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TopBilled’s Essentials


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#1 TopBilled

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 08:27 AM

I think Barbara Bach's Agent XXX is one of the prettiest Bond girls in the entire series.

 

7c08dc52323b6bfa43bb9066df599b3f.jpg

 

 

I agree-- she's the right combination of sexiness and classiness. She should've had a bigger movie career.

 

*****

 

I'm having so much fun with these films I've decided to continue with more Bond in April. Originally I was going to cover OCTOPUSSY next week, but instead I will focus on MOONRAKER. Then in April, since there are 5 Saturdays, my next theme will be Bond in the 80s where I will go over Roger's last three Bond films (including OCTOPUSSY), as well as Timothy Dalton's two efforts.

 

In May I'm featuring British war films. In June I'm doing a theme called 'Characters on the road.' In July my focus will be Lizabeth Scott. Then in August I will probably come back to Bond and go over the four that starred Pierce Brosnan.


  • LawrenceA likes this

"You've had a few hours given back to you from life. A few hours in which to change your minds and your hearts. When you came into the grounds of this inn, you came into a place as it was a year ago today. You were in your own time, but the house and garden and Gwyneth and I are in the time of last year. The day the bomb hit. When you go away and walk up the road you will have spent a night in an inn. But if you look back from the crest of the hill, the halfway house will not be here...but if you remember, it will be as you remember a forgotten snatch of song. It will be a picture before your eyes. Gone before you realize it is there. Or an echo in the hidden places of your mind. But you have been here...and the world is what you make it." -- Mervyn Johns, THE HALFWAY HOUSE.


#2 LawrenceA

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 12:22 PM

Nice write-up, TopBilled! I don't have much to add this week. I liked the Egyptian scenery.

 

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I think Barbara Bach's Agent XXX is one of the prettiest Bond girls in the entire series.

 

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The movie also features the lovely Caroline Munro in support as Bond's ally Naomi.

 

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The Spy Who Loved Me was the first appearance of General Gogol, the Soviet counterpart to M, played by Walter Gotell (who had previously appeared as another character in From Russia with Love). General Gogol would appear in the next 5 Bond movies.

 

Walter%20Gotell%20%20The%20Spy%20Who%20L

 

Shane Rimmer also makes one of his several appearances in the Bond series, here playing an American sub captain. Rimmer is a Canadian actor who worked in the UK, and once you recognize his face, you'll notice him popping up in many movies through the years.

 

carter.jpg


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#3 TopBilled

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 11:12 AM

Essential: THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)

 

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What I love about the Bond films– especially the ones with Roger Moore– is how the hero is presented in a fairly straightforward manner, despite all the elaborate plotting. At the risk of comparing him to the other actors in the role, Moore’s demeanor is predictably smooth and consistently stylish in all his scenes. And as Carly Simon declares with the theme song, nobody does it better.
 

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James Bond seems to have an endless supply of energy, whether he’s jumping off an Austrian mountain on skis during the opening sequence or taking on his next assignment, which is to stop a villain name Stromberg (Curt Jurgens). Stromberg is intent on starting World War III, though we’re not exactly told why. As he seeks to destroy the world’s population and create his own new civilization underwater, we might assume that with a German surname, he’s a modern-day Nazi who wants to establish an improved, more advanced race of humans.
 

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Since this film was made during the cold war, the British (and the Americans) are at odds with the Russians. This makes things tricky when Bond has to team up with an icy KGB agent (Bond girl Barbara Bach). Gradually she begins to thaw, and they become lovers as they unite to defeat Stromberg. Then she learns Bond was responsible for the death of her previous lover, and she contemplates getting rid of him as their mission ends. But her idea of betrayal will undoubtedly be offset by her attraction to Bond. And there would be no more fun or on-going adventure if she did away with him.
 

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In the meantime they have numerous altercations with one of Stromberg’s henchmen. Based on a character in Ian Fleming’s novel, we have bad guy Jaws (Richard Kiel). He is so named, because he has metal teeth and is able to bite through almost anything, including predatory sharks. Jaws will carry over into the next Bond film, meaning he does not get killed off in this story and remains fairly indestructible. In some ways Jaws is kind of like a cross between a hulking Frankenstein and a metallic vampire, and he’s a lot of fun to watch on screen.
 

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The second half of the film takes us to Stromberg’s undersea headquarters off the coast of Italy. At one point, a Lotus Esprit sports car Bond has been driving magically converts into a submarine. This allows him to navigate through dangerous waters and reach Stromberg.
 

