Seconds (1966) & Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949) Reviews

I have my May Roundup post ready but ended up with two more reviews that were a bit too long for a “summary” post. So here are two final quick reviews of movies I watched in May before I post the full list of 26 movies tomorrow.

Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949)

Directed by Robert Hamer

Based on Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman

Starring: Valerie Hobson, Dennis Price, Joan Greenwood, Alec Guinness

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A distant poor relative of the Duke D’Ascoyne plots to inherit the title by murdering the eight other heirs who stand ahead of him in the line of succession.

My Opinion:

This was a fun film. I don’t really have any experience at all with the classic Ealing Studios films (I think this is my first?). I have an excuse, I suppose, as I didn’t grow up in England and there are still loads of British movies I’ve not seen. I’d have to say the older British films are probably more my style and I really enjoyed this one, although I’m worried I may have started with their best? It seems the most well known, anyway. And Alec Guinness was a delight in this. Anyone who knows anything about this movie at all will know all about him in this but, as I’m sure there are still some who know nothing about the film, I won’t say much.

This is a black comedy and it was amusing to see the different ways in which the main character kills off his estranged family so that he can become the Duke. The family all had fun & very different personalities. Suffragette Lady Agatha D’Ascoyne was the best and I wished we could have seen much more of that character. Also really liked photographer Henry D’Ascoyne, one of the nicer family members who just likes to have a drink now & then. There are also a couple of love triangles going on and some good back-stabbing & murder mystery twists.

This was a very enjoyable film so I’m going to check out The Ladykillers next from the Ealing Studios filmography. I’ll happily take any recommendations of other classic British films I may have missed! I think The Archers Powell & Pressburger films may be even more my style based on the gorgeous Black Narcissus that I watched this year & the masterpiece A Matter Of Life And Death which deserves WAY more attention than I think it received outside of the U.K. Oh, and I’d love classic British horror recommendations! Dead Of Night was fantastic. And, shamefully, I’ve never seen a Hammer Horror. Shocking as a horror fan.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Seconds (1966)

Directed by John Frankenheimer

Based on Seconds, a novel by David Ely

Starring: Rock Hudson, Salome Jens, John Randolph, Will Geer

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
An unhappy middle-aged banker agrees to a procedure that will fake his death and give him a completely new look and identity – one that comes with its own price.

My Opinion:

Been meaning to watch this for years as it sounded like it could be a creepy movie with a Twilight Zone type of story, which is exactly the sort of thing I love. And it was that kind of thing! Sort of. Although I think The Twilight Zone actually had better stories & told them brilliantly in much less time.

You know I honestly don’t think I’ve seen a Rock Hudson movie before this one?? That’s pathetic. I do need to watch more old films but can see why this is what I’d go for of his stuff. I do love the weird movies! (But this is nothing compared to Butt Boy which I watched the other week). I liked the story in Seconds although, having grown up on these exact kind of stories & loving twists, it was pretty easy to predict. Still absolutely worth watching, though, if you like this kind of thing. It’s still so much better than Black Mirror, which I did enjoy some of but mostly just found it to be inferior to the shows that came before it & felt much more original than Black Mirror did.

This movie does a good job of capturing the whole “middle-aged man with perfectly fine life has a mid-life crisis & wants to start over” thing. It also explores if that would really make people happy if it was indeed possible to start over. Was this only offered to men in this movie?! Seemed to be. Typical! I think just as many women want to start over (if not more). The movie maybe could have done with a little more focus on his previous life for us to really understand what he gave up but it still got its point across. And it made up for a slight lack of character development by having a full-on naked grape-stomping orgy thrown into the middle of the film. Hell yeah! Where did that come from?! God I love when an old film throws something wild in there. Forget Blue Γ–yster CultSeconds has Purple Grape Γ–rgy Cult!

Where was I?! The orgy totally threw me. I enjoyed this. I’m glad I finally watched this movie (thanks Film Miasma & Blogferatu!).

