Tag: burt lancaster

MOVIE REVIEW | The Unforgiven (1960)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I’d never say that The Unforgiven is a good movie. But I also can’t say that I wasn’t entertained by it.”

Audrey Hepburn, The Unforgiven (1960, John Huston) starring Burt Lancaster
“I’ve left my family. They’ve changed. Turned into Indian lovers; Injun lovers.”

John Ford and John Wayne’s The Searchers is widely recognised as one of the greatest westerns ever made. In fact, when I wrote about it here on Bored and Dangerous, it was as part of my countdown of the American Film Institute’s Top 100 American movies. While the performance from Wayne is one of his absolute best, and the film making of Ford only gets more impressive with every rewatch, the political and social views haven’t aged so well.  So when I read that The Unforgiven (similar to Clint Eastwood’s 1992 masterpiece in name and genre only) was director John Huston’s answer to those troubling political and social views, I was intrigued to see what he had to say.  The Unforgiven is a response and polar opposite to The Searches. It just does something I had assumed was impossible, and presents something even more troubling than the movie it’s responding to.

With his father dead, Ben (Burt Lancaster) has become the patriarch of the Zachary family. There’s his old but spry mother Mattilda (Lillian Gish), hot head brother Cash (Audie Murphy) and adopted sister Rachel (Audrey Hepburn). It’s Rachel and her adoption that brings trouble to the Zachary clan and drives the plot of The Unforgiven. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Rope of Sand (1949)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I was constantly entertained every time the two power hitters came up to bat.”

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“Consider the diamond itself for instance. Carbon, soot, chemically speaking. And yet the hardest of all matters. So hard, in fact, that whatever it touches must suffer.   Glass, steel, the human soul.”

Before I started writing about movies for Bored and Dangerous, I always knew Burt Lancaster was pretty great, but I never knew why.  Tough Guys, his awesome 80s team up with Kurt Douglas and Dana Carvey, might have been the only movie of his I could name off the top of my head back then.  But in the last few years, I have seen a good handful of Lancaster joints.  Some I sought out, some I have been lucky enough to stumble across, but all have been further proof of his awesomeness.  Including my latest lucky discovery, Rope of Sand.

It’s Colonial South Africa, a time when white dudes from various European nations had decided they’d just take whatever they wanted, including South Africa’s immense deposits of diamonds.  When big game hunter Mike Davis (Lancaster) returns to town after several years away, diamond company cop Vogel (Paul Henried) is immediately on his back.  It seems last time Mike left town, it was after a vicious beating at Vogel’s hands in search of a bunch of stolen diamonds. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Tough Guys (1986)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s an outright hilarious, and not always deliberately so, take on 50s and 80s stereotypes. ”

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“We’ll steal the whole Goddamn train and ride it to Mexico.”

The best thing about modern entertainment technology is, we have absolutely everything at out fingertips.  Pretty much any movie I have ever heard of is a few mouse clicks away, or streaming right into my telly when I want to watch it.  The worst part is, we have absolutely everything at out fingertips.  When there are things out there you know you’ll love, there’s no need to ever take a risk on something you know little about.  But when I was a kid, having only four TV channels meant often having to settle for whatever was on.  That meant sitting through some real shit bombs, but it also mean stumbling across movies that I love to this day.  Movies like Tough Guys.

30 years before the movie starts, Archie (Kirk Douglas) and Harry (Burt Lancaster) became legends as America’s last train robbers.  Caught and convicted, they spent three decades in the clink and are finally released.  Fish out of water in a world that moved on, their legend has faded and almost disappeared, and they’re no longer the young, good time gangsters of the 50s.  They’re old men in a new, 80s world.  A world where Harry is forced into mandatory retirement and Archie has to take a minimum wage job pouring frozen yoghurt for spoilt kids.  All the while, veteran cop Deke (Charles Durning) is convinced they’ll reoffend, and is determined to be there when they do.  Also on their tail is a vengeful, shotgun wielding half blind man (Eli Wallach) with a score to settle. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I never expected anything as dark and cold and cynical as what I got.”

