Tag: Gregory Peck

MOVIE REVIEW | Moby Dick (1956)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Even at just 38 years old, Gregory Peck had the gravitas to make Captain Ahab inspiring, threatening and terrifying.”

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“To be enraged with a dumb brute that acted out of blind instinct is blasphemous.”

I rarely read more than one book at a time.  If I start a book, then that’s the book I’m reading until it’s done and I can move on to the next.  But in my lifetime, there are two  that took me months to read, with fits and starts, and countless other books read during those breaks.  Both classic epics that are yet to be adapted into definitive big screen versions.  One was The Count of Monte Cristo.  But I don’t feel bad about that one taking so long to read.  It was originally written as a serial, appearing regularly in a newspaper, so it’s almost designed to be read over a long, long time.

The other, was Moby Dick.  It’s well over a decade ago now, but if I remember right, it may have taken me over a year to get through it.  And it’s because of the long, boring, overly detailed stretches about the intricacies of whaling.  Which to me, makes a movie adaptation so simple, ditch that stuff, stick to the story of the white whale and you’re done.  And that’s exactly what John Huston did in 1956, with his big screen version of Moby Dick. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | On the Beach (1959)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s an anti-nuke message that never tries to be subtle about it.”

Beach 1
“The war started when people accepted the idiotic principle that peace could be maintained by arranging to defend themselves with weapons they couldn’t possibly use without committing suicide.”

Last year, the internet lost its mind because we reached the date that Marty McFly travels to in Back the Future Part II.  While the online obsession was a little bit much, it did make me realise something; I like movies set in the future, where that future has now come and gone.  It’s fascinating to see just how wrong pretty much every single one gets it.  For example, in the 2015 of Back to the Future Part II, there are flying cars, but modern communication still includes dot matrix fax machines.  I didn’t know I was in for a future-that-never-eventuated movie with On the Beach, but I’m happy that’s what I got.


After a third World War in the 50s, the entire northern hemisphere has been decimated by nuclear fallout.  With radiation making the top half of the world unlivable, the last remnants of civilization have found their way to Melbourne, Australia.  It’s now the mid 60s, and after assuming there is no life north of the equator, a Morse code message is picked up, coming from California. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Other People’s Money (1991)

“And you know the surest way to go broke? Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow but sure.”

I’m a big fan of directors who have a strong voice. Directors whose movies you can tell are their movies. Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson… Even when I don’t love their movies, I admire that they made their movie, their way. But I’m starting to have a growing respect for the journeyman, chameleon director. The film maker who can cross genres, cross decades, cross fads, and make great movies all along the way that service the specific movie, more than the director’s quirks.


Norman Jewison made screwball comedy with The Russians Are Coming, The Russians are Coming. Norman Jewison made street level grit with The Cincinnati Kid. Norman Jewison made musical grandeur with Fiddler on the Roof. Norman Jewison made sharp social commentary with In the Heat of the Night. Norman Jewison made melodrama with Moonstruck. He did all these things in a way that means I have seen all of these movies, and never noticed that were made by the same dude. And in the early 90s, he made a quintessential early 90s movie about corporate greed, with Other People’s Money. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #25. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.

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Review Originally Posted Mar 28, 2014

“Neighbors bring food with death, and flowers with sickness, and little things in between.”

“Message” movies are often boring.  “Important” movies are often pretentious.  “Classics” of decades ago often become dated and irrelevant.  But every now and again, a movie’s message stays compelling.  Its importance never falls into self-importance.  And it stays relevant an immediate long after its release.  And that’s what made me love To Kill a Mockingbird far more than I ever anticipated.


Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Harper Lee, it’s a story of childhood, and racial intolerance in 1930s Alabama.  Told from the point of view of the six year old Scout (Mary Badham), younger brother of Jem (Philip Alford), and daughter to local idealist lawyer, Gregory Peck in probably his most iconic role, as Atticus Finch.  Over their summer, Scout and Jem befriend a young boy staying next door named Dill (John Megna). (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | How the West Was Won (1962)

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“About 150 years ago, an idea took shape in the mind of a man named DeWitt Clinton. And in the way Americans have of acting out their dreams, it came to be.”

One of the biggest problems in big budget movies, is the tendency for studios to pile on more. More big name stars, mores special effects and action, more romantic interests, more, more, more. The theory being, if they put enough crap in there, everyone will find a reason to hand over their hard earned at the cinema. 99.9% of the time, this only makes movies worse. The more surface level glitter they throw on there, the more substance has to be taken out to make room. But sometimes, more really is more, and it actually pays off. And it pays off big in How the West Was Won.


Five short stories, following several generations of one family across half a century and an entire continent, the movie opens with Zebulon Prescott (Karl Malden), leading his family from the East Coast, to the new frontier in Illinois. Along the way, they meet and befriend a mountain man, James Stewart as Linus Rawlings. Soon, a Prescott daughter’s in love with him and they’re saving each other from ruthless bandits. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Mockingbird
“Message” movies are often boring.  “Important” movies are often pretentious.  “Classics” of decades ago often become dated and irrelevant.  But every now and again, a movie’s message stays compelling.  Its importance never falls into self-importance.  And it stays relevant an immediate long after its release.  And that’s what made me love To Kill a Mockingbird far more than I ever anticipated.


Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Harper Lee, it’s a story of childhood, and racial intolerance in 1930s Alabama.  Told from the point of view of the six year old Scout (Mary Badham), younger brother of Jem (Philip Alford), and daughter to local idealist lawyer, Gregory Peck in probably his most iconic role, as Atticus Finch.  Over their summer, Scout and Jem befriend a young boy staying next door named Dill (John Megna).

While Atticus is defending Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man accused raping a local white woman, the seriousness of this story is juxtaposed with the carefree summer fun of the three kids.  Their main obsession being a creepy house in their street, where the mythical Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) lives.  Eventually though, the stories begin to intertwine and the real point of To Kill a Mockingbird starts to poke through.

I don’t know if it’s intentional, or just the result of shooting on a sound stage or black lot, but the stagey nature of Scout’s neighbourhood really works to build the idea of this small, tight knit community.  Everyone knows each other, it’s totally understandable that Atticus would let his kids wander unsupervised all day and into the night.  And being surrounded by the happy houses makes the creepiness of the Radley home all the more menacing.

The casting of Badham, Alford and Megna as the core trio of kids is pretty amazing.  There are times when they’re acting is a little stilted and awkward, but it’s more than made for by the way they interact with each other so naturally.  The way Scout and Jem can so naturally, quickly and easily go from easy affection to casual aggression, to obvious awe of each other, often for no reason, just seems so accurate to how young siblings are.

After recently watching Infamous and knowing that Dill was based on Truman Capote as a young boy, Megna seems like such a perfect choice.  He’s cocky and a braggart, but you know it’s all in self-defence to hide a sad, lonely little boy.  If the portrayal of the adult Capote by Toby Jones in Infamous was anywhere close to accurate, the portrayal of the young Capote / Dill seems absolutely spot on too.

Atticus Finch is a character that pops up whenever there’s a list of greatest / most inspiring / most memorable movies characters, and after watching To Kill a Mockingbird, that makes sense.  He could have so easily been a one dimensional good guy who only ever does the right thing.  But that’s boring.  Peck makes sure we see the struggle.  He does the right thing because he was always going to do the right thing.  But it’s somehow not as cut and dry as that.  You can see the wheels turning, the almost torment he goes through, knowing that doing what’s right very rarely leads to a happy ending.

To Kill a Mockingbird
Directed By – Robert Mulligan
Written By – Horton Foote

MOVIE REVIEW | The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Hunter
Thanks to the great podcast and website Battleship Pretension.  If it wasn’t for their regular praise, I never would have known this amazing movie existed.

When I wrote about the original version of Cape Fear, I was pretty blown away by the bygone version of manliness and masculinity (good and bad) personified by Gregory Peck, and even more so, by Robert Mitchum.  Back then, I thought Mitchum’s Max Cady was one of the coldest, most terrifying movie madmen I had ever seen.  Now, Max Cady looks like a girl scout next to Mitchum’s much scarier, much more ruthless, much creepier Harry ‘Preacher’ Powell in The Night of the Hunter.

It’s the 30s, and Powell drives into town preaching only to himself, but straight away, you know he’s got nefarious motives.  And if you don’t pick that up straight away, his almost immediate arrest for car theft should get you up to speed.  Cut to young farm boy John Harper (Billy Chapin) and his sister Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce).  Their father Ben (Peter Graves) speeds up in his car and jumps out with a pistol in one hand, 10 grand cash in the other and the cops hot on his tail.  He quickly stashes the cash in Pearl’s doll before being arrested.  In jail, he meets Preacher Powell and tells him about his stash before being hanged.

Once out, Powell tracks down Ben’s family and quickly ingratiates himself with his widow and the rest of the town.  Everyone that is, except young John.  Soon a member of the family, Powell’s hunt for the money and his altercations with John quickly escalate until the full extent of Powell’s evilness is shown and the two children go on the run.

At first, I assumed his preacher façade was just that, I disguise to help put people off their guard and ingratiate himself into their community.  But as The Night of the Hunter went on, I started to see it as legit.  Harry Powell really believes every word he preaches, he seriously thinks he’s a servant of God and that his terrible, terrible actions are Saviour sanctioned.

The guise of preacher also gives him a lot more room to move with hyperbole than your average character.  If you had a regular townsperson deliver his dialogue, every single line would seem totally cornball.  But somehow, when coming from a preacher, you can understand the locals who fall under his spell, thinking his grand statements, over the top delivery and extreme views are simply a passionate man of the cloth, who believes the Lord speak through him.  More than just the costume, it’s also Micthum’s delivery and undeniable charisma that make it work.  You believe Powell is totally insane, but you also believe it when he builds a congregation who are willing to follow that insanity to their salvation.

Amazing acting and story aside, The Night of the Hunter might also be the best looking black and white movie I’ve ever seen.  The use of the monochrome contrast, the huge amounts of pitch black used in so many amazing shot compositions, the precision lighting where only the absolute necessary aspects of any shot are visible, and never a single inch more.  I don’t think I’ve ever noticed the black and whiteness of a movie so much before or been aware of how important a part it’s playing in telling the story.

I’m struggling to think of any realistic movie characters more terrifying than Harry Powell.  I’m also struggling to think of any movies that reveal the true potential of a terrifying character any better than The Night of the Hunter.  He scared the bejesus out of me about five minutes in, yet the movie kept finding ways to ramp up the intensity, the tension and the true extent of his capabilities right up until the final showdown.

The Night of the Hunter
Directed By – Charles Laughton
Written By – Davis Grubb