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I'm still waiting...
23 January 2004
I'm still waiting for this movie to show up on DVD, so I can see it again and see if it's held up well to my memories of it.

This movie does have some of the best user comments as any movie I've seen in IMDb. All are good, no bad ones in the bunch. You people are alright. No Sayyids in this group.

I'm convinced everyone who's written a comment here saw this movie in December, 1980. Yes, we all saw it on the same day on the same night and at the same time! I'm pretty much sure of that.

See ya in Paris sometime!

Amelie? I don't know, patrick. It was a good movie but it was a little more on the fantasy side, whereas French Postcards was a little more realistic -- or at least that's how I remembered it. Although I do believe Amelie is one of those movies whose clever style will be copied by many others. Look at's commercials with their "Roaming Gnome". Is that where they got that idea?

I think the FP crowd would also like Diva (1982).

Bye for now.
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Godspell (1973)
A positive look at life, Christ and the Gospel of Matthew...
1 March 2003
Matthew 18:1-4, "At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Reading through some of the reviews about this movie -- here and elsewhere -- I think people forgot or overlooked the reason its characters act and dress the way they do. They obviously change the way they behave (and dress) as adults at the start, and maybe it's true a little less "Sesame Street" would have been better but that's probably the reason.

Let's also give movies like this credit for doing a difficult task: It's about a very well known story. Along with movies about the Civil War or the American Revolution, we all know how they begin and how they're gonna end, so any story based on them is already at a disadvantage. And add religion to the mix and you're doubly disadvantaged.

Also give it credit for using a cast of unknowns (thank God) that add to its overall positive message 30 years later. (hmmmm...I wonder what well known star or stars they could have brought in back then to lip sync their way through it?)

I've only seen parts of this movie over the years and haven't seen it in its entirely until recently. For a 30 year old movie it looks pretty good on DVD!

I originally saw part of it when it appeared on television only two or three years after it first came out. And as usual with movies like this I had to see how the only song I knew from it -- "Day by Day" -- was used. At the time I don't think I cared for this movie (I was expecting something more JC Superstarish), but years later I still remembered how subtle and unpretentious the "Day by Day" song was introduced, and the movie's unique ending also stuck with me.

It's its songs that really make this movie shine and some of the better ones are: 1.Day by Day. 2.Prepare Ye (The Way of the Lord). 3.Beautiful City. 4.Bless the Lord. 5.All Good Gifts. 6.On the Willows.

And I do think some of the movie's direction is very impressive and effective...the early opening scene for the song "Prepare Ye (The Way of the Lord)" reminds me a lot of "Wings of Desire"(1986), the Finale with the NYC skyline as a backdrop (again "Prepare Ye"), the ending, and again the opening of "Day by Day".

There aren't many musicals I like, but of what I can think of at this moment, it's with "West Side Story"(1961), "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg"(1964), and "Singin' in the Rain"(1952) with its mix of song, direction and simple choreography that match some of the best in those excellent musicals. If anything I think it's more interesting and aged better than "JC Superstar".

Overall this movie is a very positive look at life, Christ and the Gospel of Matthew, and to be honest I'd rather see this film than most of the big money makers from the last 25 years.

P.S. For another good example of Christ's story in film check "The Gospel According to St. Matthew"(1964). It also has some very unique music.
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Welcome to Hell? Nope, it's just Florida !
22 September 2001
For the time this film is set, which is 1528, that's a very early era of western exploration (only 36 years after Columbus). I personally would love to see the Americas (North and South) before the full arrival of Europeans. Not because Europeans were "bad" but simply to see something before it's changed dramatically. Unfortunately for many of the early explorers and visitors -- English and Spanish -- a trip to the New World didn't give a feeling of wonder but of life in hell. I'm also aware of the fact that most extant written history of exploration of the New World was written by English authors so it's probably: bad Spanish explorers, good English explorers. But apparently not for this particular story.

As for this film I can only recommend its first hour, which is its best.

The first hour of this film does an excellent job of showing the problems these early explorers faced and how something so promising could turn so bad. Once Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (a copy and paste on that name!) leaves Florida it loses its sense of adventure and mystery (well a good part of it) and the film moves too quickly from Florida to the western shore of Mexico. So quickly you'd think Florida had mountains or terrain that looks like Colorado. The lead character also spends the rest of the time walking about like he fried his brain on drugs. For me, I'm more interested in and want to see and know about the journey and the people on the way.

