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A few reviews

TM2YC

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When a Stranger Calls (1979)
I knew 1979's 'When a Stranger Calls' was the basis for the babysitter/phone-call opening scene in 'Scream' but I didn't think it would be this close, plus it's also a leading lady misdirect in a similar way. 'When a Stranger Calls' is chilling and creepy but I slightly undermined the drama for myself by being convinced there was a big twist coming but the story is exactly what it appears to be. The structure is odd, like three separate but connected films. When I later read it was an extension of the Director's own 22-minute short film (expanded to 97-minutes), it made more sense. You could cut an hour from the middle and not effect the conclusion but you'd be missing a very good hour. Carol Kane's sudden hysterical terror in the restaurant scene is shocking because it feels so authentic.

The marketing angle used in this vintage trailer has been copied more than a few times:

 

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Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola's
movie (one of his too few big box-office hits) is a flawed masterpiece but those problems are compensated by an overall intoxicating artistic vision. In my opinion, the definitive Dracula movie. The English accents of Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder are bad (hers to a lesser degree), although most of the cast are also doing exaggerated accents which are not there own, so Reeves and Ryder blend in better than they might've. The plotting is a bit scattershot, meandering all over the place in terms of tone, time, place and character. It often tips over from gothic theatricality, into full-on camp (e.g the double-entendres about Lucy wanting to fondle the Texan's massive weapon). Gary Oldman's powerful lead performance is of course the highlight but let's not forget how much macabre fun Anthony Hopkins is as Prof. Van Helsing. The costumes and sets are like nothing else drawing on Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Klimt. The most dazzling aspect of the production is the FX, which are (virtually) all done in camera, as if it was a film from the time of Georges Méliès (a couple of scenes are actually shot on a hand-cranked silent movie camera). So no CGI (in the era of 'Terminator 2' and 'Jurassic Park') and no traditional optical printer FX either. It's all glass shots, models, smoke and mirrors, false perspective, puppetry, reverse photography, back projection and physically winding the film back to do multiple exposures. 3-decades later, I doubt the analogue expertise still survives in the film industry to allow something like this to happen again. Even in 1992 Coppola had to fire the original FX team because they told him what he wanted to do was impossible without computers, so he got his son to handle the FX instead... and of course it was possible. On this rewatch I was fascinated by how they got Dracula's teeth to grow. Was it some kind of mechanism inside Oldman's mouth that he had to operate by moving his jaw or tongue? I'd love to know. That 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' did not win the Academy award for 'Best Art Direction' is one of the more obviously indefensible decisions they've made over the years. Wojciech Kilar's operatic score is unforgettable.



 

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another fanedit...

The Hobbit The Battle of The Five Edits by Stromboli Bones

I think right out the gate people need to realize that this edit doesn't borrow from the edits of the legends that inspired Stromboli as much as it pays homage to those edits and editors. He makes that very clear in the first post of his thread. This is very personal to him. He loves all things Middle Earth...to such a degree that he married his wife on Bilbo and Frodos' birthday.

Stromboli, like Adam Dens before him, will likely only do one edit. He will then go back to his real life raising his family. That's a shame because the edit is a masterpiece. The magic lies in his ability to take the best ideas from those he considers to be legends and use his own creative vision to bring them together as colors within a canvas of his own creation. You can never say that this edit is not an original idea because to say that is to say that no edit is...because, as Wraith so astutely pointed out in an effort to make the principle clear, we are all borrowing ideas from the original film makers. We have custody of nothing.

I have previewed this edit for several weeks now as it has waited for an academy member to review it. Technically, the edit appears flawless. There are no drop-offs, no rough transitions in video or audio. The narrative structure flows without a hitch. That's obviously a subjective statement because one person will feel that this should be taken out or left in. Another person will feel the opposite. One thing that is obvious is that Stromboli has an eye for the cool tricks that the other editors used. He incorporates most of them, like Spence's sword throw, L8wrtr's Smaug exit, M4's Thorin scar removal and many others, as well as, his own tricks, masterfully.

