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The Great Santini, The Great Silence, and a few more movies

The Great Race (1965)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Natalie Wood compete in a cross-country auto race circa 1920. Everyone's trying to be roguish, dashing, daring, endearing, but instead it's just broad, loud, and dated humor, with hijinx and shenanigans but not many laughs.

Sometimes I don't remember how a movie landed on my watchlist, but this one I remember plainly. Last autumn I gave a good review to It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and someone emailed me to say, "If you liked that, you'll *love* The Great Race — it's a lot funnier."

So I added it, watched it, but it's not worth adding to your list.

Directed and co-written by Blake Edwards, but without the occasional wry observations or pointed moments of his other films. 

Verdict: NO. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

NEVERENDING
FILM FESTIVAL
#305  [archive]
JULY 3, 2024

The Great Rights (1963)
Streaming free at YouTube

Some guy takes a whomp on the head, and hallucinates that the Bill of Rights is no longer in effect. 

It's an object lesson and a cartoon, but Civics isn't taught in public schools any more, which is part of America's ongoing problem, so I'd recommend watching this 13-minute overview of freedom, instead of tomorrow's tedious fireworks or worse, the next Presidential debate.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Great Santini (1979)
Streaming free at YouTube

Robert Duvall plays Bull Meechum, an aging Marine who's a shouting, macho, absolute jarhead and doesn't know how to be anything but a Marine. Which is rough on his wife and four kids, because he's never figured out how to be a husband and father. The verbal abuse he dumps on his wife and kids is relentless, and sadly believable.

"Okay, hogs, I've listened to you bellyache about moving to this new town. This said bellyaching will end as of 1530 hours, will not affect the morale of this squadron henceforth. Do I make myself clear?"

Duvall is perfect, and awful, and the embodiment of the military mindset, but the movie is a charmer. It is funny, sweet, funny, sad, funny again, and compelling. Also funny. I paused playback to laugh for a minute and a half at a hilarious bit near the middle, and a few minutes later it had me crying. 

This is one of those movies I've always loved. Saw it about once a week while it was playing in theaters in (wow!) 1979, then followed it to the discount second-run house to see it again. Somehow tonight's the first time I've seen it since, but it's lost nothing over the years. Still terrific.

Written and directed by Lewis John Carlino, who wrote The Fox, The Mechanic, Resurrection, and Seconds. Based on a novel by Pat Conroy (Conrack).

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

The Great Silence (1968)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

This is an international co-production, mostly Italian but dubbed into English. It's violent, yet restrained by spaghetti western standards.

Mostly, it's bleak and hopeless, a movie with a sour perspective and never the slightest glimmer of optimism — so I love it.

It's about two bounty hunters, poetically named Silence and Loco. Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant) can't speak but he sure can shoot, and shoots only in self-defense because he's as close as this movie gets to having a good guy. Loco (Klaus Kinski) is loco, charming on the surface but he'll kill anyone if there's a $5 bounty, and also kill anyone who stands in the way.

These two men meet a new sheriff in town, but reading that, you're envisioning a standard plot from a standard movie, and there's none of that here.

The Great Silence is dark despite all the snow, and many moments will stick with you afterward. It's Eastwood-free, but among the best of genre, and even has music by Ennio Morricone. It's a movie that kicks butt, and I'm going through writer-director Sergio Corbucci's filmography to add more of his work to my list. 

The only mistake is that half of Kinski's performance is lost, because he's dubbed. Why, though? Kinski is German, but he speaks fluent English, and it's clear from his lips that he's speaking English, yet the lines are recited in some bland surfer-dude's voice. 

Other than that, though, is a spaghetti western al dente.

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Streaming free; see below.

This is widely but wrongly cited as the first film to tell a story, instead of simply showing scenery and stuff. It was one of the first, though, and from the title, you can probably surmise what story it tells.

It was also an early innovator in cross-cutting, where different scenes tell different parts of the same story.

And it ends (spoiler!) with a flourish, as a man draws his gun and fires six shots at the camera. The technology of film and projection wasn't widely understood, and legend has it that audience members screamed and crouched under their seats. 

For all that, however, The Great Train Robbery is not one of the silent classics that can still enthrall modern viewers. It's entirely a museum piece, and only interesting as such. 

If you want to watch it, there are numerous variants, all less than ideal. The Library of Congress has posted this almost 14 minute print (other versions online are a few to several minutes shorter) that's visually pristine, but has no soundtrack, which is stupid. Even the grandest silent movies need a musical score.

I watched about a third of this cut that's overlaid with random orchestral music, but the score bears no relation to what's happening on screen. 

So I switched to this link, which has better, simpler, and more evocative music, but it's a lousy-looking print, with cuts and splotches and only two gunshots at the end.

This version is OK, if you can get past the logo emblazoned in the corner, and the weird, unwanted modern stuff tacked onto the end.

Or you could watch it colorized and AI-enhanced, which subtracts all evidence that you're even watching an old movie, and reduces the experience to dreck.

Usually I hate it when old movies are vandalized with modern tech, but here's a version with added sound effects that are sorta 'sound effective'. It's the version I liked best.

Verdict: YES, as a curio.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Great Train Robbery (1978)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

This isn't a remake of the above; it's just an enjoyable heist movie with the same title.

Sean Connnery plays the conman as his ordinary charming rogue, only more so. Donald Sutherland plays Connery's sidekick in crime, unless Connery is hoodwinking him as well.

They both wear too-tall top hats, and it's a grand time watching them plot and hopefully pull off their nefarious deed. It's entirely nonsense and signifies nothing, but dim the lights and make popcorn.

Directed by Michael Crichton, based on his novel about the first successful train robbery.

Crichton, of course, devolved into a weird right-wing hag as he aged, but before hate-politics consumed his mind, he churned out numerous enjoyable thrillers, including Westworld and Jurassic Park, and he created ER, the almost-forever prime time soap opera set in a hospital.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Florenz Ziegfeld Jr was the great impresario whose name is still somewhat remembered, for his "Ziegfeld Follies" on stage in New York.

Here he says, "I want to do a show with silk drapes, with lace, with beautiful girls, and I'm going to dress them not for the bald heads in the front row, but for the women in the last row. I'm going to surround them with glamour, glitter, glorify them…"

Ziegfeld was a big deal in his time, and the film's recreations of his extravagant stage productions are interesting, but a touch of Busby Berkeley's magic would've helped, and this film severely lacks that.

Winner of the Oscar for Best Picture of the year, it's more than three hours long, and much of it — not just the blackface — seems turgidly dated. It sure is big, though.

William Powell stars, and he's one of my favorite old-time actors, but he's wrong for this role. Ziegfeld, from what little I know of him, should be eccentric and larger than life, but Powell plays him the same as he played My Man Godfrey or The Thin Man.

There's also Ray Bolger, Fanny Brice, Myrna Loy, Frank Morgan, Reginald Owen, Luise Rainer, and plenty of opportunity to check your email.

Verdict: NO. 

♦ ♦ ♦   

Michael Roemer, a moviemaker so good they wouldn't let him make movies 

Alex Cox on The Great Silence and Sergio Corbucci [VIDEO]

7/3/2024   

• • • Coming attractions • • •     

The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)
The Greatest Thing That Almost Happened (1977)
Greed (1924)
Green Eyes (1977)
The Green Glove (1952)

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
Now accepting movie recommendations,
especially
starting with the letter 'H'.
Just add a comment, below.
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
 
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