I would love to talk to these early explorers or see what they saw and I admire them for their courage and sense of adventure, and if they still exist somewhere, how funny it all must seem to them now. Just wait 400+ years and you've got an area with beaches people flock to and Disney World. Does one man's hell eventually becomes another man's vacation spot ?!?!

This film's first hour does surpass all of "Aguirre: The Wrath of God" (1972) but loses something when it turns into a Conquistador "Apocalypse Now" (1979).

If anyone out there knows of any other good films about early exploration of the New World then e-mail me. Thanks.
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Is this the last great western?
22 September 2001
If you like westerns with a little bit of "Shane" (1953), "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), or the "Spaghetti western" style of the 1960s then you should find this film entertaining.

There's so much more life in this film compared to those early Spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood. Here Henry Fonda and Terence Hill (Mario Girotti) make a great team and the comic relief of Hill's character makes for more interesting viewing than a mumbling one syllable speaking Clint Eastwood.

The music is also great. I can't think of another Ennio Morricone film score that out does this one (can anyone else?). And as mentioned by others on this Web page this film's uplifting title tune really gets into your head -- and it's a welcomed visitor in mine! Also note: This film's soundtrack is once again available and was released on CD last year. It's also easy to find other CDs of Ennio Morricone film scores.

Are there any drawbacks in this film? Well, a previous user comment (by "good19142" on Aug. 24, 2000) concerning this film's "levels of humiliation,and political incorrectness" maybe on to something.

I also read through the other user comments on this film but no one mentioned any of its great memorable quotes. The first is a classic and concerns a baby bird, a cow, and a hungry coyote and it's the answer to a parable involving all three. It is as follows:

Jack Beauregard: Folks that throw dirt on you, aren't always trying to hurt you. And folks that pull you out of a jam aren't always trying to help you. But the point is: when you're up to your nose in stuff keep your mouth shut!

  • Another memorable quote -

Nobody: Sometimes running a little risk can bring big rewards. Jack Beauregard: If the risk is little, the reward is little.

  • Another memorable quote -

Nobody: A hero can't runaway from his destiny. Sometimes you smack into your destiny on the very road you take to get away from it.
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If.... (1968)
22 September 2001
(Warning: I mention parts of this film's plot in the comments below)

Well after 17 years I recently saw this film once again and to be honest it just doesn't seem as memorable as I remember it. Maybe it's because of all that has happened the past few years but this film's ending seems just plain cruel, out of place and unnecessary.

It's also odd but the last time I saw this film I could have sworn its title "If..." didn't pop up at the very end but was right before an ending that showed the school on a typical day as if nothing had happened and the violent ending was only a possibility (hence "If...."). I must have dreamed that ending.

It's still a well made film with a provocative title and good original music by Marc Wilkinson (a song called SANCTUS from the African mass "Missa Luba" is also used).

Unfortunately -- at least for me -- there's only one memorable scene in the entire film and it's a turning point in it. It occurs in section #6 (called "Resistance"). While Mick (another Mick?) the amateur astronomer gazes into the night sky with his telescope he tells Mick Travis "Space you see Michael is all expanding at the speed of light...". Mick Travis asks if Mick is with them in the planed rebellion by handing him a bullet. Mick (probably one of the few normal older students) hands the bullet back and offers Mick Travis a glance through the telescope. Mick gazes into the sky and lowers the telescope to see his girlfriend in a distant window. She waves back. (She either has very good eye sight or he adjusted the telescope's view while scanning down?). It's a well made scene that I still remember from 17 years ago. It's also funny but this time I noticed on this latest viewing how much the music in that section sounds like something off of The Moody Blues' "Days of Future Past" album (you remember: "Breath deep the gathering gloom...").

If this is basically just an all boys high school in England like you would have in the U.S. (Is it just a high school? Am I correct about that?) then most students would be between 14 and 18 years old. Maybe it's because most of the older students at this school are played by actors in their twenties (Malcolm McDowell was 25 at the time) and the fact that most of the younger students look like they're about 11 years old, but for the older students it looks like the greatest sadness in their lives isn't the regimented environment they live in at this school but that they are basically treated like children or same as the youngest students. Sure the older ones have additional responsibilities but they are basically treated like they're 11 -- they can't go into town (it's off limits) and everyone must be inside by 5 PM, etc.