The five episode structure works perfectly, as well. He found the perfect places to hook you into the next episode. Never a dull moment. As much as i admire and respect the other edits, this is the first time that I didn't think to myself while watching, that I wished the movie was a tad shorter. In fact, I anticipated the next episode.

I will say more when I review the edits properly upon release. This edit certainly needs to be watched by someone with the authority to say that it's ready for approval because it is.

The title sequence is one of the most creative I've seen in over 300 edits watched and the trailer is amazing.

No, this was not a paid endorsement.
 
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The Innocents (1961)
'The Innocents'
is a psychological chiller rather than a thriller, or horror. Everything from the gothic sets, to the exaggerated scope compositions and especially the "nails on a blackboard" sound design and avant-garde electronic music (created with input from BBC Radiophonic Workshop pioneer Daphne Oram) is designed to keep the viewer unsettled. Deborah Kerr plays the Victorian governess either haunted by demons and possessed children, or just going insane. It's never made completely clear which it is. Child actor Martin Stephens is really sinister as Miles, without doing much that is overtly, or provably evil. He might just be a mischievous little boy. The famous Truman Capote co-wrote the script.



Night of the Living Dead (1990)
I think Director Tom Savini and writer George A. Romero's remake of Romero's own 1968 Zombie trailblazer will be best appreciated if you have a good familiarity with the original. Because it sticks pretty close the overall framework but changes some of the aspects of the relationships in new and interesting ways. The most noticeable is "what if Barbara wasn't catatonic and/or hysterical, what if she was clear headed and the shock of the situation progressively deadened her inside?". The different ending arguably doesn't have the impact of the original but I thought it was still a terrifically chilling last message. It was great to see Babylon 5's Patricia Tallman in something else and Tony Todd gives an electric performance as usual. Knowing it was directed by splatter maestro Tom Savini, I expected more jaw-dropping 'Day of the Dead' style gore but he keeps it low key and concentrates on drama and character instead.

 

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Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
The plotting is a bit scattershot, meandering all over the place in terms of tone, time, place and character.

I haven't seen it since high school, and only on VHS, so I'm sure I'd have to see it again and in HD to properly appreciate the visuals (that red bathrobe/butt-shaped hairdo getup aside). That said, having recently read the book at the time, I remember thinking that the decision to make Dracula a sympathetic antihero totally ruined the narrative side of things.

An interesting video I believe I've posted before on the many deviations from the novel: (the adaptation deemed "most faithful," the 1977 BBC miniseries, is currently streaming on US Amazon Prime.)l:


Finally, did you ever try the Netflix three-part series by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat? I did a review post on it, but it seems to have been lost in the forum move. It's bonkers insanity in the very best way. :)
 

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the adaptation deemed "most faithful," the 1977 BBC miniseries, is currently streaming on US Amazon Prime.)l:

did you ever try the Netflix three-part series by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat? I did a review post on it, but it seems to have been lost in the forum move. It's bonkers insanity in the very best way. :)

The Gatiss?Moffat series was a BBC production too but they had a deal with Netflix so they could show it a few days later too. I've not seen it yet. The reviews I heard seemed to all say the first half was brilliant but the 2nd half was rubbish. I will get round to seeing it some time.
 

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Directed by John Ford (1971)
I thought the heavily re-edited and extended 2006 version of Peter Bogdanovich’s John Ford career retrospective was the only one you could get but I found a copy of the original 1971 cut on archive.org. It looks like a horrendously bad, warped, scratched and discoloured 8mm scan with wonky sound split into three separate reels but I kinda loved all that patina. Bogdanovich conducts fond, anecdote filled interviews with Ford’s key players like John Wayne, Henry Fonda and James Stewart but his interview with Ford himself is like getting blood out of a stone. A taciturn, dryly witty, cantankerous old git. The best part is the final section where Bogdanovich intercuts a bunch of Ford movies to demonstrate the themes that echoed through them. Like nobility, freedom, justice, decency, patriotism and the full panorama of American history. Naturally Bogdanovich’s mentor Orson Welles provides the voice-over.

Bogdanovich: "How did you shoot that?"
Ford: "With a camera."

