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Found 5 results

  1. Vera Miles is perhaps most noted for working with Alfred Hitchcock; with me, it's her role in "The Man who Shot Liberty Valance." Vera Miles on donrockwell.com
  2. I just finished watching "Psycho" for the third or fourth time - enough so that I was able to study details instead of worrying about the plot. People can talk about "Citizen Kane," or "Vertigo," or <pick your choice> as "Best Ever," but for me, personally, since "Psycho" scared the holy hell out of me when I was about twelve-years old (introduced by, of all people, Count Gore de Vol - I guess I first saw it in 1973), this is a film that has appealed to my most basal childhood terrors, and also still resonates with me as a 57-year-old man. I suppose the ending is now dated, since *everyone* knows about "what happened," and also the concepts are no longer novel with the audience - in that respect, I can see "Vertigo" remaining fresher in the public eye - but for me, I might have to pick "Psycho" as my all-time favorite movie. Maybe. Here are a couple of interesting details that are in no way spoilers: In Norman's bedroom, there sits on the turntable, of all things, Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. Why? Maybe the proximity of the word, which actually means "Hero" and not "Erotica," but if anyone knows for sure, please chime in. When Norman first realizes "what happened," he recoils in horror, knocking a picture of a stuffed bird off the wall and onto the floor. The penultimate person you see in the film, opening and closing the door, is an uncredited Ted Knight: Blink, and you'll miss him:
  3. With Hollywood westerns, a little bit of research goes a long way - in my lifetime, I've had more success with this genre of movie than perhaps any other, all because I do a little research before choosing what to watch. "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962) is the twelfth of fourteen collaborative westerns with John Ford and John Wayne (the first and ninth, respectively, being "Stagecoach" (1939) and "The Searchers" (1956)). It is perhaps the most beautiful western I've ever seen. Loaded with famous actors, every single major and minor star outperforms in this deceptively sad meditation upon grief, love, and any of a half-dozen other basic human traits, all attending a costume party in what is most likely mid-19th-century Colorado, and cloaked as a moral dilemma involving the death of another human being. Never have I seen John Wayne play a more important part with less screen time than in this film. Jimmy Stewart is clearly the star - he has to be - but it's Wayne who completes this movie, and who transcends himself in a role so touching that you may feel your eyes moisten in what is one of the most poignant endings of any film I've ever seen. A death itself cannot be considered tragic (everyone who has ever lived, has died), but certain deaths are inherently more tragic than others, and when a piece of history is buried alongside an anonymous hero, lost forever to the earth, and made known only to an audience who desperately wants to jump inside the screen and construct a proper memorial - that cannot be considered a romance, or an action film, or even a western; it can only be classified as a full-blown tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. The next time you and your date are hunting around, looking for a movie to watch, remember this thread: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is required viewing for everyone who cares about great film.
  4. *** SPOILER ALERT *** After watching the indescribably wonderful documentary, "Hitchcock/Truffaut," last night, I leapt into the film "The Wrong Man," which is the one film by Alfred Hitchcock about which then-critic Jean-Luc Godard wrote his longest-ever piece of criticism - Both Godard and François Truffaut, pioneers of the "French New Wave" of Directors, were then working as critics for the legendary French publication, "Cahiers du Cinéma." so this film fits right in with the Hitchcock/Truffaut documentary, and was mentioned in it as well. This is the only Hitchcock film where Hitchcock himself came out and addressed the audience at the beginning, assuring them that it was a true story, and that the facts that went into the tale were just as fantastic as most of what he's written about as fiction in the past. "The Wrong Man" stars Henry Fonda as a respectable, but struggling musician in New York City, Manny Balestrero, and his wife, Rose, played by Vera Miles. Rose has an impacted set of wisdom teeth, which can only be fixed to the tune of $300, which is money the two don't have - the next day, Manny goes into the bank and asks to borrow on Rose's insurance policy, but three female tellers are certain that he is the same man who came in recently and robbed the bank - they pacified him, and told him to come back in with his wife, while putting the authorities on full alert. In a scene which came shortly afterwards, I was certain I recognized the lady who played Manny's mother, Esther Minciotti, and sure enough, Minciotti had played the wonderfully endearing role as Marty's (Ernest Bourgnine's) mother in the 1955 Academy Award-winner for Best Picture, "Marty." If you watch the Hitchcock/Truffaut documentary first, you'll remember very well the scene in which Manny first gets thrown into his jail cell. He looks around - not at the locked door - but at all different angles, and it gives the viewer a real sense of being locked up. This is his very first experience in jail, and his fear is palpable. Halfway through this movie, I am awestruck at how realistic it is - there's no fluffing anything up; it's as if we're watching a real story unfold (which we are). I'm a little surprised that Manny is so stoic about everything, but he seems completely shell-shocked to this point - almost like he's unable to get hold of his facilities. Hitchcock *really* takes his time setting this plot up - Manny doesn't even meet his attorney, Frank O'Connor (a real attorney, played by Anthony Quayle), until about