One final thought: There are a few quotes mentioned under this Web page's "Memorable Quotes" section but not listed are the ones I always thought were this film's most unique, which are:

Headmaster: Work, play, but never mix the two.

Headmaster: Those given most, have most to give.
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Go ahead and laugh at this movie Shrew bait !
22 September 2001
(Warning: I mention some parts of this film that make it so unique in the comments below)

Go ahead and laugh but somebody in Hollywood is going to do a remake of this thing and pull in a ton of money. And you know it'll all be politically correct and probably have a female lead. Yes, it'll star someone like Jennifer Lopez (I mention her name because her pretty face is in one of the Celeb Photos on this Web page) and the person who remakes it will probably marry her too!

SO GO AHEAD AND LAUGH ! Someone will remake this movie **, make a ton of money, buy and move into a hellacious house in Beverly Hills, make the rounds on the talk shows, and marry miss J.Lo. And as for you -- you'll just be some unknown smuck who'll pay to see it and then write an IMDb user comment on it like,well...NEVER MIND !!

** The following comments are assuming it's a good remake and not done by someone like Tim Burton.

And I read through the other user comments and some of you admit there's a halfway decent story in this B movie.

I remember after viewing this movie when I was a kid I always wondered where I would run if the Shrews came running after me. You know they're hungry vicious b******s ! You can't climb up a nearby tree, you saw what happened, they just nibble away on that. Forget trying to outrun them. Is there water near by? How long can you stay up on a roof? And what's the deal with the poisonous teeth?

I repeat, go ahead and laugh!

(Note: I'm basing the above comments on a movie I probably haven't seen since 1968. I never knew its name and it took a few minutes to locate it in IMDb via its search screens. I'm also surprised by the number of user comments this thing has written about it.)
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Some mysteries are never solved?
20 August 2001
I last saw "Picnic at Hanging Rock" about 13 years ago and I like everyone else was curious as to what happened to the missing people.

Then by accident -- probably 10 years ago -- I came across an excellent review of this film where the reviewer may have solved its puzzle. This person's review was like a revelation to me. Could it be that I was looking at this film all wrong?

His theory, and if he's correct then this film isn't just a good film but one of the cleverest to come along in a long time. And if I ever find this review again I'll post its whereabouts. Great, another mystery to solve!

His theory was as follows: The mystery of the missing girls is simple -- there is no mystery. Nothing really happened to them. "Hokum" was a word the reviewer used in describing this film. The film supplies the parts; we just piece them together the way we believe they should go. If something did happen to them it could have just as easily been that they went down to Melbourne and got a beer (my thoughts, not his).

I read the other reviews on this Web page and some people have commented on the film's implied negative view of Victorian ethics. Good for them! They're probably right. There are two groups dealing with this mystery: The turn of the century people in this film and the "enlightened" minds of the late 20th and early 21st century who are viewing it. We're both dealing with and trying to solve this mystery. We can see in the film how the "repressed nitwits" of 1900 handle it, but look instead at some of the possible explanations to this puzzle the "enlightened" minds of the late 20th and early 21st century have given over the past few years: The young women were taken by demented Aborigines (did Aborigines do that kind of thing?), they were kidnapped/raped (Sort of a Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior's Picnic?), a time warp/line (Picnic at the T-Zone? The Rocky Horror Picnic? "Let's do the..."), Alien Beings and UFOs (Close Encounters of the Picnic Kind?).

We're watching and critiquing the people in this film. Let's stand back and look at ourselves. It reminds me of that very unique scene in this film where we see someone going over the belongings of the missing girls. We don't know who it is because we see only their hands moving about and searching. But then a mirror appears and we see who it is and we see them looking back at themselves. It's an excellent and startling scene. We see them look back at themselves, but maybe they're looking back at us too? Maybe, maybe not.

If nothing really happened then is it possible this film is that clever? Is it possible Peter Weir and company could be that brilliant? Can a film that cleaver/brilliant be made not now, but 25 years ago? I don't know but if that reviewer's article is wrong, I still admire his way of thinking. I like it when people analyze films like they would a book.

I read through all the other comments on this film at this Web page and most, if not all are excellent. Although I don't understand some of the more negative ones, but this is still when IMDb is at its best -- allowing others to express their opinions to many.

