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Polarizing Bond warrants continual re-evaluation
When I first gave this a gander as a teen following a near-obsession with the Connery Bond films, I was so disappointed and bored by this film that I shut it off immediately after the "just a slight stiffness coming on" line, which even at that young age I found ridiculously on-the-nose. I hated Lazenby as he didn't have the edge or the charm of Connery, plus seemed awkward, arrogant, and all his fight scenes even choppier and sped-up than Connery's. Savalas felt like a gimmicky Blofeld and way too much time gets spent at the Alpine location (near where I used to live and ski) so I didn't find it that special.
30 years later, my curiosity got piqued again and I decided to give it another go, being a little more fair to Mr. Lazenby considering his interesting story of how a model with no acting experience came to star in one of the most lucrative franchises in history. Watching him from that perspective, he really isn't all that bad if a little wooden at times and his acting is undermined by a large portion of the film where they obviously dubbed his voice. For an Australian, his "normal" accent throughout the film sounds nicely transatlantic and he feels in a way refreshingly unassuming, which makes sense considering he's supposed to be a secret agent. He actually gets better as the film moves along.
My gripes now have to come with the scripting and editing. The film follows the book better than any other Fleming adaptations, but it suffers tremendous pacing issues and takes a long while to pick up steam. Considering it was directed by Peter Hunt, who had edited the previous Bonds, the editing often brings up a lot of continuity flaws and draws too much attention to itself. Particularly the opening beach sequence looks great but gets repetitive and weird with the camera just cutting back and forth from the same wide to close shot and back and all from the same position. Many of the later fight scenes suffer from under-cranked camera and a couple stunts further undone by lack of realistic physics. How did Bond jump from that cable to the car hole without getting his hands crushed? How did they escape to another downhill sky slope above the tree line on foot so quickly after leaving a house in a valley? Also irritating is how idiotic both Bond and Blofeld become when assume one another is dead without simply walking a few feet in the snow to make sure.
However I must admit that Diana Rigg is the most genuinely, confidently, vulnerably and alluringly perfect Bond Girl with Gabriele Ferzetti a very strong Bond Ally right up there with Tiger Tanaka and Kerim Bey. The love story vacillates from being cheesy and forced to feeling authentic and moving and thankfully the great action sequences toward the end of the film smooth things over. The avalanche scene in particular comes as a major highlight featuring some breathtaking 2nd unit cinematography. On top of that, John Barry provides another topnotch soundtrack up there with the best of all his Bond scores.
This film isn't perfect by a long stretch and should only be approached in the right frame of mind. Taken for what it is, it contains some unique surprises including some oddly moving moments for a Bond film. It may not quite be the classic that many are making it out to be these days, but ON HER MAJESTY'S is certainly more worthy of a second look than any of the post-Connery Bond movies would be up until THE SPY WHO LOVED ME.
The Bounty (1984)
One of the few nearly-perfect movies out there
There's very little to complain about with this film, which usually makes for pretty boring reviews. I think everyone in the film is perfectly cast and it sticks very close to history aside from conflating a lot of details which would have put this film well over the 2 hour mark. I think the Vangelis score drew a lot of flack at the time but electronic music in a historical film setting was a risk worth taking. The score is right up there with Basil Poledouris's score from CONAN THE BARBARIAN (also a De Laurentiis production) as being one of the best of the 80's and it gives the film a character of its own. I think things would have suffered tremendously had this film a generic John Williams type orchestral score.
Both Hopkins and Gibson put in powerhouse performances though I think Hopkins wins out in the end both in depicting a more likable character and somewhat more realistically. William Bligh was a strict disciplinarian in his time and often pushed his men to (or here, over) the brink but he was an able seaman and exactly the kind of person who made the British navy the best in the world for hundreds of years. Fletcher Christian is depicted as a good-natured yet impassioned youth who loses his loyalty to his friend and country as largely a product of love and romance with an admittedly beautiful Tahitian woman.
I'm always struck by something different on each viewing and here it was that indeed only half the crew actually mutineed while the other half stuck by Bligh's side even if it meant many months of "relentless pain and hardship". Characters like Mr. Cole and Mr. Fryer stayed loyal to the end, most impressively with the latter as he was kicked around and insulted at every opportunity. This film shows some wonderful camaraderie and very human interpersonal conflict that would have come up after years in such close quarters in a fairly realistic way. For that, I appreciate it as much as a psychological drama as an adventure film about a significant chapter late in the age of discovery.
I also have to point out that this film has no forced humor, no moments in which it takes sides, and stays away from shopping our modern values or political correctness onto historical events. It's a shame there aren't more films like this, as it's all done with so much respect and authenticity that, despite all the star-power on display, I'll often forget that I'm just watching a film and not the actual events as they happened.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
For a film so on-the-nose featuring a modern day Normandy Invasion against MATRIX-like robot squid aliens who have taken over central Europe, this film works surprisingly well due to its fun hard scifi premise of reliving a time period over and over again until getting things "right". It's basically a send-up of the strange reality of video games, where the key to winning is not so much based on skill, but on memorization after hours and hours of trial and error. Ever seen an amazing speed-run of Super Mario or Battletoads online and wondered what it took to get there? This movie answers your questions, depicting it with a semi-plausible real-world scenario.
The editor for the film certainly gave life to a concept that could easily become tiring. In fact, I would say this has to be one of the better-edited films I've seen in years. Things move along briskly and snappily and it was difficult to look away up until the climax of the film which unfortunately gets a little formulaic and stretchy to make things ultimately satisfying.
Emily Blunt feels miscast as some battle-hardened veteran with perfect makeup, hair, and nary a scar from all her hand-to-hand combat. Sure the film would have been more realistic to have someone like Sam Elliot in her part as a shepherding mentor character, but wouldn't have the eye candy, and let's not kid ourselves there.
Cruise does a good job playing a fish-out-of-water everyman type hero, but he's starting to get a little old to play this sort of character believably in such an action-heavy film. Action-wise, there are plenty of amazing stunts largely buried under a heavy torrent of VFX and CGI but thankfully not as obnoxiously as we've come to expect in films such as this.
Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
Last AND least of the series
Stallone is back for another Rambo movie in 2019? Seriously, did anyone see this coming? While I ought to be thankful that anything like this can get made, I can't help but feel underwhelmed with how little care here went into what matters most.
