Thunderbird 6

  • Title:  Thunderbird 6
  • Director:  David Lane
  • Date:  1968
  • Studio:  MGM, United Artists
  • Genre:  SF, Action, Children
  • Cast:  Peter Dyneley, Sylvia Anderson, Shane Rimmer, Jeremy Wilkin, Matt Zimmerman, David Graham
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

Thunderbird 6  is based on the Gerry Anderson Supermarionation series, Thunderbirds, and was made at the same time. For more information on the television series, see this post. The film opens with a secret meeting at the New World Aircraft Corporation, where the designer of the Thunderbirds, Mr. X, addresses the group. He suggests New World Aircraft should build an airship. The men at the meeting literally laugh at him, but build the ship anyway.

Once the ship is build, Alan Tracy and Tin Tin fly to England in an antique Tiger Moth Biplane to meet up with Lady Penelope and Parker. The four travel to the air field at New Word Aircraft. FAB 1, Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce is loaded on the airship, and Alan, Tin Tin, Lady Penelope, and Parker, all go aboard the lighter-than-air craft for the around-the-world maiden voyage of Skyship One as it’s called.

However, all is not smooth sailing. Prior to the arrival of the International Rescue crew members, a group of men had gotten into the ship. These men kill the ship’s captain and the entire crew, and take their place. Skyship One is completely automated, and the crew is only there to serve the passengers and in case of emergencies.

With the International Rescue members aboard, and unaware that the crew isn’t the real crew – Skyship One lifts off, and begins it’s around-the-world cruise, stopping at many famous sites, and even making ports of call where the passengers can see the sights. They visit New York, the Grand Canyon, Los Angeles, Niagara Falls, Switzerland, the Pyramids, and other famous tourist locations.

Meanwhile, Jeff Tracy has told his engineer Brains (also the mysterious “Mr. X” who suggested that Skyship One be built in the opening scene of the film) that International Rescue needs a Thunderbird 6. Jeff gives no explanation of what he wants, nor does he explain why he thinks it’s so important. Throughout the film, Brains develops machines for Jeff, showing him various models, and Jeff rejects all of his designs and hard work. This becomes the “B plot” of the film, while the around the world tour on Skyship One is the “A plot”.

During the tour, Lady Penelope discovers she is being bugged. Alan, Parker, and Lady Penelope all investigate – and discover only Lady Penelope is being recorded. Meanwhile, it’s revealed that the substitute crew have written a message from Lady Penelope to Jeff Tracy at International Rescue – they plan on recording Lady Penelope saying all the words of the message, the re-arranging and editing together the words she says, so it sounds like she is sending the message herself. The message will then be sent, so Jeff hears it and thinks Penny sent it. Additionally, the message, which essentially sends Thunderbirds 1 and 2 to a disused airfield south of Casablanca, also tells Jeff to not acknowledge the message.

And that is exactly what happens – Alan, Parker, and Tin Tin discover recording equipment, and realize what is going on, but not before the message is sent. Penny calls Jeff directly using her compact-phone, only to find that Thunderbirds 1 and 2, and their pilots have been sent to the co-ordinates in the message. Lady Penelope warns Jeff it’s a trap. Jeff contacts his sons, and they blow the heck out of the buildings at the airfield, destroying everything with guns.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to round-up the false crew as the ship approachs Dover in the UK, there’s a gunfight in the “Gravity Compensation Room” (an impressive model set full of silver spinning things). The gravity compensaters are damaged, and the airship begins to slowly sink. Tin Tin, however, is taken hostage by one of the false crew and the International Rescue team is also taken hostage.

Meanwhile, Thunderbirds 1 and 2, fly to the location of Skyship One to find out what’s going on, and to rescue Lady Penelope, Tin Tin, and Alan.  As he gets close to where the airship should be, Scott has trouble finding it – then notices it is cruising at a much lower altitude than it should be. Skyship One then hits and becomes entangled in the Interceptor Towers at a missile base on the British coast. The ship is in a dangerous and precarious position. Scott has the missile base evacuated and in the meantime tries to effect a rescue of the people aboard Skyship One, with the help of Virgil in Thunderbird 2.

Unfortunately, because Skyship One is so light, and the tower isn’t steady, Thunderbirds 1 and 2 can’t get close without causing the ship to start tipping or crashing. They use lines to try to stabilize the ship but are unsure how to effect a rescue of the people. They contact Tracy Island Base for ideas.