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“I’d hate to take a bite outta you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic.”

I’ve talked about it here before, but there really is something so satisfying about going into a movie blind, with no knowledge of its plot or reputation, no idea of who’s in it or who made it, and no expectations, high or low, about its quality, then stumbling across a bona fide classic.  I don’t know how I’d never heard of Sweet Smell of Success.   Because it stars two legends, and as I read about it while watching, it has a more than solid reputation.  But this was one for the best surprises I’ve had watching a movie in a long, long time.

New York press agent Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) has a problem.  Ever since influential columnist and radio host JJ Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) has frozen out Sidney’s clients from his column, his effectiveness as a press agent has become as good as non existent.  Taking advantage of the situation, Hunsecker uses his influence to blackmail Sidney into helping break up the relationship between Hunsecker’s sister (Susan Harrison as Susan) and young jazz guitarist, Steve (Martin Milner). (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Run Silent Run Deep (1958)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I’m not saying that Run Silent Run Deep is the best submarine picture out there, but I am saying that it’s the one that made me realise what a unique and great part of cinema history the submarine picture is.”

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“Mr. Cartwright, with all due respect to your rank, may I say I think you’re an ass?”

I used to make fun of my dad for once walking into a video shop and asking where the “submarine pictures” were.  The idea of him thinking they were their own genre seemed so goofy to me.  But the more I watch, the more I realise the “submarine picture” isn’t far from being its own genre.  Separate from war movies, and even from navy specific war movies, they have their own filmic language, they have their own devices, rules and even clichés.  And I started to really notice this while watching Run Silent Run Deep.

We’re balls’ deep in WWII, and an area known as the Bungo Straights has seen many a US ship and sub sunk by the enemy Japanese.  At home in Pearl Harbour, Lt. Jim Bledsoe (Burt Lancaster) is on the verge of getting command of his own boat. Until an old seadog, Commander BJ ‘Rich’ Richardson (Clark Gable) decides he’d like a sub to command.  Now he’s in charge, Bledsoe is his number two, and they’re shipping out with a disgruntled crew, heading towards the Bungo Straights. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Marty (1955)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Screenwriter Paddy Cheyefsky said that with Marty, he wanted to make, ‘the most ordinary love story in the world.’  The fact that he accomplished that is what makes Marty so extraordinary.”

Marty 1
“See, dogs like us, we ain’t such dogs as we think we are.”

A romantic drama isn’t the kind of movie I seek out often.  A 70 year old romantic drama when acting styles were more on the hammy, overtly theatrical side really isn’t the kind of movie I seek out often.  But when a movie wins Best Picture and Best Screenplay at the Oscars, and becomes the first American movie to win the Palme d’or at Cannes, I can look past the negative preconceptions of its genre and era.  Which is good, because if I didn’t, I would have missed the amazing movie that is Marty.

Marty (Ernest Borgnine) is a 34 year old butcher in the Bronx.  He spends his Saturday morning serving customers who alternate between buying meat and haranguing him for being a bachelor while his half dozen younger siblings are all married off and building families.  A quick catch up with his friend Angie (Joe Mantell) reveals the story of their lives, each Saturday night, these two aging bachelors try their luck with women, and each Saturday night they lose. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Elmer Gantry (1960)

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“Mister, I’ve been converted five times. Billy Sunday, Reverend Biederwolf, Gypsy Smith, and twice by Sister Falconer. I get terrible drunk, and then I get good and saved. Both of them done me a powerful lot of good – gettin’ drunk and gettin’ saved.”

Burt Lancaster was awesome. He was the kind of man’s man that existed in the Hollywood of the 50s and 60s, and just doesn’t exist these days. You believe his characters are hard drinkin’, hard brawlin’, hard lovin’ tough nuts, because Lancaster himself seems like he was capable of some hard drinkin’, hard brawlin’, hard lovin’ tough nuttery. I’m not saying that’s the kind of thing men should aspire to in the modern age, I’m just saying it lead to a certain kind of leading main back in the day that I think Hollywood misses in 2014. And I don’t know if that side of Lancaster was ever put to better use than it is in Elmer Gantry.


