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Moodywoody (Ottawa, Canada)

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The Wicker Man (1973)
The Wicker Man (1973)
DVD ~ Edward Woodward

5.0 out of 5 stars A Horror Classic of the Highest Degree, Jan. 12 2011
This review is from: The Wicker Man (1973) (DVD)
The Wicker Man is one of the greatest horror films ever made. Directed brilliantly by Robin Hardy and starring Edward Woodward, this film is one of the finest examples of horror film making as art. The genius of this film is its ability to touch upon a theme that can historically and viscerally hit home to the viewer in its realism. A deeply religious and spiritual film, it challenges the viewer on an existential and moral level that few horror films ever dare to attempt, and if they do dare often veer into camp or nonsense.

A very unusual film, it addresses the nature of religion, faith and the testing of that faith, and the historical reality of religious martyrdom. This film in particular brings to life the ancient confrontation between paganism and Christianity, displaying the sharp contrast between their divergent world views.

This is a film that is also very well made. The story is well developed and thought out, the characters giving the viewer an emotional connection to them, particularly to the policeman played by Edward Woodward in what has to be the finest performance of his film career.

If someone was looking for a classic horror movie to view, this would be the one.

The Wicker Man (Widescreen Unrated/Rated Edition) (2006)
The Wicker Man (Widescreen Unrated/Rated Edition) (2006)
DVD ~ Nicolas Cage
Price: CDN$ 8.25
44 used & new from CDN$ 1.19

1.0 out of 5 stars No Discernible Reason to Make This Film, Jan. 12 2011
Why did they even try to make a remake of a horror classic that can be arguably described as a horror masterpiece? To attempt to do so would be an exercise in futility to anyone, yet someone had the audacity to think they could do better or give it a different "modern" take? Such arrogance would be doomed to fail, and this new version of The Wicker Man not only fails miserably in even coming close to the brilliance of the original, but it fails even on its own terms of reference in offering a decent movie. In fairness to this film, for anyone who has seen the original, it is almost impossible to view this film without being continually reminded how bad it is compared to the original.

Though it probably would not have made any difference in the end result, the film had a serious problem in that it attempted to ignore with its secular and "modern" sensibilities a fundamental aspect of the story. What gave such power to the original film was that it was genuinely a religious film, in which we witnessed a struggle between Christianity and the ancient paganism of nature worship. The viewer truly appreciated the horror of martyrdom and the spiritual battle and test of faith which was taking place in the policeman, wonderfully played by Edward Woodward. The viewer appreciated the deep conviction of the pagans in their rituals in contrast and in relation to the Christian world view. The new version grotesquely attempts to give us a secular policeman without any noticeable faith confronting a pagan matriarchy of nature worship with a touch of Nazi Aryanism and the pursuit of perfect womanhood, witchcraft, male abuse, and social engineering. The film displays the pagans as having a rather sadistic disposition, something the original did not do, more successful in displaying the religious aspect of pagan ritual sacrifice.

So, instead of witnessing a martyr saying a prayer before he dies, we have a Nicholas Cage, in a thankless role if there ever was one, screaming in fear and pain as he dies. Above and beyond the dismal creative failure of this film to offer anything of merit in respect to the original, this betrayal of the original story and film in a misguided effort to try and give it a secular spin deserves our contempt.

Hammer Film Noir Collector's Set, Vol. 2 (Terror Street / Wings of Danger / The Glass Tomb / Paid to Kill / The Black Glove / The Deadly Game / The Unholy Four / A Race for Life) [Import]
Hammer Film Noir Collector's Set, Vol. 2 (Terror Street / Wings of Danger / The Glass Tomb / Paid to Kill / The Black Glove / The Deadly Game / The Unholy Four / A Race for Life) [Import]
DVD ~ Paulette Goddard
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 244.27
7 used & new from CDN$ 139.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Collection of Film Noir From Hammer Films, Jan. 10 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As in Hammer Film Noir Collector's Set, Vol. 1, Vol. 2 delivers great film noirs. Often using B list American stars largely known for their supporting work in Hollywood films, these film noirs offer the viewer a professional product with good acting, directing, and writing. These films more than make up for their limited budgets with a wonderful spirit of love for the art of film making. Not for everyone, this collection is to be enjoyed by those that love the film noir genre of the 1950's.