Brains comes up with a solution – they will use the 2-seater Tiger Moth to rescue people from the Skyship one at a time. This would be difficult enough, but when the small biplane lands on the huge airship, Brains is quickly taken hostage – and Foster, the captain, tries to escape by himself, only.

However, Brains, Parker, Alan, and Tin Tin are able to overcome the false crew and get on the Tiger Moth. It isn’t straight forward though – other members of the substitute crew get on the Tiger Moth, there’s a gunfight, and eventually all of the false members are killed, including Foster who is in the pilot’s seat of the Biplane. Lady Penelope ends up in the forward seat of the Biplane, and Parker in it’s undercarriage – and the plane’s engine is shot and losing fuel. Lady Penelope is the only one of the group who doesn’t know how to fly a plane. Alan carefully moves along the exterior of the plane from where he had been hanging on the wing to the cockpit. He tries to talk Penny through a dead-stick landing but she can’t quite get the plane down. So Alan has her pull-up, roll the plane to get rid of Foster’s body, then gets into the second cockpit himself and eventually lands the plane (without fuel he ends up in a tree – but no one is hurt, not even Parker).

Meanwhile, once everyone has left Skyship One via Biplane, and the missile site is evacuated, Scott and Virgil let go of their lines supporting the doomed airship. It crashes into the missile base and there’s a series of really big explosions.

Later at Tracy Island, Brains introduces to Jeff the completely built and field-tested Thunderbird 6 – the Tiger Moth.

Thunderbird 6 does feel much more like an extended episode of the television series, and the plot holds-up together better than Thunderbirds Are Go. However, it’s still very slow moving. The world-wide cruise of Skyship One just seems to take forever. The film also has two problematic issues with it – first, it’s very violent, especially for Thunderbirds.  The entire crew of the airship (granted, its only four people, but still) is ruthlessly slaughtered. When Jeff tells Scott and Virgil that their rendezvous at the airfield south of Casablanca is a trap, the boys simply annihilate everything in sight. What if the Black Phantom’s cronies had taken people hostage at the airfield? I mean, sure, it was abandoned – but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no one there. And then, in the midst of the actual rescue, the entire substitute crew, who were, granted, up to no good – are killed. It’s remarkably violent for a kid’s movie. And the second issue is the film is pretty sexist. Of course, it’s Tin Tin who’s taken hostage. Of course, Lady Penelope can’t fly a plane or follow Alan’s instructions for landing it. I mean, yes, that would be difficult – but this is Lady Penelope!

Still, overall, the film is better than Thunderbirds Are Go, simply because the plot holds together better, even if the movie moves very slowly.

Recommendation: Recommended for fans of the original show only
Rating:  3 1/2 Stars out of 5
Next Film:  To Catch a Thief

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Thunderbirds Are Go

  • Title:  Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Director:  David Lane
  • Date:  1966
  • Studio:  MGM/UA
  • Genre:  SF, Children
  • Cast:  Shane Rimmer, Peter Dyneley, Sylvia Anderson, Jeremy Wilkin, Matt Zimmerman
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“OK, boys, Thunderbirds are go!” – Jeff Tracy

“Well, clearly, there’s life on Mars. But I guess it’s not life as we know it.” – Jeff

Thunderbirds Are Go is based on the Gerry Anderson Supermarionation TV series, Thunderbirds and was made at the same time. The movie is very much like a bigger, more complex and meant to be more exciting episode of the series. And that is where the film falls down, unfortunately. The film opens  with the control center for the Zero X, a manned flight to Mars. A saboteur inside the vessel is able to sabotage it, and the ship crashes into the ocean. The crew, however ejects and is rescued by normal air/sea rescue.

Two years later, there is a discussion of the crash in the wake of a 800-plus page report detailing exactly what happened. The conclusion of the report – sabotage!  However, Earth is again in position to try for Mars. The proposal to do so meets with one negative vote. The captain of the previous mission asks that International Rescue be called in to provide security and be on-hand in case anything goes wrong. The head of the space organization isn’t happy about asking for help, and refuses to do so.