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Meanwhile, it has been revealed that Stromberg has captured submariners from other governments and is holding them on his supertanker. So it is up to Bond to free these men before he heads into a showdown with Stromberg. Eventually Stromberg is knocked off (where it hurts most); and as he takes his last breath, even Carly Simon would agree that nobody could have killed him better.
 

screen-shot-2017-03-16-at-1-45-24-pm.jpg
 

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is directed by Lewis Gilbert and can be streamed on Dailymotion.


  • Jlewis, LiamCasey, LawrenceA and 1 other like this

"You've had a few hours given back to you from life. A few hours in which to change your minds and your hearts. When you came into the grounds of this inn, you came into a place as it was a year ago today. You were in your own time, but the house and garden and Gwyneth and I are in the time of last year. The day the bomb hit. When you go away and walk up the road you will have spent a night in an inn. But if you look back from the crest of the hill, the halfway house will not be here...but if you remember, it will be as you remember a forgotten snatch of song. It will be a picture before your eyes. Gone before you realize it is there. Or an echo in the hidden places of your mind. But you have been here...and the world is what you make it." -- Mervyn Johns, THE HALFWAY HOUSE.


#4 TopBilled

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 12:47 PM

Thanks Larry for another excellent follow-up. 

 

Tomorrow I will be reviewing the next Bond film Roger Moore made: 

 

screen-shot-2017-03-16-at-1-40-27-pm.jpg

 

In this one, we go from Christopher Lee to Curt Jurgens as the main villain.


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"You've had a few hours given back to you from life. A few hours in which to change your minds and your hearts. When you came into the grounds of this inn, you came into a place as it was a year ago today. You were in your own time, but the house and garden and Gwyneth and I are in the time of last year. The day the bomb hit. When you go away and walk up the road you will have spent a night in an inn. But if you look back from the crest of the hill, the halfway house will not be here...but if you remember, it will be as you remember a forgotten snatch of song. It will be a picture before your eyes. Gone before you realize it is there. Or an echo in the hidden places of your mind. But you have been here...and the world is what you make it." -- Mervyn Johns, THE HALFWAY HOUSE.


#5 LawrenceA

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 06:17 PM

The Man with the Golden Gun is a lot of fun, even if it stretches plausibility to the breaking point at times. The scenery around Scaramanga's island HQ is beautiful. Herve Villechaize as Nick Nack is one of the best henchmen in all of the Bond films. 

 

The other girl that you mention was played by Britt Ekland, who at the time was considered one of the most beautiful women in Europe. Her character of Mary Goodnight is usually listed as the primary "Bond girl" of the film, despite Maud Adams having nearly as much screen time. 

 

The car stunt across the river, where the car does a spiral through the air before safely landing, was one of the most impressive car stunts ever done in film history. There were no special effects involved, and one of the bonus features on the discs goes into detail about how they accomplished it, including behind the scenes footage. It's worth checking out if you can.

 

It's also worth pointing out that Christopher Lee was related to Bond creator Ian Fleming, and that Fleming once stated that he could envision his cousin Lee in the Bond role, who was written as more of a cold-blooded killer.

 

Lulu sang the catchy theme-song. She was the third choice after both Elton John and Cat Stevens were considered. I can't imagine either singing the song.

 


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#6 TopBilled

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Posted 11 March 2017 - 11:01 AM

Essential: THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974)

 

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Though I haven’t seen all the Bond films yet, I would say THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN is currently my favorite. It captures the imagination in a way movies should capture our imagination. It provides larger-than-life moments, as most pictures in this franchise do. At its core is a strong story about someone who is just as sharp a marksman as Bond. It’s almost as if Bond is a total mirror image of Scaramanga, or perhaps Scaramanga is a copy of him. They would appear to be the same in almost all areas– except for one man the violence is evil; and for the other it is justifiable.
 

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Scaramanga is expertly played by Christopher Lee, and in a film of this type, a megalomaniac has to be played by someone who has perfected screen villainy. Lee fits the role to a tee, and his scenes with Roger Moore couldn’t be better. You almost expect his character to win against Bond, because he’s thought everything out; and he’s been practicing. A small-sized associate (Herve Villechaize) tests Scaramanga’s shooting abilities by inviting hit men over to play deadly games in his boss’s funhouse. To me that’s the most interesting part of the film– the killing of “innocent” murderers in order to prepare for Scaramanga’s ultimate battle with Bond.
 