As a fan of Stallone's and the character's going back to the very beginning, I went into this one without seeing any trailers or reading any reviews lest they sully my impartiality. A few of my friends posted some glowing praise, calling this the gory version of HOME ALONE etc. which bothered me as it made the film sound extremely simplistic. In the end, it's actually even simpler than that due to some heavy abbreviation and and under-baked script.
The things I came in wanting to see never happened. We never get to see Stallone reunited with his surviving family as the previous film posed, and it feels extremely unclear with his relationship with the other characters he shares a ranch with. Perhaps that could be cleared up with subtitles as Stallone grunts and slurs his way through many key lines. When his surrogate (?) "daughter" (??) gets kidnapped on an ill-advised trip south of the border to trade some passive-aggressive words with her birth-father (???), I found it a little refreshing that the film doesn't shy away from brutality in the slightest. Aside from the lack of any P.C. sensitivity in 2019, there are practically no surprises afterward as Stallone goes on a very Neeson-esque dive into the underworld to find her.
This sort of thing would work if we were to get treated to a few tricks he had up his sleeve or a stealthy sneak-in and extraction as seen in RAMBO's 2-4. Does he attempt this? Nope! Stallone just walks right up to the front door of a whore house (after gullibly believing two strangely honest underworld characters) in a move that doesn't make any sense in the script or to the character. He's saved only due to the idiocy of the villains to take ill-advised mercy on him and things just roll from there. When a script relies on characters to make dumb decisions in order to move forward, it's hard to take anything seriously as the film turns into an 80's slasher movie, only with the hero as the invincible killer.
Do we at least get some explosions and blood in the end? Well yes, but it's filmed and done with cheap post effects which serve to soften much of the impact. Bad car driving compositing, cartoony blood effects, little enemy characterization, uninspired killings, bad math on how many enemies are left, too much time spent underground, and the lack of any realism or tension really sink things. While I appreciate that the film has an uncompromising tone and Stallone puts in a solid performance, there really isn't much reason to see this film.
As much of a surprise is that this film got made, I had really hoped that Stallone's final hanging up of the hat for this role would be a little more dignified. It's a slight step up from your average Van Damme or Lundgren DTV action film these days but that ain't saying much.
One Against the House (2019)
One of the better low-budget films I've seen in awhile
As of this review, the full movie is available on youtube and while that's usually a bit of a red flag, I found it actually a refreshing change of pace. Unusually for films of this budget range, I really grew to like the characters and care about whether or not the central heist scheme comes to fruition. There's a palatable sense of tension and immediacy throughout coupled with the knowledge that someone is going to screw someone over at some point and that it's just a matter of time.
Michael Nose puts in a nicely subtle performance as a pseudo-villain who succeeds in letting the audience's and protagonist's guard down with his honest charm. Crowe as the vulnerable, somewhat-bumbling lead lead works well too, though the main gangster boss villain comes off a little over-the-top. My main criticism for this is in the narrative in that it feels rushed at times like some critical info was left on the cutting room floor. There's a bit of an abrupt transition later in the film where one character goes from running through the desert to freezing to death in an alley which could have used an extra scene in there to show why he doesn't break into a nearby house or car out of desperation. Considering the deliberate pace of the rest of the film, I don't think it would have hurt. Also, the hero makes a particularly confusing choice near the end of the film which made me dislike him a lot on first viewing but makes a lot more sense when one considers he's become hooked on risk.
That brings me to the central point of what makes this film strong. It carries a strong message about the dangers of progressive gambling addiction at its core and keeps things very grounded and realistic, especially considering its oft-hyperbolic genre and budget constraints. I'm glad I took the time to give it a watch, as even though I had a vague idea of where it was headed, I found it wonderfully full of surprises and the odd nice bit of cinematography here and there.
Fulci does THE FOG
Atmospheric photography, music, and stylish direction keep this extraordinarily tedious story from being a total waste. This film has gained a cult reputation due to a few of the gory scenes but compared the Fulci's other acclaimed hits from the period, the special effects are certainly a cut below what you'll find in ZOMBIE, THE BEYOND, or THE NEW YORK RIPPER.
I do enjoy this film from time to time however as it's bizarre seeing Fulci make use of Savannah, Georgia to sub in for a "lost" New England town in a half-baked nod to H.P. Lovecraft. There's very little Lovecraftian about this film and so little thought put into the premise or world-building that it's almost as comical as the laughably banal dialog. Almost nobody in the film behaves like an actual human being and we never learn much about any of our characters' motivations because they're all 1-dimensional (or less).
You can look at it one of two ways; either as a surreal nightmare powered by nonsensical "dream logic", or as a hilariously inept gorefest that suffers from bad translation. I would be a bigger fan of this film if it just got going a little sooner and didn't have so many red herring side-stories that don't contribute anything aside from a lot of boring dialog and an occasional victim. There's precious little zombie action and it's only really much fun for the last 5 minutes, much like Fulci's very similar HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY.
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Far from perfect but still my favorite Bond
I loved this movie especially as a teenager upon first viewing many years ago. It's one of the more over-the-top entries in the franchise with plenty of plot holes and contrivances but it stays out of the campiness of the later entries. Overall, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE is just a barrel of fun and set the standard for the series... so well that it was essentially remade as both THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and MOONRAKER.
Reasons I love this movie so much:
1) The space scenes. John Barry was still years away from composing the music for THE BLACK HOLE or STAR CRASH, but really found a great sound to set the tone for the loneliness and magnificence of space. The special effects in these scenes hold up really well and the mystery of the unidentified spacecraft gives the film a lot of welcome tension, played nicely seriously.
2) The action. Connery looks a little tired of the part, but he's also quite comfortable in the role like a familiar old friend. He handles the fisticuffs nicely but director Lewis Gilbert throws in enough creativity to keep things fresh and non-repetitive. The fight on the docks, the helicopter battle, and of course the raid on the villain's lair work as some of the best action scenes of the late 60's.
3) The Japanese setting. This film has a strong Toho connection with the casting of the two leading ladies from KING KONG VS. GODZILLA along with a dubbed Tetsuro Tamba. I love the look into Japanese post-war culture from the Western lens in a way we seldom got to see during this era. Connery has great chemistry with all his Japanese costars especially Tamba who might be my favorite of all his allies. Even the expository scenes with the two of them chatting at a secret bathhouse is fun to watch and makes espionage look so cooperative and exciting.