Meanwhile on Tracy Island, the boys are eagerly standing in front of Jeff Tracy’s desk. Though he points out that International Rescue does not normally respond until they receive a request for help, he tells them that rules are meant to be broken and sends Scott in Thunderbird 1 and Virgil in Thunderbird 2 to Glenn Field to monitor and assist. Alan is dispatched in Thunderbird 3 to monitor from space. John is of course, on Thunderbird 5, and will only monitor communications as normal. Gordon is left at home with nothing to do. Once the boys have left, Jeff calls Lady Penelope and asks IR’s London agent to also go to Glenn Field to investigate and route out any saboteurs.

Lady Penelope, undercover as a journalist, asks one of the scientists on the mission a question, then gives him a St. Christopher medal, with a transmitter/homing beacon inside. Later, once everyone is meant to be on the ship for takeoff – she runs a check and realises Dr. Grant is not on the ship. Scott goes to investigate and unmasks a phony and saboteur. Penny locates the real Dr. Grant who is unharmed and returned to the aircraft before it takes off. Penny and Parker also chase the saboteur in FAB 1, Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce. The chase includes the car turning into a hydrofoil and continuing the chase on water, and finally bringing down the saboteur’s helicopter with machine gun fire.

Meanwhile, Zero X takes off as scheduled and without difficulty. Thunderbird 2 escorts it as far as rarefied atmosphere, where Thunderbird 3 takes over and sees that the ship safely leaves Earth’s atmosphere. Alan returns in Thunderbird 3 to Tracy Island. Meanwhile, rather than returning immediately to Tracy Island, Scott and Virgil join Lady Penelope at a new nightclub called the Swinging Star. The Thunderbirds are left under guard at Glenn Field.

Back at Tracy Island, Alan isn’t happy to have heard that Scott and Virgil are going out for a night on the town. He asks Jeff for permission to go to the mainland with Tin Tin, but Jeff refuses.

That night, Alan has a dream – Lady Penelope picks him up and takes him to the Swinging Star nightclub in space. There’s instrumental music and Alan wear’s a medium blue suit, while Lady Penelope wears a stunning blue dress with a white feather boa. After the first musical number, Cliff Richards Jr. and the Shadows come on and play an elaborate number which includes them playing on FAB 1 in space, and on a giant guitar and other effects. After his musical interlude, the dream gradually becomes slightly nightmarish and Alan is woken up by his father, after he falls out of bed.

thunderbirds-are-go-5

Next, the boys, Jeff and Tin Tin are relaxing by the Tracy’s pool. Jeff notes the Zero X is now on Mars.

The film cuts to Mars, which is grey and rocky – like the moon. The Martian Excursion Vehicle rolls along the surface, while the scientists inside talk of collecting samples. The scientists and astronauts notice some unusual rock formations. They then decide to fire on one to break it down for easier collection.  This is a bad move, as the “coiled rocks” are living creatures. These “rock snakes” attack. The group in the MEV call for immediate pick-up and learn it will be a short time before the rest of the ship is in position for rendezvous. The MEV tries evasive maneuvers. Finally, the MEV takes off before the rendezvous check time. However, they safely reconnect with the ship.
On Tracy Island, Jeff and the boys discuss the amazing discovery on Mars and that the ship will return in six weeks.

Six weeks later the Zero X runs into trouble on it’s return journey.  International Rescue is called in. Not only is Zero X crashing, it’s heading for a small city, and access to the escape unit is jammed.

Scott heads to Glenn Field in Thunderbird 1 to oversee the rescue operation in Command and Control. Virgil, with Gordon and Alan, responds in Thunderbird 2. Once Thunberbird 2 gets closer to Zero X, Gordon oversees the rescue winch and Alan attempts to get aboard the Zero X to fix the escape unit system.  Brains, the engineer, reads a circuit diagram to explain to Alan what he needs to do.  Alan adds a transistor to the broken/burned out unit, and starts to re-wire it.  The pilot sends his co-pilot and navigator to the escape unit, but continues to fly the plane – such as it is, since it’s crashing.

Although Alan drops his screwdriver, and the ship is skimming the treetops, Alan’s able to re-wire the machinery. The pilot gets to the escape unit and the unit is safely ejected. Alan also ejects but isn’t able to get directly to Thunderbird 2. He is, however, safely lowered to the ground, where he’s picked-up by a waiting Lady Penelope in her pink Rolls Royce, with Parker acting as chauffeur. Lady Penelope promises to take him to the Swinging Star nightclub.