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Before we get to the climactic finale on Scaramanga’s secluded island, we have some wild goose chases in Asia. Much of the early portion of the story occurs in Hong Kong. It is scenic, but it is filler; though it entertains us and gets us in the mood for the final act. Once again comic relief character J.W. Pepper is on hand for more laughs and high-speed chases– apparently the writers felt the Louisiana sheriff we saw in the previous Bond installment was worth a reprise. This time Pepper and his wife are in the Orient on a vacation (which seems a bit implausible to think a couple on their modest salary could afford to go there or would even want to go there). They bump into Bond twice, well almost twice. The first time Pepper sees Bond go by during a canal chase.
 

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In the next segment Pepper finds himself in the passenger seat of a stolen vehicle with Bond. They zigzag in and out of traffic as Bond plays cat-and-mouse with some dangerous men connected to Scaramanga. The sequence with Bond and Pepper comes to a spectacular conclusion when the car they’re driving flips in mid-air and manages to land on the other side of a ramp. Of course, they walk away from the incident without any broken collarbones or even a scratch. We don’t see Pepper again after this point, but he’s served his purpose and has probably outworn his welcome.
 

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After the interlude with Pepper, Bond gets involved with a woman played by Maud Adams. He’s now trying to get his hands on a MacGuffin that Scaramanga also needs in order to unharness solar energy. Bond soon goes to bed with Adams (while another Bond girl is in the closet no less). But their “romance” doesn’t last long since a short time later, Adams is killed at a public event while sitting next to Bond. (Adams returns to the series as another delicious dish in a later production, OCTOPUSSY.) Meanwhile, the chick who was in the closet– she’s one of the good girls that works with Bond– she somehow gets stuck in the trunk of a car (she must like enclosed spaces). Scaramanaga is at the wheel this time, and in a fantastic sequence, the car manages to fly off into the sky and back to his island. We know Bond will rendezvous with him, and most assuredly, there’s a bullet with someone’s name on it.
 

screen-shot-2017-03-07-at-5-46-38-pm1.pn


THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN is directed by Guy Hamilton and can be streamed on Hulu.


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"You've had a few hours given back to you from life. A few hours in which to change your minds and your hearts. When you came into the grounds of this inn, you came into a place as it was a year ago today. You were in your own time, but the house and garden and Gwyneth and I are in the time of last year. The day the bomb hit. When you go away and walk up the road you will have spent a night in an inn. But if you look back from the crest of the hill, the halfway house will not be here...but if you remember, it will be as you remember a forgotten snatch of song. It will be a picture before your eyes. Gone before you realize it is there. Or an echo in the hidden places of your mind. But you have been here...and the world is what you make it." -- Mervyn Johns, THE HALFWAY HOUSE.


#7 TopBilled

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Posted 10 March 2017 - 10:10 AM

I wanted to say thanks to Lawrence for his interesting comments and the photos he included in his post about LIVE AND LET DIE. 

 

Roger Moore's next Bond film which I will be reviewing tomorrow has some carry-over elements.

 

screen-shot-2017-03-07-at-6-36-43-pm.png


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"You've had a few hours given back to you from life. A few hours in which to change your minds and your hearts. When you came into the grounds of this inn, you came into a place as it was a year ago today. You were in your own time, but the house and garden and Gwyneth and I are in the time of last year. The day the bomb hit. When you go away and walk up the road you will have spent a night in an inn. But if you look back from the crest of the hill, the halfway house will not be here...but if you remember, it will be as you remember a forgotten snatch of song. It will be a picture before your eyes. Gone before you realize it is there. Or an echo in the hidden places of your mind. But you have been here...and the world is what you make it." -- Mervyn Johns, THE HALFWAY HOUSE.


#8 rayban

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 04:20 PM

I probably have not seen one of Moore's 007 offerings since I was a teenybopper. I have re-watched the Connery ones periodically, along with a few recents. Moore is often labeled the best of the Bonds even if his offerings are considered the worst. Actually the problem with the seventies was too many long lasting franchises getting repetitive. The 007 didn't suffer like the The Planet of Apes or Herbie the Love Bug since each film made a huge profit at the box office and the theme songs at least were getting better.

"Live and Let Die" - I remember this one as a glorious film experience.


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"I was born the day she kissed me.  I died the day she left me.  I lived a few weeks while she loved me." - Humphrey Bogart in "In A Lonely Place".