He loves his booze, he loves his women, and he loves riding the rails, but none of that stops Elmer Gantry (Lancaster) from preaching the word of his lord and savior. Initially, he parties hard at night, while using his gift of the gab to sell dodgy appliances by day. Christ and consumerism is the combo he exploits to make a buck. Then, he stumbles across the tent revival church of Sister Sharon Falconer (Jean Simmons). Talking his way into her inner circle, Elmer becomes an integral part of the organisation. While he preaches the fire and brimstone that scares everyone into thinking they’re doomed, Sister Falconer is there offering the comfort salvation. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***BURT WEEK*** The Crimson Pirate (1952)

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While the Pirates of the Caribbean movies may have become a franchise worth billions, the pirate movie still isn’t a genre that we see too much these days.  But back in the early days of colour, they were all the rage.  Swashbuckling was a big deal and hoisting mainsails propelled many a crowd pleasing blockbuster.  But it’s a genre I’ve never really paid much attention to.  It took the involvement of Burt Lancaster for me to watch possibly my first ever classic pirate picture, The Crimson Pirate.


Lancaster is Captain Vallo, AKA the Crimson Pirate.  When he captures a British Navy ship, he first plans to sell the weapons on board to a rebel named El Libre.   But he’s eventually convinced to capture El Libre (Fredrick Leister) instead, for a tidy profit.  Until his mind is changed again and Vallo is off to save El Libre.  It’s a pretty schizophrenic storyline, but that doesn’t matter.  It’s all just an excuse for Lancaster and his sidekick, Nick Cravat as Ojo, to romp around ships, islands and little villages.

It’s the kind of classic old movie where the criminals are roguish scamps with hearts of gold, while the bad guys are the stuffy, old, entitled establishment.  Captain Vallo might steal, kidnap and commit acts of assault often, but when all of that is done with the cheeky Lancaster grin and sparkle in his eye, it’s impossible to dislike him.

Reading about Lancaster, it turns out he didn’t become an actor until he was in his thirties, and before then, he’d been a professional acrobat.  All of that makes perfect sense when watching The Crimson Pirate.  This is a movie made for a professional acrobat.  Lancaster and Cravat bounce around this movie more than they walk, with the almost non-existent plot there only to give them more excuses to jump, flip, swing and mince their way through a series of slapsticky set pieces.  Lancaster even dresses like a circus acrobat when he’s in full pirate mode.  An acrobat, or an 80s wrestler.

There’s a half assed story about oppression, there’s a half assed romance angle involving Lancaster and Eva Bartok as El Libre’s daughter Consuelo.  But none of that really matters too much.  It’s all only there as an excuse to get to more jumping, flipping, swinging and mincing.

Don’t expect any surprises from The Crimson Pirate.  Don’t expect anything highbrow from The Crimson Pirate.  It’s not interested in surprises and it makes no attempts to be anything even close to approaching highbrow.  The Crimson Pirate is the lightest fluff you’ll ever see.  It’s corny, over the top, silly and sickly sweet.  But when a movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, and knows it’s all of those things, you end up with something that’s really fun.  It looks like everyone involved had an amazing time making The Crimson Pirate and that good time is infectious.

The Crimson Prate
Directed By – Robert Siodmak
Written By – Roland Kibbee

 

MOVIE REVIEW | ***BURT WEEK*** Vera Cruz (1954)

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Some things just make sense when they’re put together.   And while John Wayne might be the poster boy for westerns, the more I see, the more I think Gary Cooper was the best there ever was for this sort of thing.  And since my whole reason for watching this movie was for Burt Lancaster, Cooper’s involvement was a great surprise that only made me more interested in watching Vera Cruz.