One final comment: Zamphir (or is it Zamfir?). If you live in the US and were around during the '80s then you probably remember those commercials with Zamphir trying to sell cassettes of him playing contemporary songs with his Panflute. Those commercials took a real comic beating on the talk shows of the time. I have nothing against Zamphir and his music can sound rather enchanting at times, but in this film -- at least as well as I remember it -- it just sounded like he was just warming up, nothing more. I could be wrong but it just didn't come across as interesting Zamphir music.
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The Gospel according to St.Mathew in neorealism style.
5 August 2001
To be honest out of this entire film I think there are only five or six scenes that make it all worthwhile. They are the scenes where no dialogue is spoken and the only sound is another one of this film's unique music selections playing in the background. They're sort of like religious music videos. A few examples would be the three wise men coming to see the Christ child, the opening scenes of John the Baptist, and one with a very young Jesus seeing and then running to great his father.

Some good examples of this film's eclectic soundtrack include Odetta singing `Sometimes I feel like a motherless child', a section of the African mass called `Missa Luba' and various classical selections. Note: Someone at IMDB or someone else was nice enough to include a list of the music used in this film under the section `Soundtrack Listing'. Also, for more information on say `Odetta' or `Missa Luba' just do a search under Yahoo; you'll find plenty of Web sites. A part of the `Missa Luba' called `Sanctus' was also used -- and probably more effectively -- in the 1968 film called `If…'.

If you're familiar with the director of this film then I think you'll see how some of his personal beliefs are included in this film and for his use of non-actors, well like another Italian director that uses non-actors, they (the `actors') work well most of time but they sometimes tend to under-react (or under-act) at important moments.

If you liked this film then you'll probably like `Flowers of St. Francis' (1950). It's a lot like TGATSM with its similar look (more non-actors and some professional ones) and sound (good music). One of the previous reviewers of this film also mentioned `Marcelino pan y vino' (1954). I haven't come across that one yet, but it sounds like it's worth seeing (thanks).

What's also funny is when I first saw this film it struck me as odd how all the actors portraying Christ, his Apostles, and everyone else all looked and spoke Italian (I know it's an Italian production). Now Italy is a heck a lot closer to Israel than say northern Europe or North America for that matter and someone living around the Mediterranean probably looks closer to what Christ and everyone else looked like, but ever since I saw this film I now notice how regional beliefs and looks are projected on to the story of Christ either in film or any art for that matter. Sometimes I guess it's all pretty funny.

Is this film closer to any film ever made showing us how Jesus and his Apostles lived, maybe looked and also showing us something of the time and place they lived in? Well maybe…but if not then at least it's a good starting point that other religious films should/could learn from.
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An old cable TV memory...
30 July 2001
Where we lived didn't get cable TV until Dec. 1980 and this is the first film I can recall seeing on cable TV. It's funny but I'm pretty sure I've probably only seen this film just once but I remember most of it till this day.

Is this the best damn film ever made ? Uh, no. But this is just a sentimental one with me and I think if you see yourself in any or part of the characters in this film then you'll probably like it. And I think I saw myself in about two of them. I was even scheduled to take French 101 the next semester at school.

I read the other reviews on this Web page and I vaguely remember what Valérie Quennessen looked like but it's coming back to me (That teeny-tiny picture on this film's main Web page helps too). She was the shorthaired French girl that looks like ‘Trois couleurs: Rouge' (1994) Irène Jacob (or is it the Blue one's Juliette Binoche? I'm not sure it's been a long time.) I did think at the time she was kind of snooty in her initial behavior toward the character that was interested in her. Give the guy a break; he was several thousand miles from home and had difficulty speaking the language !

Note: Not only has miss Quennessen passed away but the only song I remember used in it Nicolette Larson's `Lotta Love', it seems she also passed away a couple of years ago.

Does this film really deserve its low rating that the 60 or so people who saw it gave it? Heck, I'll give it a 7 or 8 out of 10 and I've never given a film a 10 rating yet.

If you want to see this film then good luck. I've never seen it in a video store or for sale for that matter. It must be out of print.

If I ever see this thing again I'll write another comment on it. I'm curious if it's aged well.

Also, for the few people who've commented on it – thanks. I think I would value the opinion of someone who saw something or anything worthwhile in this film.

`A fellow will remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember. You take me. One day, back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in, and on it there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn't see me at all, but I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since that I haven't thought of that girl.' -- Bernstein [Citizen Kane 1941].
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They're reddish, actually.
1 July 2001
Like Paradzhanov's "Shadows" this is another very foreign, foreign film.