 

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Four Hours at the Capitol (2021)
Super new BBC/HBO documentary covering the January 6th Capitol attack. Thankfully those involved filmed their own crimes from every conceivable angle, so Director Jamie Roberts can cut together multiple views of the same events and put together a coherent, chronological, minute-by-minute record of the assault out of what felt like total chaos when it was being broadcast live. The capitol police/guards/DC-police got some flack for how far it went but this film left me with admiration for how they managed to keep it relatively contained and protect those inside with so little loss of life, when there was this much violence and abuse being hurled at them. With knives, clubs, pepper spray, spears, pitchforks and missiles raining down on them, I think a lot of less restrained police forces in darker parts of the world would have just opened fire on the crowd of crazies, instead of just shooting one woman after repeated warnings.




Can't Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World (2021)
At 8-hours, I thought this latest Adam Curtis BBC documentary was just too big a canvas to make an overall coherent argument because there is too much information, imparted over too long a time about too many subjects... but it's all totally fascinating, absorbing, brain-food. A primary subject is conspiracy theories, including the laughable origins of the "illuminati" myth under something called "operation mindf*ck" (highly amusing when repeatedly said in Curtis' serious voice-over tone). He also looks at Tupac, opioids, Michael X, cosmonauts, colonialism, the opium wars, Nixon, the Black Panthers, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jim Garrison, the Tiananmen Square Massacre, transgender activist Julia Grant, Bosnia, capitalism, 'Birth of a Nation', chaos theory, Covid and a lot about Chairman Mao's 4th wife Jiang Qing. Curtis increases his use of abstract dance montages to allow you time to contemplate the information. The fantastic soundtrack includes gems like Phosphorescent's 'Song for Zula' and Johnny Boy's 'You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve'.

 

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David Lynch: The Art Life (2016)
An intimate documentary mostly filmed at David Lynch's home studio as he paints, sculpts and talks about his upbringing and early career leading up the release of his first 1977 feature 'Eraserhead'. The film intercuts Lynch's voice-over with hundreds of images of his art work, cleverly selected to seem like direct expressions of his thoughts and memories (and possibly some are). The title is from young David's ambition of living "the art life", which he saw as just drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and painting. Given how absorbed and contented he looks creating art in his studio, you wonder why he ever leaves it to make movies. Spending your time smearing congealed substances on canvases, in the Los Angeles sunshine, with an ice cold Coke at the ready, looks like a great way to live.

 

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The Gate (1987)
It's a shame I didn't see this back when it came out as it's a Horror movie made for and from the eye line of kids and I think I'd have enjoyed it even more at an earlier age. If you're wanting to show your 10-year-old-ish children a scary movie (but not too scary with no gore) this Halloween, they'd love 'The Gate'. When their parents go away for a few days three kids are terrorised by ancient demonic beings that emerge from a hole in their garden. I liked Terry the mischievous Metal-head geek the best. 'The Gate' is an FX extravaganza but it's a victim of it's own brilliance because those FX are often so good they could look like nothing. It appears to be a modestly budgeted b-movie shot entirely in a simple suburban house but it was a huge production. For example, a simple close-up of some steps covering what seems like 6-feet square, was actually a huge forced perspective set filling a soundstage. Even when I could figure out how some of the shots were done, I still couldn't see any joins (in HD). I wasn't a bit surprised to learn that forced-perspective FX genius Randall William Cook went on to work on Peter Jackson's 'The Lord of the Rings'.

Oooh a vintage 35mm trailer:



