Sunday, October 31, 2021

"No Time to Die" (2021) -- Initial Thoughts

No Time to Die
 (2021) gave me something I've never gotten from a James Bond movie: a hero.

Don't get me wrong -- I've thoroughly enjoyed many James Bond movies, and loved several.  I am a fan of the franchise, overall.  But James Bond has never been an actual hero for me.  His movies deliver adrenaline-fueled fun, and that's all I need from them. 

I'm not sure what I think about No Time to Die overall.  I think it was a little longer than necessary, and I still haven't figured out a couple things.  Which means I just need to watch it over again, that's all.  A second viewing will determine whether I quite like it, or just kinda like it.

But I know I loved one thing.  I love that James Bond got to be really, truly my hero for the first time that I can really remember.  Oh, he always gets to play the hero: stop the bad guys, save the day, put himself into harm's way for queen and country.  But that's different than actually being my hero.  

The moment that made him my hero is kinda spoilery, so maybe don't read farther if you're caring about spoilage.  Go see it, come back and read this after, etc.

You see, James Bond gets to do something in this movie that he often fails to do:  he saves the girl.  Yes, I know there have been Bond girls who've survived to the end of the movie before.  They don't all die.  But back in GoldenEye (1995) when Alec Trevelyan taunts Bond about all the dead women he failed to protect... he's onto something.  A lot of Bond girls die in a lot of Bond movies.  And it's usually somehow Bond's fault -- he's usually just a little too late.

So, it was a big and exciting moment for me when James Bond put the woman he loves, another woman, and a little girl into a raft and sent them away to safety.  Because, in that moment, he became the truest, highest, realest kind of man.  A real man who will shield and shelter women and children with his every resource, including his own life.

And that woman he loves?  She does what real women do:  she realizes the gravity of the situation and accepts his protection.  She does not pretend she doesn't need his protection or his help.  She does not scorn it.  She does not protest at all.  He offers to send her to safety, and she goes.

Did I then cry?  I did.  I got tears of pride and joy in my eyes, watching James Bond become, at long last, my hero.  That moment was worth the price of admission, the price of my popcorn and Coke, and the slightly overblown runtime.  I was so thoroughly happy.  Well done.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Movie Music: Bernard Herrmann's "Jane Eyre" (1943)

I have only been a fan of the 1943 Orson Welles/Joan Fontaine version of Jane Eyre for about a year.  Very late to that party, I know.  But like it more and more every time I watch it.  You can read my review of it here, and see how it stacks up against other versions of Jane Eyre that I've seen on my comparisons page.  

In this post, I'm going to focus on Bernard Herrmann's score for this film, a score that fits the moody, atmospheric imagery of this adaptation just perfectly.  I'll focus on my favorite tracks, but you can currently listen to a nice recording of this soundtrack on YouTube here.  I have the original motion picture soundtrack on CD, conducted by Bernard Herrmann, but the version on YouTube is enjoyable too.  And, if you want something kind of dark and intense to listen to over Halloween weekend, it's definitely a nice choice for that!

My first selection, "Jane Alone," has a pensive and gentle beginning.  But it turns darker, more passionate.  This piece really evokes Jane Eyre's unhappy childhood, taunted and tormented by her cousins and always craving peace and quiet.  

"Rochester's Past/The Fire" is actually two tracks put together, but they work nicely that way because they're both filled with sturm und drang, as the Germans would say -- storm and stress.  Those are big parts of the Romantic literary tradition that Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre belongs to, so this fits really well with the story being told.

This music begins with a kind of glowering sadness that matches Rochester's story of his tragic (at least, in his mind) past.  It's not stormy at first, but it has a definite darkness to it.  Then the tension mounts, and around 2:30 into it, the music turns frantic, leaping and darting around in crazy ways that definitely makes you think of fire.  This fits to the part of the movie where someone sets fire to... well, I won't spoil it, but there's fire, there's a rescue, and it's all pretty thrilling.  

I love the way Herrmann uses anxious strings and mournful wind instruments here to let us know what is happening is both scary and sad.