4) The production design. Ken Adam went all-out in his set designs, especially with the astonishing volcano base for the film's villains.
What doesn't work?
1) The script is completely full of holes and contrivances. There's plenty that doesn't make sense, but makes for a great shared viewing experience with friends. Mostly these goofy elements float by pretty seamlessly on first viewing but don't hold up under scrutiny. Why does Specter capture the spaceships rather than just shoot them down? How'd they build this giant base in the middle of Japan without anyone knowing? Why do they have to keep sending helicopters out of it to go patrolling around (it serves no purpose other than to lure James Bond in)? Also what was Connery hoping to accomplish disguising himself as a Spectre astronaut? Why didn't he give the job to one of the actual astronauts he'd rescued earlier?
2) Connery has to have the most hopelessly unconvincing makeup as a Japanese person while undercover that I've ever seen. I can only imagine the actor didn't want to undergo hours in the makeup chair, but he makes Joseph Wiseman from Dr. No seem completely convincing by comparison.
3) Donald Pleasance as Blofeld. I feel his personality and reveal come as a major letdown after all the build-up in the previous Bond films. He's just not scary at all and they'd have been better off with someone more unemotional like Wiseman or Dawson from Dr. No.
4) It's just a tad too long. A lot of fat could have been trimmed out such as the ninja training and some of Bond's wandering around. The pace sags a bit when he goes undercover on the island I think especially owing to having to start all over with a second Bond girl relationship, which I think they shoehorned in just to put more women in the film.
Overall it's a very enjoyable film to watch with friends as the flaws just make it all the more fun. It's unfortunate that the series got so goofy quickly after this one with the odd bright spot here and there. Still I'm happy Connery gave us 3-4 classic Bond films and a couple "okay" ones as I think his balance of macho, charming, and childishness lent itself best to the character.
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Beautiful, exhausting, emotional, existential and frustrating gangster epic
My opinion of this film has changed a lot over the past 25 years. When I first saw it as a teenager, I was interested but confused and bored for most of the running time for being too talky. Later in my snobby cinephile phase of 20's, I found it to be one of the most extraordinary and mystical films I'd seen outside of early Herzog and Vittorio De Sica. The bad "old age" makeup always bothered me though and took me right out of the movie. Nowadays I find it a greatly flawed film which aimed too high for what its script ultimately achieved.
Almost everything technically comes off amazingly polished considering that this was basically a bigger-budgeted Italian crime movie as they'd gotten so good at during the 1970's. Sergio Leone handles every frame with an OCD level of craftsmanship and the production design and cinematography are as good as you'll ever find. Robert De Niro, James Woods, and many of the supporters bring their A-game. Personally I would have loved to have seen more of Joe Pesci, Burt Young, Treat Williams, Frank Gio, Danny Aiello, Richard Bright, etc. but their roles all come and go extremely quickly and often with no resolution. It's a shame, but this film is not really interested in portraying a conventional kind of narrative. Instead it plays more like a very languid, slow-paced dream for better or worse, including its share of impressive pathos and frustrating red herrings.
While portions of the film have a humorous tone such as the baby-swap scam and some of the shenanigans of the flashback child actors, it's overall an extremely sad experience most explicitly conveyed by the graphic rape scene and extremely cynical presentations of relationships and sexuality. The women gravitate toward the men who treat them the worst and lifelong friendships dissolve at the drop of a hat once political expediency demands otherwise. What little violence there is feels extremely gritty and punches hard, but almost all of it comes early in the film and practically nothing of note happens the final half hour.
Overall I just feel like too much is missing from this film to be a fulfilling experience and possibly if was all left on the cutting room floor. Who was Frank Gio's character working for? What happened with the union? Why all the emphasis on the main gang being Jewish when it doesn't seem to affect anything later in the film? Why the trash compactor truck? I would recommend this to film buffs as it's much more well-polished than something like GANGS OF NEW YORK. However it's not nearly as exciting or as enlightening of a view of the criminal underworld as any of Scorsese's, Coppola's, or Brian De Palma's forays into similar territory. It avoids a lot of the organized crime movie cliches but to a such point where I wonder if the narrative would have worked even better outside of the genre.
As fan of eurocult and B-movies, I have to say it's still a delight catching glimpses of the likes of Salvatore Billa, Bruno Bilotta, Olga Karlotos, Mario Brega, etc. sharing the screen with American crime cinema actors in a major film. A lot of the New York exterior sets found their way into several Italian post apocalyptic films in the early 80's including RUSH, A MAN CALLED RAGE, ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX, and 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK.
A frustrating Kaiju experience cynically created as a lead-in for more Extended Universe films
A couple years ago I saw SHIN GODZILLA in a small theater. Now that was how you do a modern Godzilla film. It had a few silly elements to it but the CGI didn't get too distracting and the tone was very serious and very Japanese. The film was so seeped in satire of Japanese politics that it made the very realistic feeling monster action all the more interesting with everything given respect and weight.
With this film, I'm just not sure what the filmmakers were trying to do (well, outside of build up some kind of new Hollywood franchise). The film opens with a lot of promise featuring some fairly fleshed out characters played by some very talented actors (Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga) who seem to take the subject matter very seriously. However, the film stumbles and falters after establishing its main plot as it seems to grow more interested in creating a new monster-verse (much like all the Marvel movies) than focusing on any one monster or any one plot.
While there's a couple great scenes of monsters fighting each other and even a brief sequence of Rodan leveling a fictional Mexican city, the narrative gets really goofy really quickly by thrusting our human characters into every match-up in some kind of ridiculous airplane or submersible which the monsters neglect to destroy for some reason. Things become comical once a patterns establishes where every time a monster starts bearing down on the main characters, they get saved by some other monster jumping in at the very last second. Frustratingly, the film never gives us a satisfactory dose of city destruction or battles with the military in favor of these cliche'd close-calls so common in American big-budget blockbusters. It feels more like a Jurassic Park sequel than a proper Godzilla movie.
I'd have given it a higher rating, but an abrupt and mishandled character shift toward the end of the film terribly neuters someone who otherwise could have made for a great believable villain. Most egregiously of all though would be the ending, which may be the most unsubtle and on-the-nose finale in history designed only to get teens excited for their future extended universe. Wow, since this film handled things so well, I just can't wait. It's filled with in-jokes only Godzilla fans will get, such as the naming of certain characters and weapons, but all it did was make me miss and appreciate the quaint and original Japanese films that much more.