Handily set up in the opening titles, “As the American Civil War ended, another war was just beginning.  The Mexican people were struggling to rid themselves of their foreign Emperor, Maximilian.  Into the fight rode a handful of Americans, ex-soldiers, adventurers, criminals, all bent on gain.”  Two of those Americans are Copper as ex-confederate soldier Ben Trane, who lost his plantation in the war, and all around scum bag, Joe Erin (Lancaster).

As mercenaries in Mexico, they’re employed by Maquis Henri de Labordere (Cesar Romero, AKA, the Joker from the old Batman TV show) to escort the French Countess Cuvarre (Denise Darcai) to the port of Vera Cruz.   Along the way, they realise they’re helping ship $3million in gold for the Emperor Maximilian to supply more French troops to make his oppression of Mexico even more absolute.  Once the fortune is discovered, it’s a showdown between the honest and good Trane, and the ruthless, untrustworthy Erin.

There’s the Countess and a lazy love interest shoe horned in for Cooper.  Plus, their gang of mercenaries includes Ernest Borgnine and Charles Bronson.  But all of them are overshadowed by Cooper and Lancaster.  The cool, calmness of Cooper is the perfect match for the rough, primal masculinity of Lancaster.  For most of Vera Cruz, I kept bouncing back and forth on whether these two characters were reluctant allies with a cold respect for each other, two poker faced schemers waiting for their chance to betray the other, or just outright enemies.  They made me fully believe these different attitudes at different times, and that constant changing of dynamic kept the movie moving at cracking pace.

Vera Cruz is kind of a by the numbers western with a by the numbers plot.  It even goes for that old cornball chestnut of having the good guy shoot a gun out of a bad guy’s hand at one stage.  But it’s a by the numbers western that really, really works.  Cooper perfected the strong, silent type who’s honour is unfaltering.  Lancaster’s Jack Erin is a total prick, but you can’t help being in awe of him at times.

But I think the best thing about Vera Cruz has to be this little gem that I found in the IMDB trivia section for the movie, “Gary Cooper was taking so much medication that he was impotent for the duration of filming. He also hated working with Sara Montiel, whom he claimed smelled bad and never washed her hair.”  If Gary Cooper’s droopy doodle doesn’t make you want to watch this movie, I don’t know what will.

Vera Cruze
Directed By – Robert Aldrich
Written By – Roland Kibbee, James R. Webb

MOVIE REVIEW | ***BURT WEEK*** Judgement at Nuremberg (1961)

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters
Sometimes the only way tackle a massive story or moment in history is to go massive with everything.  Massive cast of massive names, massive running time, massive melodrama, and massive button pushing by turning the tables on seemingly inarguable, presumed truths.  If you want massive, you get it with Judgment at Nuremberg.


Arriving in Germany in 1948, Spencer Tracey is Chief Judge Dan Haywood.  The major Nazi leaders have all been tried, or managed to kill themselves before facing trial.  All that’s left now are the professionals, working people like doctors and lawyers, people who were only following orders.  One of those people is Dr Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster), defended by proud German and passionate lawyer, Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell).  While technically not responsible for any crimes, it’s highly possible that Janning’s rulings as judge during the years of Nazi rule resulted in the executions of many innocents.

The courtroom scenes in the early sections aren’t dominated by the two major stars at all.  In fact, Tracy and Lancaster are relegated to observers for the most part.  Instead, it’s all about Rolfe and his prosecuting opposite, Colonel Tad Lawson, played by Richard Widmark.  They constantly one up each other for vitriol, passion, anger and strategic argument manoeuvring.  All the while, the more heated their confrontations become, the more similar they are revealed to be in their dedication to the legal process.

It’s obvious from the second that Spencer Tracy appears on screen that his character of Chief Judge Dan Haywood is the ultimate good guy.  He’s appalled by the damage done to the German city by the allies during the war, he feels embarrassed of the luxury he’s forced to live in while there, he’s quick to befriend every German he meets, including Marelene Dietrich as the widow of a German war criminal, and assure them that he doesn’t blame any of them for what Hitler and his cronies did during the war.  Had anyone else played this character, he might seem too perfect and fake, but Spencer Tracy just had that kind, wise old man look to him, that means he sells it.  I believe Dan Haywood was this great man because I believe Spencer Tracy was.

