Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: Cold Sweat - 1970

Cold Sweat
Director: Terence Young

Joe Martin hasn’t always been the quiet man he is today. He hasn’t always had a boat and made a living taking tourists out on fishing trips. He hasn’t always had a wife and a twelve year old stepdaughter. Once upon a time he was in the military and has an even more complicated story than he wish to tell his wife. It turns out that he was one of four who escaped from a prison and that someone got killed during the escape. Joe, who didn’t want anything to do with the others violence fled the scene and let the other take the fall. Now they’re back with a vengeance and blackmail him into helping them with a heroin trade. Now he got no choice as his wife and daughter life are at stake.

Terence Young might be most known for the Bond films Dr. No and From Russia With Love and that ought to count for something. I mean, there is obviously ability in making movies there. In my opinion Dr. No might be the best Bond film of all times so you’d understand if I have high hopes for this one! And I actually saw it some years ago thiking it was a very good Bronson film! I told you already that me and a couple of friends of mine made it out business to see as many movies starring Charles Bronson as we could find, but I think this was one of those that we didn’t find for rental. This was shown on Swedish TV though. That’s how I remember it anyway.

I remember it as one of the better ones and considering we saw thirty or so of them that’s pretty good. Since I opened the shrine I made it my business to watch all of them again, and preferably more of them. There are different ways to get them these days, making it much easier to get. In short, we have the internet! Therefore I was a bit disappointed by this! It’s not a bad film in any way, but there is not so much of Charles Bronson in it. Liv Ullman steals the show totally actor wise (even though her English pronunciations are pretty bad) and James Mason is really good too! There are a few other supporting cast as well but I won’t get into them here. Except for Jill Ireland as a Hippie of course… All great actors!

But I can only take so much of case chases! I have a hard time watching the very long scene where Joe (Bronson) drives the serpentines with the police at his heals. I can’t stand the engine sound and can’t stand that the tires squeal at every turn. It doesn’t matter if there’s asphalt or sand. Plus that it’s very sloppy made. There are supposed to be three people in the car but at times I can only see the stunt driver. I might not have 20-20 vision but even if there in fact are three people (or dummies or whatever) and I don’t see it it’s still a failure!

And then there is the thing of the pace. It’s not very well edited. Much of the main suspense centers around Bronsons need to make it in time by car. But the scenes are so slow and dull that the fast driving doesn’t really matter, it’s still boring. So… Great acting and basically a great storyline with kidnapping, blackmailing and revenge but sloppy made – and not enough of Bronson


Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: Chino aka The Valdez Horses - 1973

Aka: The Valdez Horses
Director(s): John Sturges, Duilio Coletti

Chino Valdez is a lone horse breeder. This is partly by choice and partly because he is a so called half-breed. He’s unwelcomed almost wherever he goes. He has a few sanctuaries though; one is with the Indians where he spent a lot of time. He knows the way of nature and he’s a master horseman. One day a youngster named Jamie comes to him looking for work and a roof over his head. Chino tells him to keep looking elsewhere and that he has no need for ant help, he can manage on his own. But some way the two starts to like each other, almost like father and son. Chinos arch enemy – a mighty ranch owner which goes out of his way to make Chinos life miserable has a sister, Catherine. She plans to buy a Valdez horse from Chino and they end up falling in love with each other, something that is not easily forgiven by the brother who will stop at nothing to keep the two apart.

This edition has a pretty poor transfer of the film. I don’t know which the best to have is, but I figure that we’re never going to see a really good BD of this film. That’s a shame really since it has a lot of quality scenes in it! I’m not generally too fond of westerns even if I fancy a few of them of course, mainly the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns. European westerns are so superior to their American equivalents in my mind. This isn’t any film that comes up to the dirty standards of Leone but it’s still rather non-glorified when it comes to the violence and the heroism. It’s more realistic so to speak. I would have liked to call it non-romanticized but since there’s clearly an important love story to be told here I can’t really do that!

In fact, towards the end I even cry a few tears when… No, I won’t tell you what happens, but it’s quite emotional for me I can tell you! Most of the film is about injustice and racist bullshit. Chino seems to get into trouble most of the time, but I figure that it isn’t his fault. Yet he gets to take the blame with the law. I figure that this is because of the racist bullshit the film tries to tell. As far as I am concerned they try to show us just how stupid racism really is. I bet the color of our blood is the same if we’re red, yellow, white, black or blue. I bet our organs look the same too! And I bet that out feelings are the same!

Charles Bronson does the part as the half-breed great! He’s just as masculine as we’re used to see him! He might have the looks to suit a Mexican half-breed too but I think it’s mainly acting skills! Nothing will break him and the degradation is everyday life for him. Yet he can’t take it! He absolutely refuses to let them break him! His integrity is enormous! But what did you expect me to write? After all this is The Shrine…

Jill Ireland, Charles Bronsons real life wife, plays the supporting part of Catherine. You can tell that there are some real emotions going on, absolutely stunning casting! But of course, as we all know, this was neither the first nor the last time them played in the same movie!

So…we’re about to come to the bottom line here. Is this a good film? Yes! I like it a lot! Bronson once again plays the character that will not break. He would rather stand up for his cause and die trying that to give up! Or will he?