As mentioned, these films star good supporting actors from Hollywood: Dan Duryea, Dane Clark, Richard Conte, Paulette Godard, Zachary Scott, Alex Nicol, Lloyd Bridges, and John Ireland. The context and quality of these films make these actors appear comfortable in their starring roles, and consequently make the most of it.

My personal favourite in this collection is Terror Street starring Dan Duryea. It is wonderful to see this fine actor carry a film in a starring role for a change. The story has good action and suspense.

Hammer Film Noir Collector's Set (Bad Blonde / Blackout / The Gambler and the Lady / Heat Wave / Man Bait / Stolen Face) [Import]
Hammer Film Noir Collector's Set (Bad Blonde / Blackout / The Gambler and the Lady / Heat Wave / Man Bait / Stolen Face) [Import]
DVD ~ George Brent
Price: CDN$ 38.92
8 used & new from CDN$ 38.91

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hammer Films Delivers Entertaining Film Noirs, Jan. 10 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Hammer Films may have been a so-called "discount" studio, but the quality and professionalism of their films would never show it. In fact, you can only describe this studio as the master of the B-movie, and by B-movie I do not mean low quality, but simply films that were not major studio releases and made with a limited budget. More often than not, I have found myself enjoying B-movies more than many films there were regarded as a major studio release. Historically, film noirs often were originally made as B-films, since film noirs largely came into being by directors and producers attempting to make the most of limited budgets.

This collection of film noirs from Hammer Films are terrific entertainment. There is not a bad movie in this collection if you enjoy the film noir genre. There is a certain quaint innocence to these films in that they give a sense that those who made them had a true love of film making. The writing and directing is superb and the acting so professional that the viewer becomes so engrossed in the films that the limited budgets are not noticeable.

The two films starring Dane Clark are lots of fun, and the movie Stolen Face, starring film noir icon Lizabeth Scott is a real unexpected bonus in this collection. Bad Blonde and Man Bait feature some great femme fatales along with fairly well known stars in George Brent, Diana Dors, and Barbara Payton.

My favourite film is this collection, however, is Heat Wave starring Alex Nicol and Hillary Brooke. An archetype film noir, it delivers all the elements of a film noir one comes to expect from such films. Hillary Brooke is great as the femme fatale, and the under rated Alex Nicol is in fine film noir form. It is also enjoyable to see Sidney James in a supporting role.

Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 2 (Born to Kill / Clash by Night / Crossfire / Dillinger (1945) / The Narrow Margin (1952))
Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 2 (Born to Kill / Clash by Night / Crossfire / Dillinger (1945) / The Narrow Margin (1952))
DVD ~ Various
Offered by torontomediadvd_com
Price: CDN$ 149.88
10 used & new from CDN$ 87.95

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favourite of the Film Noir Classic Collections, Jan. 9 2011
No surprise that the Film Noir Classic Collections are so good, since they are choosing the best of the best, and this collection is no exception. In fact, in respect to the quality of each film, volume II of these film noir collections is probably the most outstanding. The film noirs in this collection are not just good, they are very good. To find a favourite film in this collection is truly a subjective exercise.

Born to Kill is my personal favourite in this collection. Directed by Robert Wise, this film gives us a frightening psychopathic killer, played with ominous menace by Lawrence Tierney, one of the truly great film noir actors of the 1940's. Tierney is fantastic in this film in playing the epitome of a cruel and cold hearted womanizer who meets up with an equally scary woman, played with icy sexiness by Claire Trevor. This film is one of those film noirs that you must see if you want to learn why these films can be so fascinating and entertaining.