My Rating: 7/10

Murder By Death (1976) Review

Murder By Death (1976)

Directed by Robert Moore & Written by Neil Simon

Starring: Truman Capote, Alec Guinness, Peter Falk, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, James Coco, Eileen Brennan, Elsa Lanchester, Nancy Walker, Estelle Winwood

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Five famous literary detective characters and their sidekicks are invited to a bizarre mansion to solve an even stranger mystery.

My Opinion:

Is this the first Neil Simon movie I’ve ever seen in my life?? I think it is! First of all, can I just say that I have no idea when I watched this & it’s stressing me out? Whenever I finish watching a movie, I immediately add it to my current year’s page on here. I forgot to add this one! I just realized when I decided it was time to review it. I’ve added it to my 2015 page but I’m thinking it may have been late 2014. Oh, the drama!! πŸ˜‰ Now that I’ve murdered you all by boredom, I’ll talk about what I remember of this movie all these days?, months?, years? later. I’m catching up now as I don’t really get to go to any current films over the summers. I need to go to a movie soon!!!

I’d never even heard of this movie until several years ago when someone mentioned it was a favorite of theirs. I kept that in mind so was happy when it appeared on UK Netflix. I’m funny about “comedy” – there are very few that I like. I’d rather watch a “proper” movie like sci-fi, fantasy, action, drama… I mean, no movie will ever be as funny as The Princess Bride so I kind of can’t be bothered to watch many comedies. Oh yeah – Billy Crystal! HE’S funny! City Slickers! Monsters, Inc! Billy makes me laugh! Why do we have to suffer with shit like We’re The Millers nowadays? And why did I even watch that? Maybe I need to explore some older stuff like Murder By Death. Because Murder By Death is… funny! It’s not “Billy Crystal funny” & Peter Sellers is a somewhat annoying distraction but it’s pretty damn funny overall. The surprising thing was that the most serious acTOR, Alec Guinness, was hilarious as the blind butler! I think Guinness & Peter Falk (Princess Bride connection!) were my favorite things about this. Oh! And tiny Nancy Walker as the deaf-mute cook! She was awesome. Her scenes with Guinness’ blind butler were a riot. Is that politically incorrect? Well, if you think it is you’ll want to fast-forward through every scene with Peter Sellers as an Asian detective based on Charlie Chan. Oh boy! More about that later…


So, this movie is a spoof on famous detective novels/movies. Most of the characters are obvious but I did have to look them up. I’ve never read a murder mystery but I’ve always thought about checking out some of Agatha Christie’s novels. I wish I had a little experience with this genre as I probably would have appreciated the comedy a bit more. Well, I did love Murder She Wrote – Angela Lansbury kicks ass! πŸ˜‰ From Wikipedia, these are the characters who those in Murder By Death are based on:

  • Inspector Sidney Wang (Peter Sellers) is based on Earl Derr Biggers’ Chinese police detective Charlie Chan. 
  • Dick and Dora Charleston (David Niven and Maggie Smith) are polished, sophisticated society types modeled on Dashiell Hammett’s characters Nick and Nora Charles from the Thin Man film series. 
  • Milo Perrier (James Coco) is a take on Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. 
  • Sam Diamond (Peter Falk) parodies another Dashiell Hammett character, The Maltese Falcon’s hard boiled Sam Spade. 
  • Jessica Marbles (Elsa Lanchester) parodies Christie’s Miss Marple. 

These famous characters are invited for the weekend to the mansion of a mysterious millionaire, played by the intriguing Truman Capote. He claims that there will be a murder to be solved and that the winner will receive one million dollars.

Blah blah blah, hijinks ensue! Some of the jokes were totally silly but that’s the kind of thing I like. I liked Guinness being named Jamesir Bensonmum just so there could be a silly exchange with a couple of guests (David Niven & Maggie Smith if I remember correctly). Speaking of Niven, he’s been in tons but the only other thing I’ve seen him in is The Pink Panther with Sellers. I like him – I’d have to say that I prefer him to Sellers with his over-the-top comedy. Anyway, as I mentioned, Sellers plays an Asian detective here based on Charlie Chan. I don’t know anything about the character of Chan so had to look into this but it does appear that this performance is a send-up of the fact that Chan was so often played by white actors. In this context it makes sense & makes it not as bad as Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (Truman Capote connection!) but his character may not sit right with some people who watch this movie today. Which is kind of a shame as it’s otherwise quite an enjoyable film.

