Daily Archives: December 30, 2020

The Sandpiper

From the Chicago Reader (December 29, 2002). — J.R.

Jean-Luc Godard once described this lush 1965 studio effort as a couple of bakers filming their families on weekends in Super-8. In fact it’s Vincente Minnelli filming Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Eva Marie Saint, and Charles Bronson in 35-millimeter ‘Scope, and doing what he can with a campy script by Dalton Trumbo and Michael Wilson. Taylor plays a beatnik living with her illegitimate son in Big Sur who falls in love with Burton, a married minister. The film’s theme, “The Shadow of Your Smile,” won an Oscar, but the story is strictly from hunger. 116 min. (JR)

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Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound

From the Chicago Reader (March 22, 1991). — J.R.


One of the most underrated films of 1990, representing Corman’s directorial comeback after 19 years, adapts Brian Aldiss’s intellectually ambitious novel about a 21st-century scientist (John Hurt) who finds himself in Geneva in 1816, where he meets Mary Shelley (Bridget Fonda) and her famous fictional creations, Frankenstein and his monster. Far from a total success (and apparently hampered by some studio recutting), this metaphysical reflection on technology with SF and monster-movie trimmings is packed with wit, originality, and eccentricity. If you missed it the first time around — which wasn’t hard to do, given its perfunctory promotion and distribution — you should definitely catch it. With Raul Julia and Michael Hutchence. (Music Box, Monday, March 25)

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The Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe

From the Chicago Reader (February 1, 1988). — J.R.

One of the most unjustly neglected of Luis Buñuel’s films, this 1952 feature also happens to be one of the two he directed in English (the other is the equally neglected The Young One). Buñuel shows an overall fidelity to the plot of Daniel Defoe’s classic novel while steering the thematic concerns in a somewhat different direction, and even manages to incorporate a few touches of surrealism. Dan O’Herlihy is superb in the title role (he was nominated for an Oscar when this film was belatedly released in the U.S.), while Jaime Fernandez makes a more than adequate Friday. The color photography is also distinctive. 90 min.

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Reign Of Terror (aka The Black Book)

From the Chicago Reader (June 1, 1990), tweaked in April 2014.  This film is finally available now in a DVD that does its visuals (and John Alton’s cinematography) something approaching full justice. One of the juicier actors in this action romp that I should have mentioned is Arnold Moss, seen in the first still below with Robert Cummings. — J.R.



Along with James Whale’s The Great Garrick, this 1949 melodrama about the French Revolution, also known as The Black Book, is one of the few period pictures that qualify as film noir; Anthony Mann directed it with sumptuously arty chiaroscuro (cinematography by John Alton). With the two leads (Robert Cummings and Arlene Dahl) periodically steering it in the direction of camp, this film is loads of fun. Richard Basehart also stars  (as Maximillian Robespierre, no less); Philip Yordan and Aeneas MacKenzie coscripted. 88 min. (JR)



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