Even though I'm not familiar with any of the poems by Sayat Nova ("King of Song") this film was a little easier to get through than Paradzhanov's "Shadows". Still a very foreign film, but maybe it was its religious theme that made this film easier to view than "Shadows"? I guess all those years of Catholic education and going to those Latin masses when I was very young have made me tolerant of some things (and people) that are "foreign".

There really isn't a story line to this film and I don't remember any dialogue other than a voice over at the beginning. It appears to be just a visual interpretation of the poems of Sayat Nova and I couldn't begin to interpret most of what I saw, so you're probably better off reading the other reviews on this Web page for more information on that. As the film moves along through its visual interpretation, if you get tired of one part, no problem, it's somewhat episodic so it'll change to something else 5 minutes later. And sorry, but parts of this movie even come across like a bad MTV video.

The scene where a young Sayat Nova begins his journey of knowledge is probably this film's most unique. Pages of manuscripts float and swirl about him like leaves off a tree. And the scenes with his muse are also good.

Like his "Shadows" this film is going to be "difficult" viewing for most people. I wouldn't call this a bad or awful film but would I recommend it to someone else? No, but yes only if I wanted to make them feel confused as to what they always thought how a film should look and behave.
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Probably the most foreign of all the foreign films I've ever seen.
1 July 2001
From the looks of the reviews about it on this Web page there are many people out there who just love this film and I'm not sure why? As for me, I got half-way through it and gave up.

I probably saw this thing back in 1991 and maybe it was when I saw it -- it was during summer -- but repeatedly seeing people drudging through the snow was a bit of a downer for some reason. I like snow as much as the next person, but snow there takes on a different meaning. And the scene with the main character sitting alone shivering next to a camp fire on a lonely winter night, as seen through a camera angle of a door or shutter aimlessly flapping in the wind, with the door and wind being the only sound, was about all I could take. People we're talking visual DESOLATION. If hell exists it probably looks like that scene. (And I can hear the "Shadows" fans now saying "see, this film actually shows you an interpretation of hell! Isn't that great film making!!")

Would I recommend this film to anyone? No...well maybe, but not because I liked it, but rather like viewing a car wreck; just to hear their opinion of what they saw.

Is this a bad or awful film? Definitely not. Just because I didn't understand it or appreciate it doesn't make worthless. It's an "honest" film but difficult viewing, at least to me it is.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder on this one.
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Better than `Ants in Your Plants of 1939'?
1 July 2001
(It sounds like "pants" but they're actually saying "plants". I know, I heard "pants" too the first time and it does sound funnier that way).

I do remember the first time I saw this movie, I was surprised to actually see some of the filming had been done outside. It was odd seeing some of these people in natural sunlight. I was always accustomed to all films made before the 1960s were filmed inside in a studio and had that "un-natural light" look about them.

It's also interesting to how movies were made back then and now. From a book on this movie's script it says Preston Sturges wrote the screenplay from February 1941 to April 1941. Filming began in May and lasted until July. The finished film premiered in January 1942. That's very fast. From beginning to end in about 11 months!

The book also mentions some scenes that were taken out: One where Veronica Lake's character sits sadly on a bench near the grave of John Sullivan, the leading character who she believes is dead. They should have left that scene in; it helps again show the honest affection her character had toward John Sullivan.

I like the combination of Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake and out of all the attractive leading ladies over the past say 70 years, Veronica's looks have aged very well. Actually the biggest flaw of this film is its futile attempt to have us believe Veronica Lake could be made to look like a boy and no one would question it. Good luck!

Please read the other reviews for this film on this Web page; they'll all good. And if you don't believe me that this is a good 1940's film then just read what the clown `tork0030' (2/8/2001) has to say.
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The last laugh?
1 July 2001
(Warning: The following discusses this films plot in detail. If you're like me and don't want to know too much about a film before you see it then you'd better skip this).

I was presently surprised by this silent movie. This is one of those films I heard about probably over 13 years ago and it finally crossed my path just last year.

I also disagree with people who say the ending of this movie is a "cop out" or unnecessary. Without it we don't get a complete "picture" of the hotel doorman's character. We would only see before his defeat when everything is going his way and then during his defeat and immediately after it.

