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George Grellas (Cupertino, CA USA)
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Ivan the Terrible Pt1
Ivan the Terrible Pt1
DVD ~ Nikolai Cherkasov
Price: CDN$ 32.29
15 used & new from CDN$ 19.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Eisentein film, Nov. 3 2003
This review is from: Ivan the Terrible Pt1 (DVD)
During World War II, with Russia in the grip of Stalin and with Hitler at its door, the greatest Russian director of his day, and perhaps ever, joined the greatest Russian actor of his day, to depict the dark and brooding story of the rise and fall of a ruthless Russian Tsar who tyrannized Russia during the 1500s. While the story hardly amounts to movie uplift, the joy and fascination here lies in the details. Straightaway, in episode one, there is perhaps the most amazing movie opening ever filmed, in the coronation of Ivan the Terrible. Those familiar with Theodor Dreyer's "Passion of Joan of Arc" in 1928 will appreciate what fascination can lie in watching the camera cut skillfully from one grotesque image to another in endlessly imaginative ways, almost as if the gargoyles themselves were about to speak. The fascinating imagery proceeds non-stop from there, in the hands of master craftsman and director Sergei Eisenstein, like a medieval masterpiece come to life, though the later segment (part two) did not quite rise to the exceptional quality of part one. A taste of the high production standards is gleaned from a musical score composed by the great classicist Sergei Prokofiev. A very, very Russian production -- dark and grim, but full of amazing levels of interest, just the kind of production spoofed by Woody Allen years later in "Love and Death." Not necessarily to everybody's taste, but a great treat for connoisseurs.

Alexander Nevsky
Alexander Nevsky
DVD ~ Nikolai Cherkasov
Offered by Now Showing DVD's
Price: CDN$ 22.59
6 used & new from CDN$ 22.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Eisenstein classic, Nov. 3 2003
This review is from: Alexander Nevsky (DVD)
For those familiar with this classic of the Russian cinema, little need be said. For others, here are the high points: the story is set in medieval Russia and it essentially is about a great warrior who is drawn out of seclusion to lead the fight to defend the homeland against invading barbarians, who are German; there is much bravura acting from the loyal patriots, who deal not only with a vicious enemy from without but also with insidious traitors from within; the hero-warrior who leads them is suitably understated and dignified, striking a memorable portrait of nobility and grandeur. All this is dramatically heightened by some of the best cinematography ever, climaxing in a final battle over the ice which is done entirely with striking visuals and music-only sound. The result is one that rises far beyond the level of a mere costume picture or any cartoon story of battling types. This is a rich treasure from cinematic history, with all talents (including Sergei Eisenstein, one of the greatest directors ever, seen at his best) in brilliant form. Don't miss it.

Devil & Daniel Webster
Devil & Daniel Webster
DVD ~ Edward Arnold
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 41.63
25 used & new from CDN$ 26.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Sui generis: a classic unto its own, Nov. 2 2003
This review is from: Devil & Daniel Webster (DVD)
This is one of the most unusual movies ever made, a true treasury of inventiveness, and only one of about 200 total (out of nearly 20,000 films) to which acclaimed British film critic Leslie Halliwell had awarded 4 stars. Those who know Mr. Halliwell's work will immediately recognize that this makes for a very special film, since he was in his day perhaps the surest guide of all to Golden Age films, as well as being a very tough grader. Hence, a presumptively extraordinary film. In spite of this, the film failed commercially because it does not fit easily into any given category. It depicted a German Faustian theme about a farmer who sold his soul to the devil. Yet it was set in the context of down-home Americana. And it bore the arty qualities of a German expressionism brought to it by its famed director, William Dieterle. Into this mix, one can throw first-class American acting by Walter Huston and Edward Arnold, and the entire package becomes one weird combination for marketing purposes. That having been said, this indescribable mix is an amazing movie: it moves quickly, it is amazingly photographed in moody black and white, it has a first-class score that rivals anything Bernard Herrmann ever did (e.g., Vertigo), it has a lead performance by Walter Huston as the devil ('Mr. Scratch') that ranks among the most memorable performances ever recorded on film, and it concludes a fine and imaginative script with a 'courtroom scene' that is utterly fascinating in its depiction of the most infamous blackguards of American history being summoned from the depths of perdition to stand as jury to determine whether or not the poor farmer who had sold his soul should be held to have a binding contract with the devil. The film is roistering entertainment as well as caviar for the pointy-head crowd, quite a mix by any measure. Not to be missed!