Kudos to the filmmakers for finally bringing Ghidorah and Rodan to mainstream consciousness, but I'll likely be boycotting the rest of these soulless studio wannabe Kaiju films in favor of whatever their Japanese counterparts come up with in the coming years.
a must-watch for any 9-year-old boy
It feels very much like something out of a movie, but I very clearly remember seeing this film as a child some 30-odd years ago. My parents were at an air base for some big boring military meeting I wanted nothing to do with, so I went out to the lobby where an old black man was cooking popcorn by himself and this movie came on this huge projection-style TV that must have been a rarity back in the 80's. Shocked to become aware of a non-Godzilla Godzilla movie, I remember right away feeling like a hog in hog-heaven. Me and this old guy watching this film with all the fresh popcorn we could eat in some random air force meeting room lobby.
Years later and owning the DVD (which thankfully comes in both the US and Japanese cuts), I can say it really holds up and matched most of my memories, though I'll never be able to recreate the joy of that particular evening. This came in right at the height of the Kaiju cycle before Godzilla started to get really silly into the 1970's, boasting some of the best effects and monster action seen in any of the classic Toho suit-mation films.
The weak link I'd have to say comes in the form of a very bored looking Russ Tamblyn filling in for Nick Adams, who unfortunately took his own life prior to reprising his role in this semi-sequel. That's right, the film is actually a loose sequel to FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, another Japanese Toho monster movie just as silly as it sounds. This is one of the odd sequels that outdoes the original in every way. Good directing, effects, music, and a brisk pace that never lets up over the course of the film.
Of the two cuts I'd actually recommend the American over the Japanese. It has a reworked musical score and a few more insert shots of destruction and violence here and there during the monster action. Unfortunately both versions feature a completely awful ballroom ballad by Kip Hamilton, but the annoying nuisance-factor of her scene does thankfully at least build up to a reasonable pay-off shock moment.
Way ahead of its time
I first watched THEM! as a small child while living in the town of Alamogordo, New Mexico where the opening is ostensibly set. Later as an adult I went location scouting for a film at the Blaney Ranch outside of Palmdale, CA and had to go see what remained of the ant nest even 60+ years later! Suffice to say, I have long felt a deep connection with this film, and I think it has aged much better than most of my other childhood favorites such as THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD and any number of other giant monster movie because it's just so incredibly well-written, well-acted, and excellently directed.
THEM! not only started the whole giant bug craze, but the whole idea of radiation making things get giant in the first place. Without this film, we likely would never have had the whole Godzilla franchise (including RODAN which is essentially a remake of this film, down to someone being so shocked by the monster that they go catatonic), nor would we have seen Leonard Nimoy, Fess Parker, or even Clint Eastwood catapulted to stardom (as Eastwood's first film would be TARANTULA, a ripoff of this movie).
THEM! wisely takes itself completely seriously and, although with a couple silly characters sprinkled in such as the gibbering wino in the mental hospital, the film maintains an excellent atmosphere of terror and suspense from the first frame. Jameses Arness and Whitmore make for a perfect discernible pair of leads (tall guy and short guy), though characteristically of films like this it feels unrealistic to have them (especially Whitmore considering he's just a small-town police officer) as central figures throughout the entire nation-wide anti-ant government operation. Realistically though, I'm sure there's no way insects could ever grow so large due to gravitational / atmospheric limitations on exoskeletal strength, and there's just no enough biomass to support such large creatures in the desert. Okay, scientifically the film makes a few jumps and stretches, but it's just so well done that you most likely won't care.
Moby Dick (1956)
Better than the book, in my opinion
That's not something you'll hear very often, but when you have a literary genius such as Ray Bradbury reworking a century-old story for 50's sensibilities, it's difficult to imagine this turning out any better. I love what he judiciously chopped out and the para-psychological elements that he added he added in.
John Huston treats the film largely as an epic adventure movie with a sprinkling of horror elements and coming of age / loss of innocence through the eyes of goodhearted Ishmael. The film presents whaling with sport, terror and exuberance, which captures how whaling men at the time would have felt. Enlightened modern audiences will be thrown off if not taking into consideration that it's of a more "innocent" time... and in itself depicts a time when people were even more blissfully unaware of the true nature of endangered species. Strangely enough for the time, the whales themselves including Moby get treated with a surprising level of respect by the filmmakers in depicting them with as gentle creatures only driven to use their great power to fight back against their vulnerable attackers when egregiously provoked.
Much of the film's power and tone I think comes from the score by Philip Sainton, who unfortunately relegated his career as a composer to just this one film after a bad experience working with Charlie Chaplin right afterward. Ever since childhood, when I see that shot of Moby Dick rising from the water, headed straight at the camera with his mouth open right as the cymbals crack, has to be one of the most powerful and terrifying cinematic moments ever. The effects shots with water in the foreground splashing onto the lens, creating distortion and clearing away just at the right dramatic moments, add immeasurably to drenching the viewer with authenticity and immediacy. Wolfgang Petersen must have taken lessons from this film when directing his career-defining DAS BOOT many years later.
Seldom has Men Against Nature or Men Against the Sea been done quite this well. I'd maybe put JAWS and MASTER AND COMMANDER as close contenders, but even they can't quite match the bombastic power of this film.
The Soldier (1982)
Style over content leads to some great scenes but overall messy film
James Glickenhaus finally gets to work with a decent budget and uses it to create a fairly nonsensical but engrossing adventure just the same. The film maintains a serious and important tone throughout with plenty of high stakes and tension but disappointingly doesn't do much with it in the end. Mainly I find the film memorable due to the uncompromising and intense score by Tangerine Dream coupled with a lot of mean-spirited and violent setpieces toward the beginning of the film.
Ken Wahl reminds me of Italian actor Fabio Testi in that he's basically a blank slate but gets the job done. His delivery sounds a little like that mindless surfer bro who serves you a smoothie on the beach, but it gives his underwritten character a little bit of life. Supposedly his unit (also consisting of Steve James, Peter Hooten, Joaquim De Almeida, and some other random dude) are the crack, best of the best assigned to protect covert US interests. However their only real shared action is the bizarre, dreamlike opening of the film where they use no tactics whatsoever to foil and needlessly complicated terrorist attack. They're just standing there with Mac-10's drawn and spray and pray from the hip, killing squealing (yeah, squealing??) henchmen while burning as few calories as possible.