Even after he wins (inherits a fortune) he's still a kind man. We know this from the added ending. He has no ill will toward the hotel where he was employed. He dines there (again after he's won), gives generous tips and is cordial to everyone, including those who put him in his previous predicament.

The doorman was left with an extremely large sum of money. He could just as easily use his new found money and influence to fire everyone he didn't like at the hotel. Wouldn't most people? How many people do you know who are not only poor losers but also poor winners too? Not this doorman. He's a kind person before and after. Look and see for yourself.

This movie probably only has two possible valid endings: The one used and maybe one where the doorman is left defeated but shows that he survives. The later is good, but if you need an ending by say...Friday, then what was added was very clever.

Also, the new music is excellent and actually adds to the narrative. As "Semih" says in a previous User Comment (8/1/2000) "the cello is the doorman's instrument" and it's true it is.

Out of only three F.W.Murnau silent films I've seen: Sunrise (1928), and Tabu (1929) were the others, I believe "The Last Laugh" is his best. And it's now one of my favorite silent films.
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Diva (1981)
A very romantic film best viewed in Springtime.
4 February 2001
It seems every decade has a film or two that tends to influence the other films that come after them more than any other. Every decade has one or two and "Diva" (1981) is such a film of the 1980s.

I love the way the director of this movie (Jean-Jacques Beineix) has the ability to find beauty in the oddest places: A deserted factory, inside a storm drain, Gorodish's spartan loft. Paris never looked better and you really don't see a lot of tourist spots, if any.

Here is also another example of a movie with excellent music. I remember the first time I saw this movie, which was probably a year after it was originally released in the U.S., I went out and bought the movie's soundtrack cassette. I love playing it during Springtime. My favorites: Aria from "La Wally", Sentimental Walk, and Gorodish.

The films only drawback - some violent scenes, although no where near as bad (again, no where near) as some movies made today, seems unnecessary.

My favorite scene: Morning time with Jules and Cynthia in the park with "Sentimental Walk" playing in the background, of course!

I also can't help but feel there are a lot of directors out there who want to be the next Jean-Jacques Beineix. How about a Polish one?Krzysztof Kieslowski and "Trois couleurs: Rouge" (1994) or "La Double vie de Veronica" (1994)? It's odd, but even Jean-Jacques Beineix couldn't repeat how well he did in this film!
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There was a time...
4 February 2001
There was a time in this country when you could see a movie like this every Thanksgiving holiday. Okay, okay, they also always showed that "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" (1962) cartoon too, but it was also good. And I would watch it (I'm talking about AMFAS here, not the cartoon) and feel good about what I saw, and admire the "grace under pressure" of the main character. But those days are gone. Yes, it seems they're long gone!

I like this movie. I like seeing it around Thanksgiving every year. I admire Thomas More's composure and courage in the face of adversity. It's a well written (by Robert Bolt) and well directed movie. It's directed by Fred ["High Noon" (1952), "Seventh Cross" (1944)] Zinnemann, and here again is one person facing adversity by themselves.

Poor TM, he's convinced that he's safe from Henry VIII's need of approval, but like all misfortune, it seems if you don't find it, it comes looking for you.

This is another one of my favorite movies about Merrie ol' England.
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Orson Welles brings a lot of depth to Shakespeare's characters.
4 February 2001
Shakespeare Scholars are always complaining how this film used and abused Shakespeare's plays but I think what was done in this film was pretty clever: Take the character of Falstaff from several plays and piece them together to get a complete picture of the man.

Of the two Orson Welles Shakespeare films I've seen, this one and "Othello" (1954), both had the ability to make me want to read Shakespeare's plays and any film that makes you want to read what the author wrote is a very positive thing to say about a film. So there Shakespeare Scholars!

I did go out and buy the books with the plays used in this film, much like trying to solve a puzzle to see how the pieces really fit. And Orson did twist and bend things a little to make it come out his way.

I also read in Videohound's "World Cinema" (1999) by Elliot Wilhelm that this film may be getting a restoration. If it's as good a restoration as "Othello", I'm looking forward to it!

Welles as Falstaff really shines in this film and Falstaff's later rejection by Henry V is one of the most sobering in cinema. And Welles still has some very creative power left in him by 1965, look at the Battle of Shrewsbury scenes. When it comes to battle scenes they've been done probably only 10 different ways by 1000 directors in a 1000 movies over the years, but this one is probably the most memorable. It's also strange to have in the heat of battle Falstaff looking like a big metal beach ball running around back and forth trying to avoid any conflict.