#9 Jlewis

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 02:05 PM

I probably have not seen one of Moore's 007 offerings since I was a teenybopper. I have re-watched the Connery ones periodically, along with a few recents. Moore is often labeled the best of the Bonds even if his offerings are considered the worst. Actually the problem with the seventies was too many long lasting franchises getting repetitive. The 007 didn't suffer like the The Planet of Apes or Herbie the Love Bug since each film made a huge profit at the box office and the theme songs at least were getting better.


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#10 LawrenceA

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 01:17 PM

Live and Let Die has one of the best Bond themes, from Paul McCartney & Wings.

 

 

To me, it's the best part of the movie, although because it's Bond, I still find things to like about the rest. Seymour was stunningly beautiful.

 

8_live_and_let_die_jane_seymour1973.jpg

 

I enjoyed Julius Harris as the hook-handed henchman Tee Hee Johnson, even if it was quite apparent in many shots that he was holding his hook in his extra-long sleeve.

 

teehee_6558.jpg

 

You also have to mention Geoffrey Holder as Baron Samedi, the voodoo cult leader that works for Kotto's Kananga/Mr. Big. He's the only Bond character to perhaps be legitimately supernatural. His appearance is one that's also well-remembered.

 

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During various phases of the Bond films, critics have stated that the movies were no longer as "current" as they once were, and that modern audiences wouldn't like them as much as they used to. This was true even as far back as this movie. That's a major reason for why they decided to mix the traditional Bond formula with the then-in-fashion blaxploitation genre. It may have worked at the time, but it's resulted in Live and Let Die becoming one of the most dated in the series. That can be part of its charm, too.


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#11 TopBilled

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 12:42 PM

Essential: LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)

 

Not long ago I watched Roger Moore’s adventures series The Persuaders!, which he made in the early 70s with Tony Curtis. It was produced just before he took over the role of James Bond. Watching Roger in those episodes inspired me to take a look at his films as 007. He has longer hair and has a slightly more laid-back style in The Persuaders!, but as Bond his hair has been shortened, he’s in shape, and his performances are very precise.
 

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LIVE AND LET DIE was the first of seven Bond pictures for Roger, and it’s the first Bond picture I watched. Compared to the other ones in the series, it’s not a typical entry. There is a blaxploitation feel to the story– the bad guy (Yaphet Kotto) is the leader of a fictional Caribbean nation called San Monique, and he also doubles as a dangerous drug lord. Bond is sent after him when several agents have been murdered that were trying to stop the heroin trade. One of the killed spies is a black female agent that has a romantic dalliance with Bond before Kotto’s character has her rubbed out.
 

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Of course, because he’s Bond: James Bond, there is more than one romantic dalliance. He becomes acquainted with a beautiful fortune teller named Solitaire (Jane Seymour, in her motion picture debut) and sparks fly with her, too. This leads to a complicated triangle with Kotto who had been saving Solitaire for himself. Soon the action moves from San Monique to Louisiana and there are more adventures ahead for Bond in bayou country. I was impressed by the stunt work with the speedboat chase, though it did seem to go on a bit too long.
 

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I also enjoyed a sequence where Bond was at an alligator farm, left to be eaten alive in the middle of a lake. In a clever twist, he runs across the backs of the alligators as they snap at his heels, in order to get away. The whole film is over-the-top (in a good way), and it has larger than life (though stereotypical) characters. In addition to the black stereotypes, we are also treated to an uncouth sheriff played by Clifton James. It’s obvious he is the film’s main comic relief, and he provides a huge contrast to Bond’s more unflappable style.
 

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The film ends after the villain experiences a strange untimely death. It’s big, in more ways than one. Bond and Solitaire are seemingly reunited and on a train bound for parts unknown. They have another foe to deal with on the train, then there’s an ending that is very reminiscent of NORTH BY NORTHWEST. Whether theirs is a love that will last–who knows what’s really in the cards.
 

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-5-56-37-pm.png


LIVE AND LET DIE is directed by Guy Hamilton and can be streamed on Hulu.


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"You've had a few hours given back to you from life. A few hours in which to change your minds and your hearts. When you came into the grounds of this inn, you came into a place as it was a year ago today. You were in your own time, but the house and garden and Gwyneth and I are in the time of last year. The day the bomb hit. When you go away and walk up the road you will have spent a night in an inn. But if you look back from the crest of the hill, the halfway house will not be here...but if you remember, it will be as you remember a forgotten snatch of song. It will be a picture before your eyes. Gone before you realize it is there. Or an echo in the hidden places of your mind. But you have been here...and the world is what you make it." -- Mervyn Johns, THE HALFWAY HOUSE.