Tremors (1990)
I consider 'Tremors' a rare candidate for a "perfect movie" and that starts with the tightly written script. It's a screenwriting masterclass, the opening scene where we meet out two heroes foreshadows everything you're about to see (including the way they will defeat the enemy at the end) and sets up their bickering character interplay immediately, then we get the classic 3-act structure and a host of other strong characters who are established invisibly as the narrative develops. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward's Val and Earl are introduced like "Dumb and Dumber", failures in life talking about their unrealised potential and course they go on to be the leaders and come up with most of the good ideas. The whole film has a very positive view of people and community. 'Tremors' is sometimes compared to 'Jaws' (it was called "Land Sharks" at one point) but it doesn't have a cynical Mayor, or an insane Ahab fisherman, all the characters in 'Tremors' work together. The two survivalist gun-nuts, Burt and Heather, aren't portrayed like irrational, death-seeking loons who won't listen to reason from the others, like they could've been in a lesser movie. They are shown to be pleasant, well liked, respected members of the community, who have their own set of skills to bring to the team. I just saw the woeful 'Halloween Kills', which is a textbook case of how not to do this sort of a community fighting back against a killer being plot. On this re-watch (one of countless viewings) I was marvelling at the way the script often dissects the questions, problems and potential plot holes of it's outlandish premise not by exposition dumps but by showing us naturally and by us observing the characters piecing things together as events happen to them. 'Tremors' is an action/comedy/horror but it never confuses the three things, the laughs are huge but the threat is never made light of, the characters feel genuinely terrified. I always have a massive smile on my face after seeing 'Tremors', what a ride!

The latest Arrow Video 4K negative scan on the blu-ray is good but has some issues. The grading looks exactly how you'll remember it from being a VHS rental hit in the 90s but the pin-sharp detail undoes some of the formerly seamless FX. The live action could not look any better but some of the miniature FX has a slightly different look to the grain and sharpness. I'd have preferred a 35mm print transfer, the way this was intended to be seen. I ate up all the bonus features on the Arrow box set too.

Another fan-scan 35mm trailer!:


 

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Yep...Another fanedit...

Child's Play The Don Mancini Cut @Dwight Fry

This edit freaking rocks!

I came into this completely cold. I had never watched a single one of these films. I was not even remotely interested. Seriously...asking for the suspension of disbelief long enough to even consider a doll as a serial slasher was a little too much for me. Check that box with the ludicrous Leprechaun and Troll movies. At least Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees kind of touched on possible realism in the first movies.

@Dwight Fry, my man (stolen from @L8wrtr)...you made this movie into a horror classic! The narrative choices that you made really worked. I loved the placement of the b&w flashback and the discovery of the batteries. If I hadn't know better, I would have thought this was the way the story would unfold. Your editing is seamless!

If it wasn't for my inability to suspend such disbelief for any amount of logical time, I would say that this a perfect edit. For your contribution to improving it..it is.

Thank you so much for allowing me to preview your art! And thank you for allowing me to create my art to represent your art. I'm honored. Try saying that fast, bud!
 

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Spoilers...

The Last Duel (2021)
There are a couple of Akira Kurosawa movies that come to mind while watching ‘The Last Duel’, ‘Rashomon’ for the triple perspective narrative structure and ‘Ran’ for the similar setting, medieval feudal lords competing for position. It’s split into three chapters and three conflicting testimonies about the alleged rape of a noble woman by another lord, there is her husband, the accused and finally her own. It’s interesting how few times the three stories are shown to directly contradict each other, yet have completely different perspectives. Ben Affleck’s scenery chewing performance in the middle chapter is perhaps a little too much fun, as it serves to deflate the pacing of the grim final part. Plus the last chapter is by necessity the third time we are seeing these events and the subtle modernisation of the wife character was a bit distracting. The two male knights are presented as totally unreconstructed sexist men of the time period, while she’s managing business, chillin’ with the plebs and casually wearing flagrantly "immodest" dresses that were surely at least a couple of hundred years too early. I’d say these were deliberate “unreliable narrator” details similar to those that appear in the men’s tales but her chapter is explicitly titled as "The truth”. I did not care for the super desaturated, dark, low contrast look. All the colourful costuming and sumptuous period detailing was a bit wasted as a result. I’d almost prefer we went back to the “teal and orange” fad at this stage. However, these are all relatively minor nitpicks in an otherwise superbly acted, well written and artfully directed film that must rank among Ridley Scott’s best works. The final promised duel is electric due the unbearable dramatic stakes that the film has established by that point. My cinema viewing was partly spoiled by a couple of moronic lads at the back giggling throughout, even during the harrowing rape scene. It was irritating but did serve to heavily underline the relevance of the misogynist themes.