two-thirds of the film is over. Fortunately, O'Connor - seemingly a decent man - accepts the case. Some interesting notes: Shortly after meeting with O'Connor, Manny and Rose run into two giggly girls living at an apartment: One of them is a twelve-year-old Tuesday Weld (of "Looking for Mr, Goodbar"), and the other is an eleven-year-old Bonnie Franklin (of "One Day at a Time"). It's noteworthy how many known actors and actresses are in this film - when Rose has a mental breakdown, she sees a psychiatrist, Dr. Bannay, and it's none other than Werner Klemperer - Colonel Klink on "Hogan's Heroes." During Manny's trial, one of the jurors is Barney Martin (Jerry Seinfeld's father on "Seinfeld"), and finally, Harry Dean Stanton (Brett in "Alien") plays a Department of Corrections employee, though I couldn't find him when I looked. I believe none of the people mentioned in this paragraph are credited, and for some, it's the debut film of their career. This is about the closest thing to being a "non-fiction" film I've seen without actually being one - it's "based on a true story," and is so faithful to it that it doesn't seem right labeling it a "crime movie" or a "suspense movie." It's clear that Hitchcock took great pains to stay as true to the base story as he possibly could have, so I'm going to go ahead and label this movie "non-fiction" even though that may not be technically correct. A magnificent film. Apr 17, 2013 - "History of Film Criticism: Godard on 'The Wrong Man'" on torontofilmreview.blogspot.com
  5. Let me address this first: There is overt racism in "The Searchers," manifesting itself the most in the lead character, Ethan Edwards, portrayed by John Wayne. If you can't look past Wayne's hatred of the Comanche nation, you will not enjoy this film - for you to watch "The Searchers," you *must* look at the Comanches as "a bear" (you can pick your own bear, but you absolutely must be able to think of them as, simply, "the bad guy"). If you are able to do that, then you're faced with one of the greatest Westerns I've ever seen in my life. You know, maybe I've gotten lucky, because the first Western I ever saw (which was also the first "M-rated" movie I ever saw), was "Two Mules for Sister Sara," in the movie theater, when it was released in 1970. Since that time, I've seen maybe a couple dozen, most of which have been really good, and the older ones I've seen have *also* been really good because I've gone back in time and cherry-picked. I keep hearing about the tremendous number of awful Westerns there are, and there must be, because there really were a slew of them (for example, one of the actors in The Searchers, William Steele, was in *seventeen* Westerns in the year 1917 alone! These must have been what's referred to as "Western Quickies.") Co-Starring with Wayne is none other than Captain Pike himself: Jeffrey Hunter, and boy does he look young! Keep in mind, this is fully ten years before "The Cage" showed as the pilot of "Star Trek." While Hunter clearly is the second-leading character, this film also co-stars Vera Miles ("Mrs. Bates? Is that you?"), Natalie Wood ("West Side Story" (1961)), and features several other famous-but-not-as-famous actors such as Ward Bond, Natalie's younger sister Lana Wood, Harry Carey, Jr., and Henry Brandon in a well-acted but undeniably cringe-worthy portrayal as Comanche Chief Cicatriz (it's almost as difficult for me to look at Caucasians made up to look like Native Americans as it is seeing Blackface). The plot of this film is leisurely, and makes the movie seem longer than its 119 minutes - it's a genuine epic, complete with hero, voyages, subplots, and adventures along the way. Wayne's character is extremely nuanced and complex - perhaps as much as any other Western lead I've seen, right up there with Clint Eastwood's William Munny in "Unforgiven." There's enough action to satisfy the circle-the-wagon fans, but it all takes a secondary role to moral tension and character development, just as it does in various other John Ford westerns. When people say, "They don't make 'em like they used to," or pine away for "the good ol' days," I believe they're talking directly about - as an example - The Searchers' portrayal of a brutal gang-rape and murder. There's no blood, there's no screaming, there's no woman, there's no rape to be seen, there's no mention of the word "rape," and everything is left up to the viewer's imagination and ability to perform some very basic extrapolation based on Wayne's reaction to what he witnessed. It was - and I can't believe I'm saying this about a gang rape - "beautiful," in that the entire thing is implied (albeit obvious), and to watch such finesse and restraint on the screen is a thing of beauty. Yes, the incident is staying with me, but there will be no graphic images to relive, no horror to lose sleep over, no gore to visualize - just an unspeakably sad event that happened in the film. And believe me, in this age of explicit, graphic violence, this scene stands out to me more than if there were bloody close-ups of a girl being violated - if you see it, you'll understand what I'm talking about. That is but one, five-minute moment in an extensive, complex, winding, two-hour, heroes' journey. The Searchers is a great movie, and has been lauded even more than I would personally laud it. For example, in 1963, the pioneer "Nouvelle Vague" French director, Jean-Luc Godard, went so far as to say the film was the 4th-greatest American talking picture in history. More accolades: Named "The Greatest American Western" by the "American Film Institute" in 2008. Ranked #12 on AFI's "100 Greatest American Movies of All-Time" in 2007. Named "The Best Western" by "Entertainment Weekly." The British Film Institute's "Sight & Sound" magazine ranked it the #7 Film of All-Time in 2012. In 2008, the Cahiers du Cinéma ranked it #10 in their list of the "100 Greatest Films Ever Made." That is some pretty high praise. I'll stop here and leave you with a recommendation to see "The Searchers," along with these postcards: :
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