#12 TopBilled

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 07:30 PM

I will be reviewing my thirty-fourth essential tomorrow.

 

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Check back.


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"You've had a few hours given back to you from life. A few hours in which to change your minds and your hearts. When you came into the grounds of this inn, you came into a place as it was a year ago today. You were in your own time, but the house and garden and Gwyneth and I are in the time of last year. The day the bomb hit. When you go away and walk up the road you will have spent a night in an inn. But if you look back from the crest of the hill, the halfway house will not be here...but if you remember, it will be as you remember a forgotten snatch of song. It will be a picture before your eyes. Gone before you realize it is there. Or an echo in the hidden places of your mind. But you have been here...and the world is what you make it." -- Mervyn Johns, THE HALFWAY HOUSE.


#13 TopBilled

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Posted 27 February 2017 - 10:59 PM

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-8-51-15-pm1.pn

 

Theme for March 2017: Roger Moore as 007

 

Saturday March 4, 2017

LIVE AND LET DIE (1973), starring Roger Moore & Yaphet Kotto. Studio/production company: United Artists. Source: Hulu.

 

Saturday March 11, 2017

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (1974), starring Roger Moore & Christopher Lee. Studio/production company: United Artists. Source: Hulu.

 

Saturday March 18, 2017

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977), starring Roger Moore & Barbara Bach. Studio/production company: United Artists. Source: Dailymotion.

 

Saturday March 25, 2017

MOONRAKER (1979), starring Roger Moore & Lois Chiles. Studio/production company: United Artists. Source: Dailymotion.

 

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"You've had a few hours given back to you from life. A few hours in which to change your minds and your hearts. When you came into the grounds of this inn, you came into a place as it was a year ago today. You were in your own time, but the house and garden and Gwyneth and I are in the time of last year. The day the bomb hit. When you go away and walk up the road you will have spent a night in an inn. But if you look back from the crest of the hill, the halfway house will not be here...but if you remember, it will be as you remember a forgotten snatch of song. It will be a picture before your eyes. Gone before you realize it is there. Or an echo in the hidden places of your mind. But you have been here...and the world is what you make it." -- Mervyn Johns, THE HALFWAY HOUSE.


#14 TopBilled

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 12:18 PM

Man, you're tough. Ha ha!

 

I would rate it, Funny Girl and Rachel Rachel three stars, The Lion In Winter and Oliver! (roughly the equal to Oliver Twist by David Lean two decades earlier) three and a half. 2001 really should have been included that year, while If... and Z were released in the US a year after their foreign premieres and didn't make that year's cut. I find the O'Toole/Hepburn pic rather "stagey" too, but the performances make up for it. Likewise the costumes and the music are what make R&J somewhat successful. I do find the cinematography of R&J, Lion and the earlier Best Pic A Man For All Seasons all rather blah compared so much else put out in the sixties, maybe because too much of the "art" was put into the set decoration and the camera crew was way too cautious shooting it "right" rather than shooting it innovative.

 

On another note, I struggle a lot with the many 1990s Shakespearean "updates" to more contemporary settings (or Richard III adapted to the 1930s), since these are only contemporary to that already "dated" time period.

 

I absolutely hate the cinematography in over half of the films I have seen in the last ten years. There is way too much movement, helped by cgi effects. (The last feature that actually "wowed" me was The Aviator, only because of the attempt to duplicate 2-color Technicolor during the Hell's Angels production scenes and some creative close-up work in the later portions of that otherwise flawed Scorsese pic.) Sadly the whole landscape aerial that looked great in The Sound Of Music or Wise's earlier West Side Story, as well as both the pop art edits and running track shots of Truffaut's Jules & Jim, have all become clichés and this may be why I am more forgiving of R&J than you are.

 

Going back to my comment on his standing below the balcony-- when he leaves and runs across the hillside to see the friar that was obviously done on location and the camera has to move to keep pace with him running, and it's very cinematic-- definitely adding something to the story we don't get in the theater. So there are these bursts of creativity, but then Zefferelli quickly falls back on less innovative handling of the material (again, using what worked on stage as opposed to making it work on screen). 