The Narrow Margin is another classic film noir made in gritty black and white realism. The film has great suspense and pace, with very good performances by the players, particularly by the film noir icon Marie Windsor, who leaves a powerful impression on the viewer. In fact, her role in this film could be the very best of her many solid film noir performances. The criminal elements in this film are really well presented in their menacing evil, and Charles McGraw is good in one of his rare "good guy" appearances in a film noir.

Clash by Night is an atypical film noir that frankly could be debated if it really qualifies as one. Directed by Fritz Lang, this film is a love triangle of adultery and betrayal with such dramatic intensity that you could easily and more accurately describe this film as good drama. What gives it the film noir feel is the black and white lighting, the double dealing and amoral lust of Robert Ryan, and the easily seduced Barbara Stanwyck.

However, again I cannot say this is a real film noir. The pain of Paul Douglas, the cuckolded husband who is betrayed by both his best friend and his wife, is palpable in its anguish and anger, but also very human. Barbara Stanwyck is anything but a femme fatale, but simply a confused woman unsure as to what it means to love a man, and what her responsibility should be to her newborn baby. Finally, as intimidating as Robert Ryan is in this film, he is not as much an evil man as much as a morally corrupt man without principle. Not exactly archetype characters you would find in a film noir.

Clash by Night is a good film for its dramatic intensity, not as a film noir. The film is also notable for a small supporting role by Marilyn Monroe in one of her earliest film appearances.

Crossfire stars two great film noir icons in Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan. The film is basically dominated by the exceptional performance of Robert Ryan, who plays a resentful bigot (anti-Semite) who goes too far in his hate to the point where he ends up murdering a Jew he meets in a bar, and doing his very best to escape capture and pinning the murder on someone else.

A post WWII film, it is one of the first films in Hollywood to address the evil of bigotry, in this case anti-Semitism and just beneath the surface, the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis. The film garnered some academy award attention, getting five nominations including Best Picture.

Finally, Dillinger is a ground breaking film noir starring again the menacing Lawrence Tierney. This film, obviously is about the outlaw Dillinger, has a raw intensity toward violence that was unheard of for the time. The film was actually banned in some parts of the USA, and it was a star making performance for Lawrence Tierney, who probably would have gone on to become another Robert Mitchum or Robert Ryan in the film noir annals except for the personal demons that would inevitably hijack and cripple his film career.

Born to Kill
Born to Kill
DVD ~ Claire Trevor
Offered by MotionPicturesUnlimited
Price: CDN$ 35.89
12 used & new from CDN$ 14.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tierney and Trevor are Terrific as Two Psychopaths Who Meet Head On, Jan. 9 2011
This review is from: Born to Kill (DVD)
Born to Kill is one of the first film noir movies that I viewed that made me fall in love with the genre. In my opinion, it is one of the best film noirs ever made. This film is so good on so many levels. It is a polished film that gives the viewer everything you could want from a film noir: great lighting and direction; great performances; an evil and murderous anti-hero; a great femme fatale; betrayal; sexual tension; and a wonderful film noir ending.

Directed by Robert Wise, this film gives us a frightening psychopathic killer, played by the talented but troubled Lawrence Tierney. Tierney is fantastic in this film in playing the epitome of a cruel and cold hearted womanizer who can murder people like we swat flies. Yet, believe it for not, he meets his match in a femme fatale from hell, played with relish by the pretty Claire Trevor in probably the most evil role of her career.

The DVD also offers an insightful commentary by Eddie Muller about the place of Born to Kill in the history of film noir in Hollywood. However, rather than buying the DVD alone, one could buy it along with four other excellent film noirs in Film Noir Collection Volume Two.