My last selection to share with you today is "The Garden," which is the music from the pivotal scene where Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester first declare their love for each other.  (That's not a spoiler, right?  This is a love story, and we all know it, right?)  It starts out a little bit ominous, but layers that with a sweetness and hope that clue us in to the happiness these two characters are about to glimpse.  But the music never turns altogether joyful, always a little wary and dark even in this happy scene.

So, now you've had a taste of what Bernard Herrmann's score for Jane Eyre is like!  I hope you've enjoyed this little tour.  This has been not only part of my ongoing Movie Music series, but also my contribution to the Bernard Herrmann Blogathon hosted by Classic Movie Muse all weekend long.  Check out her post here for links to the other contributions.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

"Imitation General" (1958)

I mostly love Imitation General (1958) because it feels like an extended episode of my favorite TV show, Combat! (1962-67).  I expect the characters from that show to just come marching up over some hill on the horizon and set about helping the people in this one fix their problems.  They never do, but I feel like they might at any moment.  There are just so many similarities between the two!

For one thing, Master Sergeant Murphy (Glenn Ford) carries a Thompson machine gun just like Sergeant Saunders (Vic Morrow) has on Combat!.  The sound effects for it aren't quite the same (not so smooth and purring as Saunders'), but oh well.  It's still a Thompson, my favorite weapon of all time.  (Shh, yes, even over a Winchester repeater or a Colt .45.)

Also, these soldiers are wandering around what's supposed to be the French countryside after D-DAY, but is obviously the rolling hills of southern California outside Culver City, exactly where Combat! filmed quite a few episodes.  

Not only that, but they even have fight off a German soldier played by Paul Busch, who appeared in thirty-five episodes of Combat! -- more than 1/5 of the episodes!  I mean, how can my beloved Second Squad be far away?  I don't think we even find out what outfit these soldiers are with, so I have headcanoned them into the 361st Regiment and figure they'll meet up with King Company sooner or later.

Actually, the Combat! episode "The Prisoner" has a lot of similarities to the plot of this movie, now that I think about it.

Anyway, Imitation General is called a comedy, and it does have a lot of funny parts.  But it's also a good war movie, with lots of action that's deftly executed.  And it's a pretty good character study too, looking at the way that responsibility affects people, how important leadership is, and so on.  The storyline is quite serious, it's just the way characters react to things that makes it funny.  Well, and a few sight gags, plus Red Buttons making a lot of amusing faces.  

Brigadier General Lane (Kent Smith) is touring near the front lines, boosting morale with his presence and getting a more accurate picture of how the war is going.  His driver, Corporal Derby (Red Buttons), worries constantly that they're all going to be killed, and keeps trying to convince the general to go back to headquarters.  His aide, Master Sergeant Murphy, does what he can to keep them all safe, ever vigilant and ready to defend the three of them when needed.

Unfortunately, General Lane chooses to protect his sergeant instead at a critical moment, and takes a bullet in his place.  Right about then, the Krauts make a big push and cut off the American troops in that area from the rest of the Allied forces.  Murphy and Derby hide in a half-ruined farmhouse, where they've dragged the general's body to keep it out of enemy hands.

A worried corporal named Sellers (Dean Jones) wanders into the farmhouse, convinced he's got shell-shock and should be in a hospital.  Really, he's just freaked out at discovering he's scared of getting killed, and once Murphy convinces him of that, he's pretty brave for the rest of the story.  But he thinks that Murphy is a general because he's holding General Lane's helmet, and Murphy uses that mistake to boost Sellers' morale.  And then Murphy realizes that, if everyone thinks he's a general, he can rally the troops and lead them in fighting their way out of the pocket the Krauts have sewn them into.  So he sets about doing exactly that.

The trouble is, there's this private named Hutchmeyer (Tige Andrews) who knows Murphy from earlier in the war and has a grudge against him.  Most of the funniest parts of this movie come from Derby's efforts to convince Hutchmeyer that Murphy is dead, and also keep him from discovering that Murphy is pretending to be General Lane.