Meanwhile, the crew of Zero X are safe, including the pilot – who got into the escape unit at the last moment.  The plane itself, however, crashes into the city – presumably without harming anyone on the ground since the area was evacuated.

At the Swinging Star, Alan is wearing a fake mustache disguise. He soon learns that the rest of his family, including Jeff, are at the next table also in disguise. They congratulate Alan and toast him as an hero.

Thunderbirds Are Go has a few problems. First, for a movie that should be about a fantastic rescue – it isn’t really. The first Zero X goes down, but the crew are rescued by conventional means. When the Thunderbirds go to escort the second Zero X, other than routing out a saboteur, there’s no need for them to be there because the launch goes off perfectly. When the Zero X gets into trouble on Mars, they are too far away to call International Rescue – even Thunderbird 3, and they rescue themselves. And finally, the actual rescue at the end seems rushed. Alan does get to be the hero, but he’s also a seasoned professional (if anything Gordon and John get slighted in the story). Also, although the crew is rescued, always the most important thing for International Rescue – rescuing people; one really has to wonder about the wisdom of allowing a very large spaceship to crash into a city. I mean, Did they really think it would be completely evacuated?  And then there’s the fantasy dream sequence. The whole film is slow, clunky, and feels like two or more Thunderbirds TV episodes cobbled together.

The positives are of course the model work, which is really good, even though the models do scream that they are, in fact, models, and not something realistic. It’s worth noting that Derek Meddings, who did the model work for the series, this film, and many of Gerry Anderson’s other series; also worked on Doctor Who, the James Bond feature films, and had a distinguished career in special effects. I have this and Thunderbird 6 to round-out my collection of Thunderbirds DVDs. I also have the entire TV series. But other than as a collectible, it’s not really worth it.

Recommendation:  Skip it
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Thunderbird 6

Goldfinger

  • Title:  Goldfinger
  • Director:  Guy Hamilton
  • Date:  1964
  • Studio:  United Artists
  • Genre:  Action, Drama
  • Cast:  Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Fröbe,  Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, Richard Vernon, Desmond Llewelyn
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“This is gold, Mr. Bond, all my life I have been in love with its color, its brilliance, its divine heaviness.  I welcome any enterprise that will increase my stock.”  – Goldfinger

“Do you expect me to talk?” – James Bond
“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” – Goldfinger

“You can turn off the charm.  I’m immune.” – Pussy Galore

Goldfinger really is the quintessential James Bond film.  Even those who aren’t big fans of James Bond have likely seen it, or parts of it.  The image of a girl painted in gold, dead on a bed, and the immortal line – “Do you expect me to talk? / No, I expect you to die.” have slipped into popular culture.  And it really is a good James Bond film and a good film, over all.

Goldfinger, unlike other early Bond flicks, does not feel overly long (hello, Dr. No), overly complicated, or overly boring (yeah, Thunderball, I’m looking at you).  It moves at a good clip, and the plot is easily followed.  The opening gambit takes place in Jamaica, where Bond uses some nearly laughable Really Big plastique and nitro to blow up a building.  Later he’s with a girl and is attacked.  He fights the guy, hand to hand, ending with tossing his assailant into a bathtub filled with water.  The guy gets the jump on Bond, pointing his gun at him.  Bond tosses a lamp into the water, electrocuting him. “Shocking,” says Bond.

Felix Lighter, Bond’s contact in the CIA then shows up and gives him his assignment from MI6.  He’s to keep track of a British national in Miami, by the name of Goldfinger.  Bond catches Goldfinger making money by cheating at cards, gets him to lose on purpose, and steals his girl, Jill.  However, Goldfinger kills Jill by having her painted gold.  She dies from skin suffocation.  Bond reports to MI6, where he’s informed that Goldfinger is suspected of smuggling gold.  He’s kitted-up with equipment by Q – in a scene that will become expected in every Bond film thereafter.

Bond is then sent to Scotland, where he discovers Goldfinger also cheats at golf – though Bond gets him back.  Bond then uses a tracking device to follow Goldfinger to Switzerland.  Bond meets a girl who is trying to kill Goldfinger.  It’s Jill’s sister.  The two try to get into Goldfinger’s estate.  The girl is killed by Odd Job, Goldfinger’s mute Korean manservant.  Bond is caught, and ends up spread-eagled on a gold table, with an industrial laser pointed at his privates.  Bond gambles, claiming to know more than he does, and is not killed.