Head in the Clouds [Import]
Head in the Clouds [Import]
DVD ~ Charlize Theron
Offered by MotionPicturesUnlimited
Price: CDN$ 5.89
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If You Love Charlize Theron, You'll Love This Film, Jan. 8 2011
This review is from: Head in the Clouds [Import] (DVD)
Head in the Clouds is one of those films in which you really have to be in the mood for, and respect the work of its lead star to the point where you would be curious enough to view it. There is no question that this film is a star vehicle for Charlize Theron, and frankly, it is her star power that is the only reason one would want to see this film. The film itself offers nothing unique, since it seems to be an amalgamation of themes from other films - Cabaret; The Way We Were; The Moderns; The Tropic of Cancer; and ad nausea.

The major problem with this film is that it explores none of these themes well, basically a jack of all trades, master of none. It doesn't help matters that the story is a preposterous melodrama that leaves the viewer incapable of deciphering the bizarre behaviour of its characters. Years pass in this film, and yet they don't seem to have any real impact on the characters and their relationship with each other, as if only a matter of days had passed. You just knew this film would be all over the map when it begins with an ominous fortune telling that gives the year of death for the Charlize Theron character.

This film would have been more suitable as a melodramatic TV mini series or even soap opera. At least in a TV mini series you can at least develop the characters as if in a soap opera. This is not to say that the film is not worth viewing, just like you would say the same about a TV soap opera. It all depends on what the viewer expects. In this case, the viewer expects to see a star performance by Charlize Theron, and the supporting work of her then boyfriend, Stuart Townsend, who actually does a good job in his nonsensical role.

If you love Charlize Theron, you'll love this film.

DVD ~ Tom Neal
Price: CDN$ 9.99
13 used & new from CDN$ 4.98

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest Film Noirs Ever Made, Jan. 8 2011
This review is from: Detour (DVD)
Detour is one of the finest examples of the magic of film noir. Made with an unbelievably low budget, you would never guess it was because it comes across as a professionally well made film. A simple story, yet has dialogue that one would find in a complex story from a major studio release. No name actors who perform like stars. A director who through a flash of genius directs one of the greatest film noirs ever made. This film is so good, that in 1992 it was chosen for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being what they call, "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Now a cult classic, it gives hope to any aspiring film maker that he or she can indeed make a classic film no matter what the resources at their disposal may be.

What I particularly like about this film is its atmospheric mood and style. It is like the recipe for Coke, try as you like, you simply cannot replicate it. The film has a transcendent quality to it as a film noir that makes it a distinctly unique cinematic experience.

I liked Tom Neal in this movie very much. It is too bad we did not see more of him, probably because his real life was very much like a film noir.

If you want to learn and understand the beauty and magic of film noir as an art form, this film would be a good starting point.

Film Noir - The Dark Side of Hollywood (Sudden Fear / The Long Night / Hangmen Also Die / Railroaded / Behind Locked Doors)
Film Noir - The Dark Side of Hollywood (Sudden Fear / The Long Night / Hangmen Also Die / Railroaded / Behind Locked Doors)
DVD ~ Joan Crawford
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 252.82
8 used & new from CDN$ 120.38

3.0 out of 5 stars Not the Best Film Noir Collection, But Still Entertaining, Jan. 8 2011
A rather eclectic collection of film noirs, this collection offers a mixed bag of second rate film noirs that vary in distinction and quality. This collection, however, could only be recommended to the most die hard and devoted fan of film noir from the 40's and 50's. There are no real classics here, though some may argue that The Long Night deserves to be classified as one, but as a big film noir fan I have to admit I found the collection a lot of fun to watch.

The Long Night is probably the best film in this collection, though Sudden Fear would be a close second. The Long Night has great film noir atmosphere, but what is especially noticeable about this film is the exceptional performance by Henry Fonda. Generally not one of my favourite actors, he does however shine in this film with a very powerful performance. Vincent Price is excellent in his supporting role. Director Anatole Litvak does great work in this film, particularly in the way he keeps the suspense at a high level throughout the film.

Sudden Fear is one of Joan Crawford's better film noirs. It is the usual star vehicle for Crawford, but Jack Palance makes this film a cut above the rest. He is excellent as the duplicitous villain in this film, and is probably the most memorable part of it as well. It is also always a treat to have film noir icon femme fatale Gloria Grahame in the film also.