 

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The Terminal (2004)
Usually I don't understand why Steven Spielberg gets stick from some quarters for his perceived sentimentality. He's equally good at family entertainment, action adventure and hard-edged political dramas but 2004's 'The Terminal' is definitely him displaying all the traits he's most criticised for. Tom Hanks plays a gentle and gentlemanly Russian-ish tourist who speaks no English, finding himself stateless and effectively imprisoned inside JFK Airport because a civil war erupts in his country while in mid-air. I think Spielberg is going for something like Frank Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life' but with the total absence of any of the darkness and despair which that masterpiece had to throw the joy into sharp relief. It's all very contrived, bland as hell, fanciful, cloying and populated by improbable caricatures. Stanley Tucci's callous airport overlord is the only character that hints at being interesting. It's made worse if you go in knowing it's based on a true life story, one which begs for a dark, "Kafkaesque" exploration of alienation, loneliness, madness and casual indifference. All Spielberg and his writers took from the real situation was "man stuck in airport for reasons". It's a waste of potential. The book was even called 'The Terminal Man' which was a clever play on words but I guess they didn't want cleverness associated with this movie. However, you can't help but have your heart warmed a little by 'The Terminal's' sheer onslaught of niceness. I've most of Spielberg's films and while none of them are actively bad, this one comes close. By the way, there's some unintentional humour caused by a young Zoe Saldana's casting as a Yeoman Rand cosplayer.

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Blue Thunder (1983)
I was obsessed with 'Blue Thunder' when I was in my tweens but I haven't seen it since. I was surprised how much of the movie I remembered and I'd really missed hearing Arthur B. Rubinstein's wonderful synth score. Occasionally it feels like a low-rent b-movie but it's still fun and some of the action packs a punch. The stunt in T2 where James Cameron flew a helicopter under a bridge is rightly celebrated but in 'Blue Thunder' it looks they were on a mission to fly a chopper under every bridge in LA! Plus they do a lot of real aerial photography with the actual actors in the cockpits (just pretending to be at the controls of course) as you see buildings whizz past their faces. I hadn't realised it was co-written by 'Alien's Dan O'Bannon and I'd forgotten that Malcolm McDowell plays the deliciously hissable villain. The touching bromance between Roy Scheider's grizzled old Vietnam pilot and rookie youngster Daniel Stern gets me every time. Warren Oates (sadly in his final role) plays a juicy one of those permanently-angry police Captain characters. Okay 'Blue Thunder' might not be one of the greatest movies ever made (like I thought it was when I was a kid) but it did not disappoint me all these years later.

I was thinking that this felt like it was going for a near-future/dystopian 'Robocop' vibe, until I realised 'Blue Thunder' was made 4-years earlier. It's also about corporate militarisation of the police force, has a punchy synth score, a lead character that's a cop called Murphy and concludes with our hero defeating his enemies with a videotape of their confession to a murder and a shoot out in a steel mill. It's even got the same guy who played the news anchor in the 'Robocop' movies, playing a news anchor.


 

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The Trouble with Harry (1955)
'The Trouble with Harry'
is unusual in the filmography of Alfred Hitchcock because it's a pure black comedy. Usually he uses that wicked sense of humour to supplement a thriller plot, or omits it all together. When it's just that humour for a whole 99-minutes, it feels a bit stretched but I did have a lot of laughs. In a small village in eye-poppingly gorgeous autumnal Vermont a body is discovered, the titular Harry, so the lovably eccentric residents wonder what to do with him, all somehow believing mistakenly that they are to blame for his demise. Harry gets buried, exhumed and buried again multiple times by the villagers in the space of 24-hours and as this farce plays out their lives become better for the experience and none of them are really concerned in the slightest about Harry. Parts of Bernard Herrmann's score kept reminding me of parts of John William's score for 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'. 'The Trouble with Harry' has the kind of plot that makes you want to watch it again once you know the full truth, just to see how the characters behaved... and I wouldn't mind doing that one bit. Plus I'd like to take a holiday in Craftsbury, Vermont some day.