 

I agree about some of the more recent Shakespearean adaptations. Recently I looked at CARIOLANUS, which Ralph Fiennes made in 2011. I had such high expectations and it was virtually unwatchable. Way too experimental, way too gimmicky, and I'm sure the bard rolled over in his grave. Julie Taymor's 1999 telling of TITUS with Anthony Hopkins is another one that is too clever, too gimmicky for its own good. Though I do think Taymor would be an interesting choice for a remake of ROMEO AND JULIET, if she could curb her more excessive arty tendencies. Peter Greenaway's PROSPERO'S BOOKS (a reworking of The Tempest) is also excessive and baroque. These filmed versions of Shakespeare need to be innovative and emphasize character just as much as plot, but they also need to remember to keep it mainstream and not be so decadent as to be inaccessible.

 

I feel Kenneth Branagh is probably the best modern interpreter of Shakespeare on screen. Though not all of his stuff has been a resounding success, he seems to know how to pay tribute to the "flavor" of a Shakespearean text while making it accessible to a contemporary audience and taking advantage of the cinematic possibilities without going too overboard. And he's very good at filling in the gaps, adding in flashbacks to explain the backstory-- risks that pay off and help us get the fuller meaning of the story.

 

The more I think about ROMEO AND JULIET as a filmed story the more I think it should start with the funeral of the two young lovers being taken to their final resting spot, and as the prince is telling the mourners "all are punished," we flashback to how the couple met-- how the families have been at war, and how they are all going to be punished for not stopping the violence. 


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"You've had a few hours given back to you from life. A few hours in which to change your minds and your hearts. When you came into the grounds of this inn, you came into a place as it was a year ago today. You were in your own time, but the house and garden and Gwyneth and I are in the time of last year. The day the bomb hit. When you go away and walk up the road you will have spent a night in an inn. But if you look back from the crest of the hill, the halfway house will not be here...but if you remember, it will be as you remember a forgotten snatch of song. It will be a picture before your eyes. Gone before you realize it is there. Or an echo in the hidden places of your mind. But you have been here...and the world is what you make it." -- Mervyn Johns, THE HALFWAY HOUSE.


#15 Jlewis

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 11:55 AM

Man, you're tough. Ha ha!

 

I would rate it, Funny Girl and Rachel Rachel three stars, The Lion In Winter and Oliver! (roughly the equal to Oliver Twist by David Lean two decades earlier) three and a half. 2001 really should have been included that year, while If... and Z were released in the US a year after their foreign premieres and didn't make that year's cut. I find the O'Toole/Hepburn pic rather "stagey" too, but the performances make up for it. Likewise the costumes and the music are what make R&J somewhat successful. I do find the cinematography of R&J, Lion and the earlier Best Pic A Man For All Seasons all rather blah compared so much else put out in the sixties, maybe because too much of the "art" was put into the set decoration and the camera crew was way too cautious shooting it "right" rather than shooting it innovative.

 

On another note, I struggle a lot with the many 1990s Shakespearean "updates" to more contemporary settings (or Richard III adapted to the 1930s), since these are only contemporary to that already "dated" time period.

 

I absolutely hate the cinematography in over half of the films I have seen in the last ten years. There is way too much movement, helped by cgi effects. (The last feature that actually "wowed" me was The Aviator, only because of the attempt to duplicate 2-color Technicolor during the Hell's Angels production scenes and some creative close-up work in the later portions of that otherwise flawed Scorsese pic.) Sadly the whole landscape aerial that looked great in The Sound Of Music or Wise's earlier West Side Story, as well as both the pop art edits and running track shots of Truffaut's Jules & Jim, have all become clichés and this may be why I am more forgiving of R&J than you are.

 

Ahhhh... memories...

 



#16 TopBilled

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 11:16 AM

You probably remember the golden age of Film Guides in the 1970s-90s and their four star rating systems. My favorites were Leonard Maltin and Leslie Halliwell (who died in '89 and his guide changed a lot afterward). Halliwell would give one star to films that would be rated two and a half stars in the other since he felt routine-or-worse was not deserving any stars. I think Maltin gave this film three and a half but Halliwell just one (equalling two and a half). That balances to three stars which is probably a good rough average. Ditto the '36 version. The '54 version was a lot more accurate (even using Verona scenery), but Halliwell's no-star review gives the impression that he fell asleep during it.

 

Before I re-watched this film, I read some user reviews on the IMDb where people were upset it lost to OLIVER! for best picture. So when I went over it again, I looked at it carefully (twice). But I found plot holes (where Zefferelli wasn't exactly filling in the gaps in a way someone like Branagh usually does); plus there was a static camera in major scenes. And I cringed both times at Whiting's playing of Romeo's over-the-top death scene which I felt to be atrocious (and I am saying that kindly since he lacked experience and it was up to Zefferelli to reshoot it and come up with a better take). With these things before me, I began to see why it did not win against OLIVER! and why Carol Reed's work during this given year is lauded considerably more (which is obviously not perfect either).

