Daily Archives: June 18, 2004

Messiah Of Evil

Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz wrote and directed this 1973 zombie movie several years before they attained universal infamy with Howard the Duck. Michael Greer and Marianna Hill costar, backed up by such reliables as Royal Dano, Elisha Cook Jr., and the sadly forgotten Joy Bang (Pretty Maids All in a Row, Cisco Pike). Also known as Dead People. 90 min. (JR) Read more

Down By Love

Can a film be a tour de force and still basically uninteresting? This 2003 Hungarian feature by Tamas Sas focuses on a young woman (Patricia Kovacs) who has been having an affair with her stepfather since childhood; living on his calls and visits, delivering monologues to herself as she putters around her flat, she waits desperately for him to end his marriage, which he keeps promising to do. Kovacs, an undeniably talented actress in her mid-20s, makes this a highly theatrical performance piece about female victimization, like Jean Cocteau’s play The Human Voice. All the other characters, including the stepfather, are glimpsed only elliptically, and Sas frequently fades to red to make the whole thing look even artier. In Hungarian with subtitles. 90 min. (JR) Read more

Bitter Victory

Commenting on this remarkable 1957 feature in the Reader, Dave Kehr wrote, “Nicholas Ray’s direction of black-and-white CinemaScope, that freak child of the 50s, is consistently brilliant in this raw, confused masterpiece about two commando officers (Richard Burton and Curt Jurgens) lost in the North African desert after a dangerous raid. The moral parable fades into metaphysical speculation, as the desert is always there to lend an eternal perspective to the personality conflict. Extensively recut, the film barely makes sense on the narrative level, but Ray, as always, is able to illustrate what he cannot articulate.” Now a beautifully restored print with 21 minutes of added footage is showing at the Gene Siskel Film Center as part of a series on the war film, and while the long version is still a masterpiece, it also remains confused in some respects because of the producer’s perverse casting decisions. Jurgens, who had been earmarked for a smaller part as a captured German soldier, was instead given the role that Ray intended for Burton, and Ruth Roman was brought in as the apex of a love triangle involving the two soldiers. But the radical conception remains, and the movie is all the more pertinent during the agony of another desert war. Read more