This film is also a good example of good music and how to use it in a film and it's another one of my favorite movies about Merrie ol' England.
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Joan, we hardly know ya...
4 February 2001
TPOJOA. What can I say. I saw this movie back in the summer of 1990 and I hate to sound like one of those people that always say a movie is boring unless there are lots of special effects, or predictable action every ten minutes, or if it was made before 1990. But I'm not going to say it's boring - it's not -, to me it's something else: It's DEPRESSING!

I remember reading all the positive write ups about this film before I saw it. I must've looked for it for probably 5 years before I finally found it and rented it from an out of state video distributor. I can't believe someone could make a depressing silent film, but they did! When it was over I couldn't wait to mail it back to the video distributor. I can't imagine any part of a sunny day that I would want to give up to see this movie. Or any part of a rainy day for that matter.

And I'm not saying the people who like this movie are depressed individuals, on the contrary I admire them for taking the initiative to see and appreciate a "difficult" film like this.

Don't get me wrong, it's a extremely well made film and some of my favorite films can be considered to be "sad films", but sad can be surrounded by beauty (Read: "It's a sad and beautiful world"), but depressing is beyond sad, it's hopelessness, there isn't any beauty around that.

See the odd camera angle as the English soldier reaches back for his weapons to be later used to beat the heck out of the peasants who support Joan. See the English soldiers beat the heck out of the charging peasants. See the birds fly from the trees as Joan is about to burn. Hear the hectic staccato organ music as she burns.

It's also amazing but after seeing this film I have less respect for Joan than before. Is she truly a Saint? I don't know this film doesn't help. And to make matters worse, after I viewed this film I went to bed and had the strangest nightmare I've ever had.

There is one interesting line in the film. As one of the peasants in the film says as they're about to torch Joan: "If they're not crucifying 'em, they're burning 'em!"

If you want to see something a little more uplifting by Carl Dreyer I recommend you check out "Ordet" (1955) instead. It's a much better movie and it's not depressing, just puzzling. I finally saw it about 3 months ago and I didn't have any bad dreams after viewing it!

If you want to see another depressing film like this one then you may want to check out "The Devils" (1971). It has sound, is in color and leaves one with the same empty wasted feeling at the end!
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World War II changes the lives of six Dutch University students...
28 January 2001
"Soldier of Orange" (1977) is a sentimental film about World War II and how it affects the lives of six university students in Holland. They each are involved in the war in various ways and their lives separate and intertwine throughout the film, but in the end only two survive.

It's a great movie and I think it's one of the best of the '70s. I first saw this movie around 1980 and have seen it about two more times since.

Rutger Hauer is very good in this movie and I like that aloof Susan Penhaligon. She doesn't look like your typical 1940s woman, but she's very attractive. She looks more like an '80s or '90s kind of woman.

Most of the nudity in this movie is of a drive-in movie variety -- this film's only draw back, but then what do you expect from its director; look at his other films. And speaking of this movie's director, it's hard to believe he directed some of his other movies, but he did a great job with this one.

Not only is the music in this movie impressive but it's also an excellent example of something that doesn't seem to get much attention in many a movie -- that's its music. This movie is a perfect example of the proper use of music in a movie: It's used when needed and to enhance a scene, not simply to reinforce the emotions being displayed on the screen or as endless background sound. There aren't many films made today that know how to properly blend music within a film. If you can think of other good examples then let the rest of us know.

One other thing, if you ever see the movie "The Untouchables" (1987) you'll then know where that movie got its basic character relationship story line.
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A Marxist "Gone with the Wind"?
28 January 2001
A beautiful looking film which I read about once that it cost only 700 million Lira to make in 1969. According to Yahoo's currency conversion, 700M Lira is $334K today and I believe that would make it about what, $50K (give or take a few Ks) in 1969? It's amazing what talented people can do with just a little money. There are movies made today that probably cost a hundred times what this one cost in 1969 and don't look anywhere near as good.

Even though this film was made in 1969, I still consider it a 1970s film and one of the best of the '70s. This movie has been referred to as a Marxist "Gone with the Wind" (1939) and it is without a doubt one of the nicest looking films ever made. Especially its first half, and I believe its first half outshines the rest of it. Let's also give the most credit not to the director but to the talented Cinematographer of this film, Vittorio Storaro.