Little can be said about the film without mentioning the brilliant ski chase sequence, which may be the best ever filmed. Klaus Kinski shows up only to be completely wasted in one scene with a single inconsequential line, much like most of the other visiting character actors.
Overall THE SOLDIER feels more like an elaborate directing reel than an actual movie. I'd be much more apt to recommend it if the film's final act wasn't such a dreary letdown after all that build-up.
Inferno in diretta (1985)
I can't help but wonder what it would have been like had Craven directed it...
...as was originally intended.
After a particularly strong decade especially with his two cannibal munchers in the 70's, promising director Deodato fumbled a lot of promising premises all through the 80's. First he failed to really shock us with sleaze and depravity so advertised in the letdown that was HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK, then gave us so much action at the expense of story that it actually got tedious in the otherwise colorful RAIDERS OF ATLANTIS, and then this film. At least, like Lucio Fulci (who he would inevitably compared to as the other director that hopped across genres and made 'em violent), he always managed to put together good casts and pile in enough violence and synthesizer Simonetti music to keep things moving. Deodato's pacing actually works better than Fulci's but Deodato films tended to lack in having one or two real stand-out scenes to become the stuff of legend, even when they really should have.
CUT AND RUN is his most American-feeling movie, and it was to my understanding even begun as an attempt at an American film. You'll notice right away that hardly anyone is dubbed, and that gives it a lot less of that surreal charm you'll find in a lot of other Eurohorror films. There's a couple good kills, but what really sinks this film is a total lack of tension, characters we care about, or any real payoff at the end. Richard Lynch and Michael Berryman go totally wasted as the film's villains, and Willie Aames whines and mopes his way across the screen, leaving us with Leonard Mann and Lisa Blount to carry the load with an all-business lack of any chemistry whatsoever.
Strangely enough, some of the death scenes get glazed over such as where a character gets pushed into a moving train. Why did Deodato shy away from that when he gives us so many other quality kills earlier in the film? With the mean-spirited death scenes the primary draw of the film, why does it feel so limp with what should be some big battle near the end? The best violence comes with an earlier decapitation that's just so damn realistic as it is hilariously unnecessary with said character already suffering from a fatal poison dart attack anyway.
Deodato's next few films like LONE RUNNER and THE BARBARIANS went back to being a lot more kid-friendly while attempting to keep up the Americanization charade. The rest of his filmography the would consist of even lower budget, and more forgettable experiences.
Day of the Dead (1985)
a little underrated... but only a little
Romero's third zombie epic boasts the best special effects of any zombie movie made up to that point (and that includes all the Lucio Fulci gorefests) and presents and rich setup with some interesting ideas. However it pales in comparison to DAWN OF THE DEAD in managing to keep up even a shred of the bleak apocalyptic atmosphere, despite a lot more money spent and a more exotic location. That would be more forgivable if the script and acting were up to snuff, but they just aren't. Most of the cast goes way over the top with the better performers like Richard Liberty and John Amplas heavily sidelined by their scenery chewing peers (particularly many of the zombie extras who aren't behaving very consistently at all).
My biggest gripe has to be its transition from act two to three. We get that things are slowly unwinding and that everyone is at each other's throats and the film amplifies the tension up to that point quite beautifully. However to rely on someone snapping and intentionally letting in the zombies to not only (horribly) kill himself but everyone else feels like such a cheap tactic to get the zombie mayhem underway. Also it's bizarre how one minute a group of zombies is coming down an elevator into the bunker, the soldiers flee, but then into a whole mess of zombies already in the tunnel. Sure there's a quick shot earlier of zombies pouring in through the corral, but that doesn't make sense either as they would have killed Rhodes and Torres who had earlier been lying unconscious next to it.
Sloppiness aside, this film has some great moments and Sherman Howard's performance as Bub, undeniably is the greatest depiction of a zombie in any film. He manages to make certain scenes very emotional with merely his physicality hearkening back to the golden era of silent cinema. Also, what little zombie action we get is quality stuff. Just be sure to check your brain at the door when these post-apocalyptic humans waste ammo firing full-automatic at zombies in the chest when thew have known for years at this point how to actually kill them.
When I first saw this film in the 90's as a teenager I was solidly underwhelmed. It has grown on me some over the years but best if not compared too much with DAWN. It's still possibly the last decent zombie film of its millennium outside of DEAD ALIVE.
Slushy pseudo-fantasy aided by a fun supporting cast
From the 1970's to 1990's, the Italians managed to crank out a low budget copy of practically every successful American film (barring Ghostbusters I think as comedy and big budget effects were beyond their capabilities). Here we get the Italian exploitation version of EXCALIBUR with lots of beautiful people in glistening armor mashing weapons into each other. While competently directed and acted, the pacing feels much more sluggish than usual owing to some drab fall filming locations, noticeable lack of extras or population to the universe, droning Casio keyboard music, claustrophobic cinematography, and (worst of all) a thoroughly non-compelling story!
Most baffling of all to me is the decision to cast the Moors as anything but North Africans and Middle Easterners. As we get, Bobby Rhodes is the only Moorish mercenary who looks anything like one. Ronn Moss maybe works if we squint hard enough, but blonde bombshell Tanya Roberts as a Moor? Really? Was the casting department really that colorblind? Likely they just cast whichever bankable names they could find and hoped that us as the audience would be too stupid to know who the Moors were.
As with the John Boorman classic, this film exists somewhere between the historic and fantasy worlds. There's an odd sorceress who fades into nothingness, an animated suit of armor, and a pervy magician who renders himself invisible LORD OF THE RINGS-style, but no dragons or creatures who would have required make-up and money. Oh and what's with all the rape scenes? Poor Barbara De Rossi and Tanya Roberts seem to get pounced upon by every male they encounter, which may be a more accurate depiction of the lawless medieval European countryside than we've gotten in other films. It does give this otherwise lightweight and juvenile fable a strangely grim atmosphere, probably because the filmmakers either just didn't take the idea of sexual assault too seriously, or just wanted some breasts on screen.
Compared to other Italian exploitation films from the same time, this one seems to try to pass itself off the most like a serious drama or art film, but they ain't fooling anyone. Scratch the surface and it's every bit the same B-movie as something like ENDGAME (which also featured Al Cliver, Bobby Rhodes, Al Yamanouchi, and a Dell'Acqua brother), only with its money spent on horses rather than motorcycles.