Various exciting things unfold, like Murphy and Sellers taking on a bunch of Germans by driving straight at them a Jeep with half a metal water tower tied to the front.  There are also several tanks involved, including one driven by the aforementioned Paul Busch.  

And there's a local French girl, Simone (Taina Elg), that Murphy and Hutchmeyer both take a shine to.  Everything turns out okay in the end, I assure you, just like it would if it was one of the more light-hearted episodes of Combat!.

Is this movie family friendly?  Basically.  Simone takes a bath, so you get to see her bare shoulders and legs, as shown on the lobby card at the top of this post.  Soldiers leer at her, Hutchmeyer obviously wants to seduce her, and there's some dialog about soldiers missing/yearning for women.  At one point, a character pretends to be attacking Simone violently to convince another character to leave the premises, but it's a sham and the audience knows it.  The wartime violence is all non-bloody, like you'd expect from a 1950s movie.  I don't recall any cussing.  I would show this to my kids, and most likely will one of these days.

This has been my second contribution to the Glenn Ford Blogathon, which I'm co-hosting with Coffee, Classics, and Craziness this weekend.  Check out this main post to find all the other contributions!

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Glenn Ford Blogathon is Here!

Welcome to the Glenn Ford Blogathon, hosted by yours truly of Hamlette's Soliloquy and Eva of Coffee, Classics, and Craziness!  We are so excited that you could join us in celebrating this delightful actor.

All weekend long, people will be contributing posts about Glenn Ford and his filmography.  As those get shared with us, we'll share them with you, so be sure to check back to either this post or Eva's for the ever-lengthening roster of posts.

The Participants:

at RealWeegieMidget Reviews

at Hamlette's Soliloquy

at Speakeasy

at Taking Up Room

at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness

at Hamlette's Soliloquy

at Poppity Talks Classic Film

at The Classic Movie Muse

at Dubsism

My Ten Favorite Glenn Ford Movies

Glenn Ford is one of my top five favorite actors.  It took me about twenty years to realize he ranked that highly on my list, but he truly does deserve that spot.  I have never seen him turn in a performance I did not enjoy, and some of his movies are incredibly dear to my heart.  So here are my ten favorite films of his!

1. Blackboard Jungle (1955) A WWII-vet (Glenn Ford) becomes a teacher at an inner-city NYC high school where the other teachers have given up trying to educate the hoodlums in their classrooms.  Though he tangles with one particularly vicious student (Vic Morrow), this new teacher manages to get through to most of the students, including one bright kid (Sidney Poitier) with a big chip on his shoulder.

2. 3:10 to Yuma (1957) A down-on-his-luck rancher (Van Heflin) takes a job transporting a wily outlaw (Glenn Ford) to the train that will take him to the state penitentiary in Yuma, Arizona.  The outlaw does everything in his considerable powers to convince the rancher to let him go, resulting in a simmering suspense story that eventually boils over in a surprisingly upbeat climax.

3. The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) An unassuming shopkeeper (Glenn Ford) is secretly also the fastest draw in the west.  His reputation keeps drawing bad men to him, eager to see if they're faster than he is, which causes a lot of trouble for him, his wife, and the town they moved to recently.

4. Texas (1941) Two young Civil War veterans (Glenn Ford and William Holden) have a series of adventures in Texas as they try to make their way in the world, one of them on the right side of the law and one on the wrong. 

5. Imitation General (1958) A non-com (Glenn Ford) pretends to be a general to boost morale of a group of American soldiers cut off from their own lines during WWII in France, with humorous results.  Red Buttons and a very young Dean Jones both add so much to the fun.

6. The Big Heat (1953) A widowed policeman (Glenn Ford) tracks down the criminals who murdered his wife (including a vicious one played by Lee Marvin) with help from a former pal of theirs (Gloria Grahame).

7. The Sheepman (1958) A sheep rancher (Glenn Ford) insists on raising his sheep in an area dominated by cattle ranchers, no matter how much they pressure or cajole him to be rid of the wooly beasts.  The presence of a stubborn and sassy woman (Shirley MacLaine) elevates this above turning into yet another range war picture.