 

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Empire of the Sun (1987)
I've been meaning to see this Steven Spielberg war film for ages and it did not disappoint. I watched 'Grave of the Fireflies' (it came out the year after) not too long ago, which is also about orphaned children starving in a Pacific War era bombed out landscape, featuring rattling tin cans and a fascination with Japanese aircraft (a feature of many a Studio Ghibli film), so I couldn't help but feel the two were related. 13-year old Christian Bale carries the whole 2.5-hours perfectly. The shot near the start where he's staring wide-eyed out of a car window at the teaming streets of 1941 Shanghai is amazing. It's a vision of a society on the edge of collapse, on the line between life and death, threat and wonder, absurdity and brutality, vast crowds and stunning period production design, including a giant billboard for 'Gone with the Wind' (get the thematic reference?). There is definitely an Oliver Twist aspect to the story as well, with John Malkovich as the Fagin type character. He's exploitative, selfish and sometimes downright nasty but when Bale's Jim is cast down into this world of survival and death, he's the closest he's got to a friend and father figure.


The Welsh hymn 'Suo Gân' that features prominently in the film is absolutely beautiful:

 

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Lost Highway (1997)
This is my least favourite David Lynch film so far. It's recognisably a Film Noir but replaces the usual mystery plot with just being mysterious and surreal. There are several doppelgangers and people transforming like in a lot of Lynch movies. I liked the unusual soundtrack, especially the use of Rammstein. About a quarter of the film focuses on Bill Pullman, the rest is on Balthazar Getty, which is a shame because the former is fantastically intense, the latter wooden. I love that this violent alienating insanity was the first thing Pullman decided to do after the crowd-pleasing blockbuster 'Independence Day'. Robert Blake is terrifying as the freaky dream/antagonist/kabuki-makeup/whatever guy. If all you are after is seeing Patricia Arquette nude then this is the movie for you!

 

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The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
My question "so is this as good as Alfred Hitchcock's own 1956 remake?" was very quickly decided in my mind. It's one of those slightly awkward early talkies with rough sound editing (at least on the transfer I watched). Mostly everything is inferior, except of course for Peter Lorre, who is deliciously creepy and good fun as the villain. I also liked the bookend setup-and-payoff of the wife being a proficient clay-pigeon shooter, so it's her that takes the killer shot on the bad guys to save her kidnapped daughter at the end, not her incapacitated husband, or the unsure police marksman. It's a modern touch for a 1934 film. The big shoot-out finale was probably technically innovative at the time but it goes on a bit, at least a quarter of the already short 75-minute runtime. The balsa-wood chair fight looked frankly ridiculous.

 

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The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
My question "so is this as good as Alfred Hitchcock's own 1956 remake?" was very quickly decided in my mind. It's one of those slightly awkward early talkies with rough sound editing (at least on the transfer I watched). Mostly everything is inferior, except of course for Peter Lorre, who is deliciously creepy and good fun as the villain. I also liked the bookend setup-and-payoff of the wife being a proficient clay-pigeon shooter, so it's her that takes the killer shot on the bad guys to save her kidnapped daughter at the end, not her incapacitated husband, or the unsure police marksman. It's a modern touch for a 1934 film. The big shoot-out finale was probably technically innovative at the time but it goes on a bit, at least a quarter of the already short 75-minute runtime. The balsa-wood chair fight looked frankly ridiculous.

True classic!
 

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Legend (1985)
I believe I watched the "European Cut" with Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack, which is a terrific score. Ridley Scott's visuals are almost absurdly and distractingly beautiful and magical. He must have used the world's supply of smoke-machines, wind-machines, fire-machines, fake snow, glitter, blossom and coloured lights to create the dazzling effect. Unfortunately it's all in service of a rather weak script, forgettable ill-defined characters and general Fantasy nonsense. I'd struggle to tell you what the story was in any detail, beyond: unicorns=good / Lord of Darkness=bad / insert loose collection of protagonists. Tim Curry's booming voice and performance inside a huge red, horned, cloven-hoofed devil costume is really impressive and imposing, it's worth seeing the movie just for him. But the other actors in makeup look to be struggling under inch-thick rubber masks.

 
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