Hangmen Also Die should have been the best film in this collection one would assume since it was directed by the legendary Fritz Lang. Unfortunately, it is probably the least entertaining and interesting of his Hollywood films in my opinion. One problem with this film right off the bat is Brian Donlevy. As much as I like him as a supporting actor, he is simply not right for a leading role. Also, the theme and vision of this film is too ambitious for a film noir, and the obvious low budget consequently takes away much of the film's impact on the viewer.

Behind Locked Doors is a rather bizarre film that if it were not so professionally well made, one would have thought it had been written and directed by Edward D Wood Jr. A strange story if there ever was one for a film noir, it nevertheless is quite entertaining if the viewer is prepared to give it a chance.

Railroaded is a film directed by Anthony Mann, and like the case with Fritz Lang, this film is one of his weaker efforts. Again, the most obvious problem is putting a great supporting actor like John Ireland in the lead role, which I am sorry to say, does not help the film at all. Also, this film is surprisingly boring for a film noir, and I think the main reason is that the plot is just too typically plain and simple, even for a film noir. The film may have overcome this if it had delivered a sense of style and atmosphere, but it failed to do this. Lacking the charisma of a good lead actor, the film unfortunately just does not deliver the kind of entertainment I would like to expect, and as a result is the weakest entry in this collection.

Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 3 (Border Incident / His Kind of Woman / Lady in the Lake / On Dangerous Ground / The Racket)
Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 3 (Border Incident / His Kind of Woman / Lady in the Lake / On Dangerous Ground / The Racket)
DVD ~ Various
Offered by torontomediadvd_com
Price: CDN$ 149.88
9 used & new from CDN$ 37.94

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't Go Wrong with this Film Noir Collection, Jan. 8 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This collection has it all: Robert Mitchum is two movies: Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino in another; possibly Anthony Mann's greatest film noir; an experimental film noir starring Robert Montgomery; and just terrific film noir entertainment with superior direction and story lines.

The best film in this collection is Anthony Mann's Border Incident. It is an absolutely uncompromising film noir that reeks with danger and suspense, giving diabolical villains and courageous heroes. In fact, Charles McGraw is so evil in this film that if there was a Hall of Fame for film villainy, he would get in just for this role alone. An unforgettable performance. One of the best film noirs ever made, it is director Anthony Mann's finest film noir in my opinion.

Any film noir starring Robert Mitchum is always compelling and entertaining. Both The Racket and His Kind of Woman deliver Mitchum in his fine film noir form, and were produced by the eccentric Howard Hughes. My favourite is His Kind of Woman, only because the sultry Jane Russell and the talented/charismatic Vincent Price are featured in this film. They add a certain pizzazz to the film. The Racket features Robert Mitchum butting heads with another film noir great, Robert Ryan, in a film that unabashedly uses its two stars to great effect.

On Dangerous Ground is a fascinating film in that it offers us a classic film noir anti-hero in Robert Ryan. Ryan is terrific as a cynical cop who is beginning to lose his moral and psychological compass. Recognizing this, the department sends him out of town to look into a murder case in some remote village. Ida Lupino plays the love interest with a troubled life, and her and Ryan display good chemistry together. It is interesting to see Ward Bond in a very demanding supporting role.

Lady in the Lake gets an A for effort, though the film itself comes off with a B. Starring and directed by Robert Montgomery, this film follows the character of Philip Marlowe from the camera's eye view, so that we never actually see Robert Montgomery except at the intro of the movie, and one or twice through the reflection of a mirror. It is interesting at first, but after awhile the viewer begins to get annoyed with all the obvious camera movement, especially when it does close-ups. Admittedly, it is fun having the actors look directly into the camera, and thus at the viewer. An experimental film, it is somewhat of a novelty film but there is good reason why such films are rarely made. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed the film very much.

Any film noir fan, and even fans of classic movies from the 40's and 50's, can't go wrong with this collection of film noirs.

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