 

Does this mean I enjoy ROMEO AND JULIET '68 less than I did as a teen when I first watched it in high school? Maybe. But I still can recognize how it makes a Shakespearean work more accessible to younger audiences, and while Zefferelli fails in many regards (my honest opinion) it is still a valiant effort. On a four-star rating system, I'd give it a 2.5.

 

As for Halliwell or Maltin, they're obviously subjective and they have their biases. I will admit my bias here is that I love theater and I love cinema, but I consider them two very distinct approaches. I don't feel Zefferelli sees the difference. He thinks you can just transfer what is on stage to film without refining it.

 

I consider the static camera movement in the balcony scene where Romeo is talking to Juliet from below unforgivable. I'm not referring to where Juliet is moving or motioning to the nurse she's coming. But when Romeo is just standing down below, planted next to some plastic-looking trees in the Cinecitta studio. He has most of the dialogue and the camera just remains stuck on him and the fake scenery. It's way too flat. That's what you get in the theater, where the actor is allowed to orate and everyone just sits back and watches, and the highly artificial set design is tolerated. But on screen we need more dimension. And since Zefferelli is relying so much on relatively inexperienced actors in the lead roles, then the camerawork and lighting should be helping to compensate and often it does not.


"You've had a few hours given back to you from life. A few hours in which to change your minds and your hearts. When you came into the grounds of this inn, you came into a place as it was a year ago today. You were in your own time, but the house and garden and Gwyneth and I are in the time of last year. The day the bomb hit. When you go away and walk up the road you will have spent a night in an inn. But if you look back from the crest of the hill, the halfway house will not be here...but if you remember, it will be as you remember a forgotten snatch of song. It will be a picture before your eyes. Gone before you realize it is there. Or an echo in the hidden places of your mind. But you have been here...and the world is what you make it." -- Mervyn Johns, THE HALFWAY HOUSE.


#17 Jlewis

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 09:45 AM

You probably remember the golden age of Film Guides in the 1970s-90s and their four star rating systems. My favorites were Leonard Maltin and Leslie Halliwell (who died in '89 and his guide changed a lot afterward). Halliwell would give one star to films that would be rated two and a half stars in the other since he felt routine-or-worse was not deserving any stars. I think Maltin gave this film three and a half but Halliwell just one (equalling two and a half). That balances to three stars which is probably a good rough average. Ditto the '36 version. The '54 version was a lot more accurate (even using Verona scenery), but Halliwell's no-star review gives the impression that he fell asleep during it.



#18 TopBilled

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 09:17 AM

Younger viewers in 1968-69 especially since there was a growing generation gap. Note that Henry Mancini's cover of the theme song actually topped Billboard in an era dominated by Motown, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Even though I feel Olivia's rant with her parents less realistic than Leonard's "over" acting (which I greatly enjoy), it sent a message not unlike The Graduate and other popular hits of the new Baby Boom generation (those earliest boomers born in 1946-47 like Trump and the Clintons were reaching 21 and voting age by the '68 election).

 

I wasn't much of a fan of the late '80s Wonder Years, but there is a great scene set in a movie theater "circa" 1969 with Fred Savage's Kevin and his beloved Winnie involving this movie that many 35-40 year olds at the time instantly identified with. They weren't fussing over how accurate the dialogue and acting was. It was the ultimate "date" movie of that era for teens. Younger boomers under the of age ten flocked to The Love Bug and Oliver! or, rather, were dragged by their parents to see them.

 

This is why it is important to watch any old movie with a sense of how viewers viewed it in the initial release. One of my all time favorites of any era is I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, but there are a few curios in the storyline you would struggle with there too. Yet everybody was so poor and unemployment so high in 1932 that many genuinely felt that what happens to Paul Muni could easily happen to them, especially if they are living in the south. When I first saw The Best Years Of Our Lives around 1980-81, I thought it was too much like recent episodes of The Waltons (which also covered the immediate post-war period in that last season). Yet you have to view it through the lens of 1946 audiences. Today I especially enjoy Dana Andrews increasingly, even more than handicapped Harold Russell (who broke just as much ground in terms of award attention as Hattie MacDaniel even though he was Caucasian), because he is an "every man" who must struggle in life much like Muni in the other film.