All this, plus cameos from Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift and William Shatner, and it’s obvious that Judgment at Nuremberg wasn’t going to leave anything to chance.  Director Stanley Kramer really threw absolutely everything he had at this thing and for the most part it works.

While it turns some preconceptions on their heads, it never shies away from the reality of what went down during the war.  In a movie surrounded by amazing actors given amazing work to do, Richard Widmark may be the stand out, based purely on one monologue, spoken over horrendous concentration camp footage.

That also highlights the greatest triumph of Judgment at Nuremberg.  It never attempts to water down what went down, but it never seems overbearing either.  Lancaster gives his character a kind of dignity, Tracy gives his an empathy that never becomes too high and mighty, and everyone else holds their own against these two.  Even at over three hours, it never feels too long or laboured, and that all comes down to the actors and their performances.  Every single one of them, even Shatner.

Judgement at Nuremberg
Directed By – Stanley Kramer
Written By – Abby Mann

 

MOVIE REVIEW | ***BURT WEEK*** The Swimmer (1968)

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Only Burt Lancaster would take a role well into his 50s that requires being on camera every second of an entire movie, wearing nothing but a pair of little swimming togs.  Only Burt Lancaster could take a role well into his 50s that requires being on camera every second of an entire movie, wearing nothing but a pair of little swimming togs, and not look ridiculous or sad.  Or a ridiculously sad combo of both.


Neddy Merrill is middle aged.  But Neddy Merrill is played by Burt Lancaster.  So Neddy Merrill is the most buffed, impressive, man’s man, middle aged dude you ever did see.  While swimming in a friend’s pool, he notices that the expansive valley between his friend’s house and his own is littered with mansions, all belonging to friends, all containing their own pools.  So Neddy, full of life while his friends seem more content to drink and smoke, decides to “swim” home, pool hopping and doing a lap in each, while he hikes across the county.  Armed with nothing but a pair of little blue swimming togs, and his upbeat attitude.

With each home visited, we get a little more insight into Neddy and where his life’s at.  Each home seems to welcome him a little less than the last, each person shows a little more contempt.  You start to get the feeling that maybe the rest of the world doesn’t see Neddy the way he sees himself.  It also becomes more and more obvious that maybe it’s a bigger problem than just lack a self awareness.

Along the way, Neddy encounters a young woman who admits to a childhood crush.  He meets a latchkey kid from a neighbouring estate.  He meets a friend’s new chauffeur who might not actually be that new.  He meets an ex-mistress who seems blown away by Neddy’s casual reappearance.  Each encounter gives Neddy new hope, each encounter also leaves him lower than before it occurred.

The Swimmer is meandering, open ended, obtuse and impossible to pin down.  But all of that is what makes it so interesting, so watchable and ultimately, such a great surprise.  For some reason, the title and poster art made me think it was some light piece of fluff, maybe a wannabe competitive simmer meets some hotty, wins the big race and lives happily ever after.  That is not what I got.

The darkness of story and character, amongst the gorgeous, high class hills, mansions and people, was a real shock, and it made the movie hit harder for it.  Lancaster is perfect as Neddy Merrill.  In the early scenes, when everything seems so honky dory, you believe he’s the envy of all of his friends, you believe he would be the alpha in any group, you believe he’s earned his slightly cocky attitude.  But as The Swimmer progresses, Lancaster also makes you believe his own surface obliviousness to what’s going on around him, while giving little hints of his on deep down awareness and sadness.

This is a different kind of Burt Lancaster, one that I’ve never seen before. Apparently he always claimed to be more proud of The Swimmer than any other performance, and I get it.  He might be using a lot of his go to tricks and

character traits, but he gives them a real twist that even if I don’t think this is his best performance, it’s definitely his most surprising.

The Swimmer
Directed By – Frank Perry, Sydney Pollack
Written By – Eleanor Perry