Starmaking turn for Powers Boothe compares favorably to other attempts
You would have had to guess in 1978 that a movie about the most shocking event of the 70's would come soon after. Disappointingly, the first thing we got was a goofy exploitative mess of a film from Mexico called GUYANA CULT OF THE DAMNED (1979) starring Stuart Whitman as Jim "Johnson". The names in that film were changed "to protect the innocent" though Jim Jones would have to classify as about as far from "innocent" as anyone can get. Whitman looked the part but performed him as a 1-dimensional raving madman from the start.
A year later, a this 2-part TV movie came out which granted both the tragic events and Jones himself a much more fair portrayal, though things still came in a bit rough around the edges. The cast has about the same amount of names as the Mexican film, though with a lot fewer aging stars and a lot more up-and-comers such as Levar Burton, Brad Dourif, and Irene Cara. Ned Beatty I feel doesn't quite match the look and gravity of Gene Barry in the role of Congressman Ryan and his climactic visit to Jonestown is sadly glossed over. For some reason, they decided to leave out the creepiest episode of his visit; when the entire compound erupted into thunderous (fake?) applause for several minutes after he complimented their achievements. Also missing is the whole attempt on Ryan's life that caused him to leave the compound in the first place, along with the saboteur who infiltrated the group of escapees. The final massacre is given a much more nuanced approach with more respect and less sensationalism given to the victims, but it's all missing a little something in being able to capture the sheer brutality and spooky psychology behind so much suicide concentrated into a few hours in the jungles of Guyana.
Historical nitpicks aside, this film has much to reward any viewers who last through the labored scenes showing Jones's youth as a deeply troubled boy preaching to a herd of dogs who seem to somehow be paying attention. Rosalind Cash, Meg Foster, Randy Quaid, and Albert Hall give strong performances as Jones's earliest disciples. A lot of emotional weight comes in Boothe's earnest portrayal of a deeply religious and (originally) moral man vocally out to empower the black community who (due to drug use and clouded morality by a visit to the nearly-as-nutty Father Divine) ironically winds up enslaving and murdering more of its members than the racists he had so bravely stood against could have ever dreamed. The presence of so many children coupled with the nonstop cacophony of lies (with most of Boothe's dialog taken from Jones's tapes verbatim), brainwashing, and eventual murder makes this experience so undeniably sad and fascinating at the same time. I'm amazed Boothe never became more of a leading star in the 80's outside the excellent EMERALD FOREST (1985).
The story of Jones is the ultimate morality tale of religion used as a salvation to many and gradually perverted into the weapons of destruction. Three hours can try so hard but inevitably fail to do such a saga true justice. So much more could be done with the premise though that I would imagine another, more in-depth series to come before too long.
The Iceman (2012)
Ahistorical but an interesting window into the life of a serial killer / hitman
In this day and age, most of us would not expect to get away with committing murder once... let alone hundreds of them over the course of 30 years! But in 1960's and 70's New York, anything was possible? Richard Kuklinski stands out as straddling the line between serial killer and mob hitman. Was he a professional who just happened to have a murderous temper, or a dangerous psychopathic maniac who just happened to find employment in doing it? This movie falls short of answering a lot of these questions, but most likely it would simply be "yes to all".
While not really as big of a social commentary about the seedy underbelly of the city at the time (see TAXI DRIVER for that), this film has a dark and personal feel to it absent from a lot of other recent crime films. The odd stunt casting of David Schwimmer and Chris Evans as mobster killers surprisingly works pretty well, and the appearance of Ray Liotta and Robert Davi bridges the film with the more prestigious mob movies of yesteryear. It's unfortunate that the low budget and tendency to stray far from historical fact undercut what could have been the most powerful crime film in years. Michael Shannon shines as the star psycho even brighter than he did in BUG. His presence radiates menace and introspection all throughout. It's worth a watch just for him.
I'd like to see a SICARIO-style film about the Juarez Ripper, theoretically an American who exploited the nearly-lawless Mexican border city since the 90's and may have been the only maniac to ever outdo Kuklinski in terms of bodycount and sheer audacity. The issue there is that it's difficult to write an interesting story around a solitary murderer (if it was only one) with little personal interaction. Kuklinski had several accomplices and even attempted to start a gang of his own toward the end (having killed his own childhood gang off as a teenager). To me, this would have been a lot more cinematic, as well if they had tied in how he roped in one of his daughters' boyfriends into helping him dispose of the bodies and tried grooming him to become a hit man as well.
I understand there'd never be enough time in a feature film to truly grant an accurate, in-depth analysis of Kuklinski's "career", but certainly feel this film could have been a whole lot more moving after another rewrite or two.
Critics will love it... but you'll hate it!
Much like MOTHER from the previous year, this heavily biblically allegorical and stylized film will likely leave you simultaneously impressed, bewildered and bored. While much slower paced, this film boasts a lot more gore, 80's B-movie exploitation thrills and nostalgic charm but it's not as fun as it sounds. As an 80's kid and someone who plays a lot of "Hotline Miami" and listens to a lot of Synth Wave, you'd think I would be the primary target audience. Unfortunately, although I found the movie hypnotic at times with a lot of appreciable Tarkovsky and Herzogian overtones, it left me quite cold.
Ironically (considering the director's pedigree) the action scenes come as the main letdown. Cosmatos comes off best sticking to the human drama and existential foreboding and seems out of his league when trying to choreograph chainsaw battles and demonic biker attacks. A lot of the cast of character actors bring their A-game but a couple (such as the obese sacrificial victim) ham things up considerably. It tries hard, but it never reaches the fever-dream levels of insanity it aims for, owing largely to a leaden pace and heavily cliche'd 3rd act.
Certainly a memorable experience and something that's a little different, MANDY certainly has a lot for critics and stoners to talk about. I just can't say anyone sober and unpretentious will get much out of this opulent 80's rock metal fantasy with not enough metal and even less fantasy.