The only draw back in this film is its story line -- it's extremely heavy handed. Well at least to me. I found it somewhat irritating, but then what do you expect from a film made at the time by dedicated Marxists.

As for a detailed analysis of this film's story I suggest you read its other reviews at this Web page or buy the book "Italian Cinema : From Neorealism to the Present" by Peter Bondanella.

The music in this movie is also very good and it's a perfect example of the proper use of music in a movie: It's used when needed and to enhance a scene, not simply to reinforce the emotions being displayed on the screen or as endless background sound. There aren't many films made today that know how to properly blend music within a film. If you can think of other good examples then let the rest of us know.

Favorite scenes in this film: About in the middle, right after Anna Quadri (Dominique Sanda) confronts Marcello (Jean-Louis Trintignant) about why he must murder her father (Marcello's old anti-Fascist university professor). It's just a simple scene of them (Marcello, his wife, and Anna) beginning to shop in Paris but it's a beautiful mix of great cinematography, editing and music. Or how about the scene in a compartment of a moving train with Marcello and his new wife. Again very effective and very impressive.

If you like the way this film looks then I recommend another Italian film you may want to see: "C'eravamo tanto amati" or "We All Loved Each Other So Much" (1974). This is another extremely nice looking film and some text book examples of clever film making.
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Hey it works for me...
4 January 2001
*** Warning ***: I make a few references to this film's plot in the comments below.

I think if I was living during 1943 and was involved in World War II then being with Frank, Trevor and the rest of the boys as portrayed in this film is where I'd want to be. Racing up Italy in a captured POW train, honorable American and British soldiers fighting pesky Nazis, and just trying to make it to beautiful Switzerland. Who could ask for more? You have adventure, killing in self-defense (well mostly), outsmarting the enemy, and a gorgeous young Italian woman on the train with you! Sure beats being a German soldier stuck in Stalingrad in 1942!

And let's face it, if you're looking for a WW II film with historical accuracy about specific WWII events or a "war is heck, here's why" kind of film then this is not the kind of film you're going to like.

But to me this film offers something many others don't by how it relates to everyday life and its struggles. So what am I saying, escaping from a German POW camp and fighting Nazis is a daily life struggle for anyone nowadays ?? No, of course not. But I like the way misfortune then opportunity seem to go hand in hand in this movie. A misfortune is turned into another opportunity simply by trying or moving forward. The following two lines best sum up this film: Captured German Major: "But still you have NO choice!" British Major: "And nothing to lose by trying to make one!"

Nothing is mapped out they way they want it and each misfortune has its cost in lives lost, but they push on. Each loss looks like it is rewarded with something positive... British physician (who up 'till now has been supportive of Colonel Ryan): "Roll, roll where?...Maybe this is the end of the line". Italian Captain (just running in): "Colonel Ryan, the conductor has a plan, he thinks he can get us all to Switzerland!" British Major: "Switzerland?...You're mad!" (The Italian major explains the conductor's plan) British Major: "You know it may just work" Colonel Ryan: "Let's move!"

Sometimes we are all fighting those "Nazis/demons" in our life and we are all just trying to escape to "Switzerland" and like the end of the film says: "I once told you Ryan, if only one gets out it's a victory".

I read in another review of this film where it was said Frank Sinatra looked like he was sleep walking through it -- well then way to go Frank! No award grabbing performance from "ol' blue eyes" here, just a man who acts and feels like he's just been in a POW camp (the Rat Pack must've just broken up or a gig in Vegas got canceled or something). I think this is one of Frank S.'s best movies, yes much better than that depressing "Manchurian Candidate" (1962).

And give this film credit for one thing: Here at least the Germans speak German and the Italians speak Italian. There's none of that English with a heavy German or Italian accent stuff here. And filming outside when possible with picturesque Italian and Switzerland scenery are an added bonus.

I know there are several other WWII films made during the 1960s that get mentioned a lot, but off-hand I think there are only two or three made during the '60s that offer or have any value: "The Train" (1965) and "Closely Observed Trains" (1966) are the only two I can think of (hmmm...that's odd, but all three involve trains).

If you liked "Von Ryan's Express" then please recommend other war films from any decade. I'm always on the look out for a good war film. And if you didn't care for this film, well then when you're through picking this one apart tell me of one you did like. Thanks.
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