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"The Gypsy Moths" on DVD (1969) One of Frankenheimer's best!


Guest Drought, Hank

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Guest Drought, Hank

"The Gypsy Moths" (1969), directed by John Frankenheimer, with Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, and Gene Hackman is now on DVD/VHS, and it's fabulous! Three barnstorming skydivers come to a small Kansas town to put on a show one 4th of July weekend. "When the ground comes up at you like a sledgehammer... when the sweat freezes on your brow... when jumping isn't only a way to live, but a way to die, too... you're a Gypsy Moth." Director John Frankenheimer does a superb job of mixing interpersonal character development with the action. The skydiving stunts are spectacular, and performed by an actual stunt skydiving team, not special effects. Lancaster, Kerr, Hackman, Scott Wilson, William Windom, Bonnie Bedelia, and Sherry North are all wonderful. The character development and the themes of mature adult relationships, the choices we make in our lives, and a behind the scenes look at the lives of "performers" make the movie more than an action picture. In the DVD extras, Frankenheimer calls "The Gypsy Moths" one of his personal favorites, and says out of the 194 movies and live television shows he has done, "The Gypsy Moths" ranks in the top 2 or 3. That's high praise given Frankenheimer's resume (which includes The Manchurian Candidate, The Train, Birdman of Alcatraz, Seven Days in May, Grand Prix, and Seconds). Frankenheimer gives a full-length feature interview on the making of the "The Gypsy Moths," including comments on his frustration when the movie was strangely dropped by MGM in its theatrical release in a management change (because the movie "didn't fit with the kind of new 'exploitation' pictures the new management wanted to make"). Also in the DVD extras, is a thrilling promotional movie trailer, and a behind the scenes making of the movie called "The Skydivers," featuring the work by the stunt skydiving team that made over 1300 jumps to catch the aerial sequences, and interviews with Frankenheimer, Lancaster, and Kerr. All in all, "The Gypsy Moths" is a major film, and a brave one for Frankenheimer, who allows the time for the characters to develop and build the subtle tension, and then explodes it with the skydiving performance and it's aftermath. The ending makes the movie an existential masterpiece. "The Gypsy Moths" has a kind of cult following, which should only grow now that the movie has been reissued on DVD and VHS, and the movie will surely become a classic.

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