8. The Violent Men (1955) A small rancher (Glenn Ford) is pressured by a big rancher (Edward G. Robinson) with a nasty wife (Barbara Stanwyck) to sell his land to them, but he gets all stubborn and refuses, and then things get violent, as you might expect from the title. 

9. The Secret of Convict Lake (1951) A bunch of escaped convicts (led by one played by Glenn Ford) hide out in a snowbound farm town inhabited mostly by women (particularly one played by Gene Tierney) left behind by the men who are part of a posse chasing the convicts.

10. The Gazebo (1959) A playwright (Glenn Ford) gets blackmailed over some scandalous old photos of his actress wife (Debbie Reynolds) and decides to kill the blackmailer rather than keep paying him.  Which leads to very dark comedy that has me in absolute stitches, though my husband didn't find it nearly so funny because he said that Glenn Ford was too good at communicating fear and worry, and so my husband just kept feeling afraid and worried for him.  So YMMV.

This has been my first contribution for the Glenn Ford Blogathon that I am co-hosting with Coffee, Classics, and Craziness this weekend!  Check this post for the list of contributions.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Movie Music: Elmer Bernstein's "The Great Escape" (1963)

Here I am again to discuss some more awesome movie music with you. Today I'm focusing on an iconic score from one of the best WWII movies ever: The Great Escape (1963).

Of course, it's by the master of exciting, manly movie music from the '60s, namely Elmer Bernstein. He's my absolute favorite movie composer, so you'll be hearing more of his music in this series, have no fear.

If you've never seen The Great Escape, do yourself a favor and go watch it, cuz it's a classic war movie that blends caper films and prison escapes, and stars so many wonderful actors I get a little dizzy thinking of all that talent in one place. Steve McQueen. James Garner. James Coborn. Charles Bronson. Richard Attenborough. David McCallum. Directed by John Sturges! Based on a true story! Like I said, go watch it.

"On the Road" is one of my favorite tracks because it weaves together so many character themes, which means you get a really good taste of the range of this score in one three-minute chunk.  

But my favorite track might be "The Chase" because it starts out exciting, gets a little bright and happy, then pulls out all the excitement and builds tension up and up, really making us feel like someone is sneaking and hiding and racing toward freedom.  

I totally recommend getting the full soundtrack on CD, the version with 3 discs.  It makes for a wonderful background to your day!

(The bulk of this review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on June 15, 2015.)

Monday, October 04, 2021

Upcoming Blogathons

Here's your friendly neighborhood Hamlette reminding you of some cool blogathons I'll be participating in over the next couple of months.  Just in case you aren't aware of them and would like to join the fun yourself!

I'm cohosting the Glenn Ford Blogathon with Eva of Coffee, Classics, and Craziness on October 15 to 17.  You can sign up here on my blog or here on Eva's.  I'll be contributing a list of my ten favorite Glenn Ford movies and a review of Imitation General (1958).

Real Weegie Midget Reviews and Cinematic Catharsis are co-hosting the Third Hammer-Amicus Blogathon the next weekend, October 22 to 24.  I'm not exactly a fan of Hammer films, but The Hound of the Baskervilles is my favorite Sherlock Holmes mystery, so I'm reviewing the 1959 version with Peter Cushing as Holmes and Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville.  I've seen it once before, and I liked it well enough to want to watch it again to review.  Especially because it's fun seeing Lee play a good guy!

And the weekend after that, I'll be contributing a review of Bernard Herrmann's score for Jane Eyre (1943) to the Bernard Herrmann Blogathon hosted by The Classic Movie Muse on October 29-31.  I love the idea of basing a blogathon around a film score composer!

Finally, I'll be reviewing one of my favorite movies, Charade (1963), for the Distraction Blogathon hosted November 12-14 by Taking Up Room.  Which gives me a good excuse for watching it again this fall, even though I've seen it like a dozen times.

Are you participating in any of these?  If so, I'll see you there!  If not, well, you can click any of those links to the host blogs to sign up -- I linked to the blogathon sign-up pages to make it easy for you :-)