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Review: Raid on Entebbe - 1976

Raid on Entebbe
Director: Irvin Kershner

A plane gets hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. After a few course changes they finally end up in Uganda. They demand that Israel comply and release some fifty imprisoned freedom fighters. Some of them are held in other countries than Israel of course but their main opponent remains to be Israel. Being in Uganda president Idi Amin seems to be protecting the hijackers. He claims to be doing everything he can for the hostages but his reasons are uncertain. About half of the hostages are released however and Idi Amin claims that it’s he doing, that he negotiated with the hijackers himself. Those who remain are all Jews and most of them residents of Israel. So what is Israel going to do about it? The official policy is not to negotiate with terrorists at all. They want the citizens back but are the price of letting all the “freedom fighters” out of prison – the who is who of terrorism – too high of a price to pay? A military action is initiated – operation Thunderbolt – the hostages are to be freed by force!

This is one of those “lost” Charles Bronson films. I may have been looking at all the wrong places but I haven’t been able to find in on DVD until quite recently. I’m glad it’s been released since it’s a real gem when it comes to movies made for TV. There are only a handful of them that reach the standard of “real” movies. There is Citizen X, this one and The Park is Mine but not so many more. I guarantee that I have forgotten some of them now but the general idea is that there aren’t many of them that reach this level of quality!

To be honest, Charles Bronson isn’t in it very much. He certainly does not have a major part, not even one of the bigger supporting parts. His role is quite small actually. And there are enough other stars to be sure too. There are people like Peter Finch, Martin Balsam, Horst Buchholz, John Saxon, Robert Loggia, James Woods and Yaphet Kotto to name a few. The latter’s interpretation of Idi Amin is fantastic. This might very well be Yaphet Kottos best performance of all time!

Apparently this is based on true events, I’m not too familiar with them but it makes a lot of sense. It seems pretty legit and as far as I’ve been able to dig the deaths of the named hostages and soldiers seems to be correct. One thing that bugs me though is that the lives of the higher ranking officers always seem to be worth more than the general soldiers, the privates. This isn’t anything that’s unique for this movie of course; it’s almost always portrayed that way. We have the officers and we have the cannon fodder. This might be historically correct in this case (no, I won’t get into details) but it still bothers me. I realize that it doesn’t have anything to do with the film itself really but I can’t help myself. This is the only negative thing I have to say about it!

So, this is a film very close to perfection. I’m kind of split when I’m about to grade it. Should I consider my problem with the ranking issues as such a major thing that I let it influence my grading of the whole movie or not? I really don’t know. It’s certainly an aspect of things that makes the viewing experience somewhat annoying. Well… I’d give this one…:


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: Telefon - 1977

This is a translated and extended version of a review I wrote a few years ago in Swedish.

Director: Don Siegel

During the cold war the Russians have a super secret weapon at their disposal. The question, who’s the best agent, is asked. The answer is those who don’t even know that they are under cover. This is the powerful weapon the Russians have planted in small communities around the USA. A small trigger code is needed for the “sleepers” to carry out their forgottem orders at once, in other words to dispose of important strategic targets. But this is a weapon the Russians never have intended to use; it’s obsolete so to speak. But… the names and locations of the “sleepers” is stolen and someone triggers one by one of them into mass destruction. To prevent that the incident causes a major conflict or even a nuclear war the Russians send special agent to the USA to liquidate the thief, they send Charles Bronson.

Until recently I thought that this film was impossible to find on DVD. My search for it can be compared to that of the Holy Grail. This means that the positive memories that I had of it might have been emphasised and some negative forgotten. Actually there was nothing bad about this movie in my mind. Its nostalgic values have prevailed!  This was a true masterpiece in my mind; the best there was with Charles Bronson!

When I saw it again after all these years I realized that it had more flaws than I remembered. It was my favourite film in my youth but still it represents a genre that I generally don’t like very much – the spy thrillers. With that in mind it’s remarkable that I remember it with such joy. But the fact is – Bronson can make any film worth while (almost). Here he acts like a real star and I can’t complain about his performance at all. Neither can I say anything negative about Donald Pleasence who plays the bad guy. The problem is the story or rather the motivation of the story. It could have used some more depth. As it is its very shallow and cartoonish. I still like it but I no longer consider it to be a masterpiece of any kind.

Obviously Quentin Tarantino love the film too since he included the triggering phrase in his movie Death Proof. I can’t stress the fact that I find Tarantino greatly overrated as a director but he knows his movies and few people are such buffs as he is. The knowledge about cult films that he’s possessing is very wide, I must give him that! It’s so great that he spent an entire career imitating what others have done before him. But since this is not a film done by him, enough of that!

This film has its place in the collection for any true Bronson fan that’s for sure. But I’m sorry to say that it hasn’t aged with grace and the visualization of the computer storage and database keeping of information is a bit too naive I think. Did they really think that computers would one day be used like that? Or was the technology already so developed that things worked this way at the time, plus a little futuristic science fiction touch of course! I would like to give this a higher grade from a nostalgic point of view but truthfully… this is a…