Rembrandt (Sous-titres français) [Import]
Rembrandt (Sous-titres français) [Import]
DVD ~ Charles Laughton
Offered by Round3CA
Price: CDN$ 42.26
11 used & new from CDN$ 35.71

5.0 out of 5 stars A high point in early British cinema, April 7 2002
This film is an outstanding item among Alexander Korda's almost single-handed efforts beginning in the 1930s to transform British cinema from an industry dominated by worthless "quota quickies" to a first-class competitor in world cinema. Korda had a prominent hand in such great classics as The Private Life of Henry VIII, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Four Feathers, The Thief of Baghdad, and many others; this level of greatness is akin, for example, to what a company like Pixar is doing with animation in movies such as Toy Story today. The best of the Korda films are nothing if not imperishable classics. And Rembrandt ranks right at the top among them. The power of the film lies primarily in Mr. Laughton's priceless performance, which is a great waggish role and yet is remarkably subtle in both gently comic and touchingly tragic ways. The exchanges with Roger Livesey as "beggar Saul," with Elsa Lanchester as Hendrickje Stoffels, and with the worthies who stirred up scandal after Rembrandt used a commission to portray them in a less than idealized light, are lively parts of the spirited whole that this film represents. And, though the film has sad elements, the overriding portrayal is of an indomitable spirit who, in his eccentric way, triumphs over adversity and mediocrity to leave a cherished legacy of his artistry for the world. Truly, this is one of the greats among films, and certainly among biographical ones. Viewers will love this film for the depth of its powerful central characterization surrounded by outstanding talents in all departments. Highly recommended.

Black Pirate, the
Black Pirate, the
DVD ~ Douglas Fairbanks
Offered by gabysbookscanada
Price: CDN$ 90.00
7 used & new from CDN$ 39.58

5.0 out of 5 stars A great talent in a wonderfully inventive movie, March 30 2002
This review is from: Black Pirate, the (DVD)
Douglas Fairbanks was at the top of his form in this film, and that is saying a lot. Every era has its screen giants, and Fairbanks held that status throughout the 1920s through his cheerful heroics in such titles as The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, The Thief of Bagdad, and The Black Pirate. Crowds loved his film persona because it was memorable: it was larger-than-life; it was splendidly imaginative; and it consistently showed good overcoming evil. Fairbanks perfectly depicted -- in 50-foot form on a big screen full of splendid sets -- acrobatics, stunts, and deeds of derring-do that no one of us could ever hope to do. Call it escapism, if you will, but it enraptured countless moviegoers historically drawn into this world of Mr. Fairbanks's fantasy epics. Here, as well, there is the added joy of seeing a film genre -- that of the pirate adventure -- at a time when fresh minds brought creative ideas and great craft to bear upon the films of their devising. What the viewer gets, then, is an original product that is vivid and memorable -- and not a tired recycling by lesser talents of uninventive themes and ideas. A viewer of this film, even on DVD, is wondrously drawn into an exotic and fascinating (indeed, even an early Technicolor) world and is held there firmly in place by the skilled and entertaining work of able craftsmen for the duration of the 85-minute running time. And, while so drawn in, one is also uplifted, if nothing else than by the very cheeriness of the star's persona. Unless one despises entertainment value as a legitimate goal of movie-making, there is nothing more that one could ask from a good film of this type. Nor should the age of the film, or its being a silent picture, deter any but those who are prejudiced. There is a reason why Douglas Fairbanks was made so wealthy by moviegoers that he was able to become a founder of United Artists. Whatever else there is, there is sort of magic at work in his best films. It is well worth the modern moviegoer's time, then, to see why this film created such excitement back in 1926. The DVD format makes all this vividly accessible. Highly recommended.

Halliwell's Film and Video Guide
Halliwell's Film and Video Guide
by John Walker
Edition: Paperback
10 used & new from CDN$ 8.20

3.0 out of 5 stars A marring of Halliwell's great work, March 22 2002
This lowers a 5-star recommendation given in an earlier review based on a previous edition of this guide. The latest edition leaves intact Mr. Halliwell's reviews for films before 1965 and these remain invaluable. But Mr. Walker's tampering with later reviews is now extensive and has added only pretentiousness and poor judgment to the product. The work remains exceptional for Golden Age movies; otherwise, caveat emptor.

