alec Guinness, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn
This is the first American film that truly captures the sweeping grandeur and overwhelming isolation of the Arabian Dessert. The colorful, charismatic character of Lawrence of Arabia, a British WWI officer with a passion for Arabic culture, is brilliantly portrayed by veteran screen actor Peter O'Toole. Omar Sharif, the first Arab actor in a major role, plays Sherif Ali Ben, and Alec Guinness portrays the enigmatic Prince Feisal, and who can forget Anthony Quinn in the role of the Arab sheik Auda Abu Tayi who utters the immortal line " I am a river to my people!" The spectacular natural scenery, intense heat and sandstorms of the desert, and the paradox of Arab armies clashing with the 20th century Turkish military technology bring an epic era to life. This film vividly depicts how one man's fervent belief in a cause can literally move whole armies and entire nations.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Director: John Huston in 1948
Starring: Humphrey Bogart as Fred C. Dobbs
Walter Huston as Howard
Tim Holt as Bob Curtin
Two of the most colorful and memorable characters in the history of the cinema make this film a true treasure. Fred C. Dobbs, a greed-crazed and treacherous loser, is played to perfidious perfection by Humphrey Bogart. Howard, a wizened yet wise old prospector who is tougher than his two younger partners, is portrayed with gusto and humor by Walter Huston, the director's father. Set in the dangerously remote and rugged mountains of central Mexico, infested by Gila monsters and murderous banditos, this riveting classic portrays the destructive effect of gold on three American prospectors. The spare, starkly lit black and white cinematography by Ted McCord reflects the contrasts of good and evil within the souls of the three main characters.
ROAD TO PERDITION (2002)
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law
Cinematographer: Conrad Hall
Not since The Godfather saga has there been a crime drama so well crafted and exquisitely photographed. Based on the highly acclaimed novel from Max Allan Collins, director Sam Mendes brings us this palpably tragic story of a Depression-era hit man, John Sullivan, portrayed by Tom Hanks in an achingly tormented yet understated performance. The murky, darkly attractive world of 1930s Chicago, with its speakeasies, throbbing jazz music, bootleg booze and tattered whores is brought to life so vividly that you can smell the cigars and cheap perfume. The tale of John Sullivan's flight and ensuing travels with his young son across the Midwest while he's on the lam from Capone's mob is poignantly told.The Academy Award for Best Cinematography was posthumously given to Conrad Hall for his magnificent work.
THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY
Director: Anthony Minghella
Starring: Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Rebhorn
If you're in the mood to have a brief escape from your contemporary state of mind into the haute couture world of the 1950s Italian Riviera, with its steamy jazz clubs and afternoon lounges on turquoise-soaked beaches, then this film will transport you. This tour-de-force about evil masked by a facade of boyish charm creates a Hitchcock-like undercurrent of mystery and menace. A convoluted web of intrigue and betrayal is set against the beautiful background of the Italian landscape. Tom Ripley is played to nuanced perfection by Matt Damon, and Jude Law portrays Dickie Greenleaf, a wealthy man's son whom Ripley is hired to bring back to America. Gywneth Paltrow plays Greenleaf's vulnerable girl friend Marge. All of the main characters have serious flaws, with perhaps the exception of the trusting Marge, which leads them to grief in the mode of an ancient Greek tragedy.