Cross of Iron (1977)
Accurately messy experience with the Eastern Front
While there have been a few movies at this point to deal with the Eastern Front (most recently the German TV series "Our Mothers Our Fathers"), nothing including STALINGRAD and the numerous Finnish war films have captured the horrific nature of the grit and fighting quite like this one. Sam Peckinpah uses editing like a science and makes this film a sort of WILD BUNCH in Eastern Europe. The quick cutting, slow motion, and balletic cross-cutting back and forth creates an exciting fever dream of an experience and certainly breathes a lot of life into the film's more superfluous scenes (such as Steiner's trip to the home front). We don't get exploding heads, murdered civilians, and entrails all over the place so I can't call this an anti-war movie along the lines of COME AND SEE. I would instead call this possibly the most macho WW2 adventure ever made with a strong satirical tone not really made too obvious until the last reel (which is a bit of a fluke I hear as reportedly they had run out of money to make it the way Peckinpah had originally envisioned).
This may be the only film to depict the desperate German holdout in the Taman Peninsula in the summer of 1943. My main complaint is that it isn't given much context (ie. a glorious map session like we got in BATTLE OF NERETVA or A BRIDGE TOO FAR) because the Taman Kessel was a unique phenomena of the war with its only resupply / escape over the Kerch straits to Crimea. On one hand it was the only hope the Germans had of ever attacking the oil fields of the Caucasus again, and on the other hand a very precarious and easily isolated pocket.
Nope, in this movie we are down in the trenches with the men for the most part, fighting for their lives every day and not very conscious or concerned with the greater strategy of the war. They may as well have set this in the Rzhev meatgrinder, which was probably even more horrific but beyond this film's budgetary scope. Most of the Germans (outside of oddly cast James Coburn and two of his senior officers) are played by real German actors speaking accented English. Once you get past the casting of American Coburn and Englishmen Mason and Warner in the key roles, it actually feels much more authentic than, say, ENEMY AT THE GATES. It falls victim to a couple cliches of course, with Zoll the ardent Nazi of Steiner's group being suicidally incompetent and a rapist (who is even introduced as a possible SS man though that wouldn't make any sense for him to be serving in a Wehrmacht unit so early in the war) who of course gets his just desserts. Maximilian Schell's villain is more of a Prussian aristocrat obsessed more with glory than Nazi racist/homophobic policies, even exploiting them to his advantage, which is a nice change of pace.
See with an open mind especially as a fan of Peckinpah's other action films. Pound for pound, it probably boasts the most action of all his films. Don't expect to be too enlightened or educated about the horrors of war or the human condition, though there are a couple good such scenes sprinkled here and there.
Der Untergang (2004)
History performed with lightning... makes me wish there was more of its kind
The last 10 days of the 3rd Reich has been fodder for plenty of films over the years, easy to make a 3-act structure around and showcase the fascinating final days of a corrupt dictator losing touch with reality. It's easy too fall into the realm of cliche with every character in one form or another having to cope with the fact that within a few days, nothing in their lives will ever be the same again... their system of government, their jobs, their family life, their society. Everything is soon to end.
Compared with THE BUNKER (1981) and HITLER: THE LAST 10 DAYS (1973), this film feels much more "real". Similarly with the others, it makes Albert Speer the natural voice of reason but strangely enough also puts Hermann Fegelein in this role once Speer leaves. Traudl Junge, though very much of Hitler's entourage, serves as the center of the film's point of view, giving the audience someone to side with due to her pure naivety.
Good narrative technique here showcases some truly spectacular performances, principally Bruno Ganz as Hitler. He doesn't quite capture Hitler's look as well as Alec Guinness and his voice sounds too raspy and high-pitched, but his mannerisms and commitment to the part are truly a part to behold. He plays his role not of a screaming tyrant (like Anthony Hopkins) but of a human being exhibiting both the ego-driven confidence of a superstar yet the panicked tantrums of a 4-year-old when he does't get his way. Of all the historical films I've seen, this is the most difficult in which to forget that I'm just watching a movie and haven't been somehow transported magically back to the past no matter how many times I've seen it.
The main rewatchability for me now comes from anaylzing the supporting players, all of Hitler's generals and "friends" who stuck by his side to the end. Some, such as Jodl, Mohkne, and Speer were more clear-thinking, while others such as Goebbels had likely lost touch with reality even more-so. It's fascinating to see how people cope with their world crumbling in around them, helpless to do much about it, yet at the same time obeying the rules of their corrupt system and worshiping tyrants who made their own megalomania and insanity that much clearer by the day. In a rarity for films of this kind, a few characters belonging to the SS (namely Mohnke and Schenk) are even given a sympathetic portrayal trying to save lives and end unnecessary bloodshed, giving this film authenticity in terms of presenting the events in moral shades of grey as opposed to black and white.
That said, DOWNFALL shuffles a lot of historical events around for sake of its narrative which bothered me. Goering, for instance, sent his telegram prior to Hitler's birthday and the shelling of Berlin by the Soviets. Fegelein was arrested prior to Himmler's "betrayal" too and events only played out vaguely in the chronology that the film presents. I suppose that is one of the greatest difficulties of making a historical film; accurately conveying causality and fairness to historical characters while at the same time keeping things interesting to the audience.
Life's a Beach (2012)
A forgotten Sarah Marshall clone, made nearly a decade prior
This movie plays a lot like FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. So close in fact that you might think it was just a cash-in, but this film was shot in 2000 and sat on the shelf for years before finally finding distribution. While intermittently funny, the film feels like a mess with many disconnected scenes and so much partying that it makes you wonder where the filmmakers' priorities were while shooting this.
We get some interesting cameos in the form of Chrisopher Walken, Robert Wagner, Morgan Fairchild, and Rutger Hauer, but they're not in the film very much and aren't really on their A-game. This is particularly in the case of Hauer, who appears stoned or drunk out of his mind during the duration of the shoot. Walken and Wagner go largely wasted, especially a funny gag opportunity they missed. The two could have gotten in a fight on a boat, accidentally pushed a girl into the water, who drowns, and then look at each other and yell, "oh no, not again!". No such luck.
Technically the film feels a bit uneven with some occasional poor cinematography followed by some great work. It makes me wonder if two different crews shot this thing. Many jokes fall totally flat but a running gag in which the two leads keep getting mistaken for a gay couple works surprisingly well, particularly during the scene in which someone overhears their conversation about scuba gear through a doorway. Fairchild gets in a quick shower scene in one of the highlights of the film.
The main showpiece of the film, in which several people drink a spiked beverage, goes sadly wasted and doesn't really affect anything later on. Things drag and get repetitive, but still, consider yourself lucky finding this extreme rarity.