Halliwell's Film and Video Guide (2001)
Halliwell's Film and Video Guide (2001)
by John Walker
Edition: Paperback
10 used & new from CDN$ 7.58

5.0 out of 5 stars An ideal guide for those favoring Golden Age movies, Oct. 9 2001
In spite of certain limitations, Halliwell's guide far surpasses any other. From 1965 until 1989, Leslie Halliwell wrote every word of his reviews personally, not by committee. He wrote with definite prejudices: he loved Golden Age movies that represented the best products of the studio system; he loved wholesome, unpretentious movies that sought simply to entertain as well as weightier films; he hated arty films for talking down to audiences and for failing to entertain; he hated 70s-style films that featured solely unattractive characters; he rated films for how they fared as a collective effort by many contributors, not as the mystical work of, say, a director; he rated films very strictly, giving, perhaps, no more than 10% of all his reviews either a 3 or 4 star rating (on a scale of 0 to 4), with most getting no more than 1 star. In short, he went against many modern trends in film, making him a gem for those valuing perspective and sharp judgment while eschewing fads and fashions. And he wrote as a highly gifted man with a 50s Cambridge education and an apt, pithy manner of expression. This, then, is the nearest one can come in the world of film reviewers to what may be regarded as a sure guide to quality. The updates since Mr. Halliwell's death in 1989 have paralleled what is more typically found in other popular reviewers, which, while mildly disappointing, still does not detract materially from the continuing power of the work. Halliwell with a few warts is still far and away the best, given that the essential Halliwell remains. Highly recommended.

On Approval
On Approval
DVD ~ Clive Brook
Offered by DealsAreUs
Price: CDN$ 79.99
7 used & new from CDN$ 58.33

5.0 out of 5 stars A minor masterpiece of sophisticated light comedy, Jan. 22 2001
This review is from: On Approval (DVD)
This is a sophisticated, light comedy of the highest order. It works at every level: acting, directing, pacing, production. Especially for those who tend to appreciate the often higher caliber expertise of movie-making out of the 1940s, this movie will be bright and fresh. It holds its own with the best of that era, yet is so rarely seen today that even connoisseurs of sophisticated satire and gentle wit scarcely know of its existence. For anyone who enjoys ironic word plays, playfully disparaging witticisms, and occasionally biting satire upon upper-class manners -- all done in grand style -- this movie is a joy to experience. The DVD release corrects the sound and other technical problems of the VHS version, allowing the movie to be recommended without reservation for those who appreciate this style of comedy. Don't miss this one!

Lost Films of Laurel & Hardy #
Lost Films of Laurel & Hardy #
DVD ~ Stan Laurel
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 234.42
6 used & new from CDN$ 70.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A marvellous treat and a surprise for those who are under 40, June 19 1999
Laurel and Hardy were giants of the cinema in their day not only because of their immense talent but also because of the more leisurely paced times of the late 1920s and the 1930s. People in small towns could scarcely wait for the next L&H film short, much as a child can't wait for his favorite uncle to pay him a day visit and then utterly delight in the magic of the time spent with that uncle. These L&H films capture that sense of delight perfectly, because they have brought back the best available prints in DVD format of the whole range of 15-20 minute shorts that so captured the nation's fancy on a mass scale 70 years ago. Do not be misled by the unfortunate title of "lost films" -- this is not a knock-off series (it is planned as an omnium gatherum of their films); nor is it "small town" in the sense of being simpleton comedy; nor is it mere nostalgia (though it is a great throw-back to the past); nor is it a poor-quality series such as the many L&H offerings that have plagued the VHS market. This is from the source (Hal Roach Studios), and it truly does bring back great films that, by their nature as short silents, could not easily have been separately marketed and have not therefore been otherwise accessible now for decades. While these films are silent, you will discover by them just how visual artistry alone has the power to delight. Masterpieces are included (such as "Big Business"), but the whole grouping is also a delight: it is wholesome, it is clean, and it is funny, often hilariously so. I can watch these movies any time and never tire of the subtly recurring themes, the "slow burns," the tit-for-tat exchanges, and, above all, the larger-than-life characters projected by L&H that do not simply please for the moment, in a given place or culture, but rather transcend all bounds to tell all of us -- young, old, or in between, of any era and in any culture -- something about what we are as people. For the over-stimulated times in which we live, these films are most welcomed.

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