 

The Waltons is a separate topic, and though supposedly based on Earl Hamner's upbringing it is very derivative of 40s Hollywood movies-- especially the 8th and 9th seasons when the Walton boys go to war (which would have aired in '80 and '81). One episode rips off the SUNDAY DINNER FOR A SOLDIER plot when the Baldwins have dinner for one of Jason's war buddies. And all the Walton brothers going to war at the end of season 8 references THE FIGHTING SULLIVANS. Many other episodes before the end of the show's run have plots lifted from old 40s war flicks. But audiences at the time may not have realized it, at least not younger viewers like my generation. 

 

Getting back to ROMEO AND JULIET (and any film really), I think we can observe it from a historical perspective noting the impact on the culture at the time of original release and immediately afterward. But we can also "fuss" over it and discuss what doesn't work from a modern vantage point. And keep in mind there were fussy critics like Judith Crist and Pauline Kael watching and commenting when these films originally hit theaters. They are made for everyone, including the nitpickers. LOL

 

I was glad I re-watched Zefferelli's ROMEO AND JULIET. It has charm and energy. But I also couldn't help but notice how a lot of it doesn't hold up and seems like a relic of its era. At some point I will probably do a whole month on Shakespearean adaptations, and I will no doubt look at Zefferelli's HAMLET which I haven't seen since it came out in 1990. 


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"You've had a few hours given back to you from life. A few hours in which to change your minds and your hearts. When you came into the grounds of this inn, you came into a place as it was a year ago today. You were in your own time, but the house and garden and Gwyneth and I are in the time of last year. The day the bomb hit. When you go away and walk up the road you will have spent a night in an inn. But if you look back from the crest of the hill, the halfway house will not be here...but if you remember, it will be as you remember a forgotten snatch of song. It will be a picture before your eyes. Gone before you realize it is there. Or an echo in the hidden places of your mind. But you have been here...and the world is what you make it." -- Mervyn Johns, THE HALFWAY HOUSE.


#19 Jlewis

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Posted 26 February 2017 - 08:58 AM

I am nearing the end of my repeat viewing of ROMEO AND JULIET. I guess I've had a few more observations about the overall nature of the production. I can see why it appeals so strongly to younger viewers. As Ray noted, there is a lot of raw emotion. 

 

Younger viewers in 1968-69 especially since there was a growing generation gap. Note that Henry Mancini's cover of the theme song actually topped Billboard in an era dominated by Motown, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Even though I feel Olivia's rant with her parents less realistic than Leonard's "over" acting (which I greatly enjoy), it sent a message not unlike The Graduate and other popular hits of the new Baby Boom generation (those earliest boomers born in 1946-47 like Trump and the Clintons were reaching 21 and voting age by the '68 election).

 

I wasn't much of a fan of the late '80s Wonder Years, but there is a great scene set in a movie theater "circa" 1969 with Fred Savage's Kevin and his beloved Winnie involving this movie that many 35-40 year olds at the time instantly identified with. They weren't fussing over how accurate the dialogue and acting was. It was the ultimate "date" movie of that era for teens. Younger boomers under the of age ten flocked to The Love Bug and Oliver! or, rather, were dragged by their parents to see them.

 

This is why it is important to watch any old movie with a sense of how viewers viewed it in the initial release. One of my all time favorites of any era is I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, but there are a few curios in the storyline you would struggle with there too. Yet everybody was so poor and unemployment so high in 1932 that many genuinely felt that what happens to Paul Muni could easily happen to them, especially if they are living in the south. When I first saw The Best Years Of Our Lives around 1980-81, I thought it was too much like recent episodes of The Waltons (which also covered the immediate post-war period in that last season). Yet you have to view it through the lens of 1946 audiences. Today I especially enjoy Dana Andrews increasingly, even more than handicapped Harold Russell (who broke just as much ground in terms of award attention as Hattie MacDaniel even though he was Caucasian), because he is an "every man" who must struggle in life much like Muni in the other film.



#20 rayban

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Posted 25 February 2017 - 07:16 PM

There's a very respectable adaptation of this film that is directed by Renato Castellani and which stars Laurence Harvey and Susan Shentall.

 

Its' greatest strength is the on-location shooting.

 

Laurence Harvey is excellent (but too old).

 

Susan Shentall had never acted before.


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"I was born the day she kissed me.  I died the day she left me.  I lived a few weeks while she loved me." - Humphrey Bogart in "In A Lonely Place".





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