Summary:

I enjoyed Murder By Death quite a bit but, like the movie, I’m from an older generation. The comedy probably won’t work on a younger audience and may be seen as too politically incorrect at times. If it sounds like your kind of comedy & you’re a fan of the very impressive cast, I’d definitely recommend this if you’ve not seen it.

My Rating: 7/10

IMDB Top 250 Challenge – Movie #19 – The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957) Review

20130723-052727 PM.jpg
The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957) – IMDB Rank #100

Watched 23/6/13

Directed by David Lean

Starring:
Alec Guinness
William Holden
Jack Hawkins
Sessue Hayakawa
Geoffrey Horne
James Donald

Running time: 161 minutes

Plot Synopsis (via Wikipedia):

In World War II, British prisoners are marched to a Japanese prison camp in western Burma. The commandant, Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), informs them that all prisoners, regardless of rank, are to work on the construction of a railroad bridge over the River Kwai. The senior British officer, Lt. Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness), reminds Saito that the Geneva Conventions exempt officers from manual labor.

And a bit more – that gives you the general idea.

20130723-052849 PM.jpg
My Opinion:

I have to admit that with this IMDB Top 250 Challenge, I’m not looking forward to forcing myself to watch some of them – Especially the war movies and the Westerns. Plus most of them are so LONG. So I put the 161 minute war movie The Bridge On The River Kwai on when I had nothing else to watch and figured I could have it on in the background while I did some chores and it would get one of these long, boring war movies off the list. Well, I didn’t do any of those chores because this movie is BRILLIANT! I loved it! Along with the Charlie Chaplin stuff, Kwai is my biggest pleasant surprise since starting this challenge. My faith in the IMDB Top 250 has somewhat been restored after some real disappointments recently.

20130723-053117 PM.jpg
Here’s my confession: I’d seen Alec Guinness in nothing other than Star Wars before this. Horrible movie fan, I know! Well, you know… I’m young(ish). So, anyway… Give me a break. πŸ˜‰

Alec Guinness is amazing in this. Turns out he’s a REALLY great actor. Lol! Yeah – I think everyone already knew this so there’s not much point in saying much more about it. His performance as the strong-willed Lt. Colonel Nicholson, whose resolve never falters, truly is stunning. The film is worth the watch for his performance alone. Luckily, though, it’s worth watching for many other reasons as well.

20130723-053201 PM.jpg
William Holden plays United States Navy Commander Shears and also gives a fine (and very American) performance. I won’t go into the story as there may actually be some people who haven’t seen this but he plays a very important role. Hell – everyone in this gives an Oscar-worthy performance and I can’t fault any of them: Sessue Hayakawa as Colonel Saito, Jack Hawkins as tough-guy British Major Warden, Geoffrey Horne as the cute Canadian Lieutenant Joyce, and James Donald as British medical officer Major Clipton, who has a smaller role but I really enjoyed his character & he gets to deliver a great memorable line. Why can’t they make movies like this with performances like these anymore?

20130723-053249 PM.jpg
Summary:

One of those “worthy” classics that truly deserves all the praise it has received. Excellent, gripping story with an intense and unforgettable ending and characters that you really believe in and care about (something unfortunately lacking in far too many modern movies). Unlike some classics that have been hyped up over the years and then leave you a bit disappointed when you watch them, The Bridge On The River Kwai never disappoints & is one you’ll be happy to have finally forced yourself to watch. Oh, and it’s good from the very start, unlike some long classics that take a while to get going. I guarantee you won’t get any chores done for 161 minutes should you decide to give this one a try. And I really hope you do give it a try. As you may have guessed, I highly recommend it.

My Rating: 9/10

20130723-053322 PM.jpg
(Good movies make me happy) πŸ™‚

The famous “Breakfast Club” whistle. John Hughes knew good shit when he saw it. (I wasn’t going to finish this review without mentioning The Breakfast Club): πŸ˜‰

(And after this one, I watched a long Western! Once Upon A Time In The West. I suck at being girly.)