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
My favorite Craven film, though not necessarily his "best"
This film maintains a lot of the "rough around the edges" quality that Craven exhibited in his debut film LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but thankfully this film feels much more focused and has a lot less comedy in it. The characters feel a lot stronger to me but the real star of the show is the location.
THE HILLS HAVE EYES runs at a brisk pace and never falls into predictability, even having seen it several times. There are moments of pure acting brilliance, particularly the grandmother's reaction to her husband getting set on fire and some inspired lunacy on the part of the most colorful antagonists (Michael Berryman is a standout and easily gives the film an extra star).
That said, so much more could have been done with this film and its ending comes so abruptly that it's always left a rotten taste in my mouth. A major plot points rely on dumb character decisions and don't really make much sense (would that car trap really work after breaking an axle?) plus the attempt at exposition comes off as rather silly.
I've always wondered who those people are who live deep in the desert and what is going on in their mind and this film represents an extreme example, but they're made out to be so over-the-top that it misses what could have been a lot of interesting anthropological information like we got about backwoods folks in SOUTHERN COMFORT and THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK. Also the interesting angle on survival in the heat of the desert feels curiously missing from this film and would have given it a whole new element of "ticking clock" suspense. The military testing range element to the location adds a little creepiness at the start but never comes back into play later. My favorite bits come early with the characters exploring around the delightfully creepy near-deserted gas outpost, only glimpsing their watchers momentarily.
All in all, this film is a classic of the genre and very enjoyable to watch. It does miss many opportunities though which I hope they addressed in the remake. It could be one of those rare cases where the remake improves over the original, though it would never be able to replicate that 70's Grindhouse charm.
McCabe and Mrs. Merril vs. Joe the Plumber and Moaning Zombies
This is a tough film to review.
I remember back in 1996 going on the hunt for this movie after hearing about it through various horror/zombie/gore websites on the early days of the internet. Back then, simply finding this movie was a revelation and to see that it was actually professionally made was the frosting on the cake, as most underground horror movies (think FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, etc.) tended to be amateur efforts. This film did not disappoint albeit with many misgivings.
After a few decades and many rewatches and re-evaluations, I have to say it's not the easiest movie to watch. Pacing-wise it has the nasty habit of speeding up and slowing down repeatedly, as though the writers and director just didn't really care about things in between the gore set-pieces. As a result, I didn't care much either as most of the dialog couldn't be more banal and the characters more hollow. Both stars Warbeck and MacColl do their best with their lines, but their characters literally come from nowhere. There's even dialog suggesting that one or more of the side-characters may be imaginary. Okay, so if Arthur, Martha, etc. are all imaginary or purgatory souls, etc. why can't the main characters also be imaginary and why don't they act more consistently off-kilter? Is this all some dream? Why care about any of this? A few scenes fleshing out the relationships & motivations would have helped enormously.
The scenes involving the blind woman who may or may not be there to help could have been creepy and added some tension, but instead she's the most dull character in Italian horror history, serving up nothing but confusing exposition. Also even though some characters are supposedly not real, they still have the habit of dying horrible, extended deaths.
Then come the zombies! Oooh boy does this film take forever to get there. They're not the usual gut-munching variety but seem to shamble around slowly looking for people to grab onto and murder with whatever sharp thing is nearby. It turns out they're just as easy to kill as the zombies in any George Romero movie with a shot to the head, but even the well-armed individuals in this film frequently forget to aim for the brain. I know body-squibs are a lot easier than head-squibs, but good grief it's irritating when characters act like total idiots.
I've heard of this film described as the triumph of style over content. Fabio Frizzi's score is certainly celebratory and bombastic (including a chorus), but maybe something lower key in a Tangerine Dream/Jay Chattaway variety would have worked better to keep the pace up. THE BEYOND demonstrates excellent cinematography, editing, and direction similar to Fulci's other films from the time. However I can't really forgive how much of a dull mess the experience of watching this film can be without frequent use of the FF button. It's frustrating in that between this, ZOMBIE, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, and HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, there's a high-water-mark of the 80's zombie horror masterpiece somewhere in there if you pluck out elements and trim the fat. It's all over 6 hours of movie with only 80 minutes of it any good.
The Hobbit (1977)
A solid product of its time
After the fiasco of the Peter Jackson trilogy, I have to say my appreciation for this film has increased substantially. Let me share a few reasons.
1) The compacted story - while it could have followed the book a little more closely in the last act, the movie really moves along at a quick pace which won't bore younger viewers. There's only a couple major omissions to the story. Beorn gets cut from the story (much like Tom Bombadil in the Ralph Bakshi LORD OF THE RINGS movie) but it's not much of a loss in my opinion. They did a great job of "trimming the fat" and leaving the viewers at the end hungry for more (hence why I and so many others then went into the much darker and denser LORD OF THE RINGS universe afterward so eagerly).
2) Enjoyable for both younger and older viewers - being a fantasy movie, it does have violence on display but manages to neither be graphic nor ridiculously sanitized. None of the dialog feels dumbed down from the book, maintaining its relatively wide vocabulary. This is something most newer fantasy movies fail at; they either have to elevate the violence to levels inappropriate for small kids or they make the narrative so kid-friendly that adults can't connect.
3) The spirit of the book maintains - while a lot of the musical numbers may irritate viewers, I have to point out that they were almost all in the actual book. Also if you look at the artwork and character design, it's all based on pre-existing illustrations for the books, very accurately bringing the pages to life.
4) The voice cast - remember when animated films would cast for the right voice and not just star recognition value? I actually blame Sean Connery's casting in DRAGONHEART (which was highly publicized) for this. Back when this movie was made, careful effort was made to bring in some of the best voice actors in the business such as Don Messick, Paul Frees, Brother Theodore and actor/director John Huston. Once relatively big-name Richard Boone works perfectly as Smaug, surprisingly enough. Overall the mixture of British and American actors gives it a transatlantic fantasy element that similarly worked well in THE DARK CRYSTAL.
Among many other reasons, compared with Jackson, Rankin/Bass were just able to do so much more with so much less.
So, to parents out there; do yourself a favor and show this to your kids of any age. It'll get them into fantasy better than anything outside of Ray Harryhausen's creations. In my opinion it's the strongest of Rankin/Bass's output and the most fun (as in least exhausting) of all Tolkien adaptations.