However, he is knocked out and wakes up on a plane, meeting Goldfinger’s pilot, Pussy Galore.  She goes to great pains to explain to James Bond that she is only Goldfinger’s pilot, and she’s not at all taken in by Bond’s flirting.  The plane lands in Kentucky, at Galore’s Flying Circus – where all the pilots are women.

In Kentucky, Bond discovers Goldfinger’s plot.  He’s gotten a group of mobsters to smuggle all the various things he needs to break into Ft. Knox.  Only one of the mobsters named Solo wants his gold million dollars rather than the promised ten million payday.  Goldfinger gives him his gold bullion, but has Odd Job kill Solo, then crush his car at a junkyard.  The crushed car is returned to Goldfinger.  Goldfinger gasses to death the rest of the mobsters.

Goldfinger’s plan, however, isn’t to break into Ft. Knox to steal the gold, but to irradiate it with a nuclear bomb, thus making the gold useless and making all the gold he’s stored overseas even more valuable.

Galore’s pilots drop nerve gas in the area around Ft. Knox – knocking everyone out.  It’s eerie to see all the slumped over people, as Goldfinger heads into the building.  But Bond had convinced Galore to help – she had switched the canisters to something less deadly, and called Washington.  Bond ends-up in a hand-to-hand with Odd Job, and defeats him by electrocuting him on a fence in Ft Knox.  He barely defuses the bomb in time and it stops at:  007.  Bond sets off for Washington, DC, in a plane piloted by Galore, but Goldfinger confronts him on the plane.  During the fight, a bullet is fired, air is sucked out, Goldfinger is pushed out of the plane, and the plane starts to crash.  Bond and Galore escape by parachute and the film ends with the two in each other’s arms under the parachute.

Made in 1964, Goldfinger has some huge and impressive sets, especially the Ft. Knox set, with it’s vaults of gold.  This also is the quintessential James Bond film.  It has pretty girls, including the improbably-named “Pussy Galore”.  It has car chases.  It has gadgets.  It has Bond’s Astin Martin car.  It has the M and Q we know and love.  It stars Connery as Bond.  Goldfinger, with his German accent, and his mysterious servant Odd Job are perfect villains.  And the plot holds together and is big – really big.  I mean, break into Ft. Knox?  That’s big.  But everything about Goldfinger is big – the sets, and the props in them are all huge.  It’s impressive, in that sense, and even now, I wondered how they did some of the stuff they did – and marveled at the huge sets – no CGI extensions here!  However, some things in the film did seem out of date, from the huge Nitro barrels and regular (non-digital) clock detonator, and toothpaste-like plastique, to the truly really big bomb Goldfinger brings into Ft. Knox – it felt out-of date.

But one surprising thing about the film to me was Pussy Galore.  This is a woman who doesn’t immediately fall for Bond.  She’s feisty, and tells him she’s immune to his charms.  Over and over she pushes Bond away.  And she’s not with Goldfinger either – not in that way.  Galore is a pilot, a difficult profession for women today, in 2013, and virtually an impossible one for women in the early 1960s.  All the pilots in her flying circus are women as well.  Galore wears pants, trousers, and jodphurs throughout the film – we never see her in a skirt or dress.  She’s a very different Bond woman.  She also knows judo, and defeats Bond once in hand-to-hand combat.  Later, they fight in a barn, and throw each other into hay.  Bond eventually gets on top of her – she resists, – he persists, and eventually she gives in.  It’s after their literal “roll in the hay” that she decides to help Bond, and is crucial in defeating Goldfinger.

Looking at it now, Galore, who surrounds herself with women, and is contemptuous of men, might be a lesbian.  Yet, Bond forces himself on her, despite her cries of protest.  The scene in the barn made me squirm, because to me Bond raped Galore.  And in sexist 60s fashion, this “converted” her to be on his side.  In a sense, it nearly ruins the film for me.  At the very least, it adds an uncomfortable subtext, that Bond is not the hero he pretends to be.

Bond himself doesn’t seem to be the perfect spy in Goldfinger either.  He’s constantly getting beat up, caught, tied-up, and locked in cells.  He gives the impression he has no idea what Goldfinger is up to.  He doesn’t care about the women he uses and sleeps with.  He’s only interested in Pussy Galore because she resists him.

Still, it’s a good film overall, especially if  you ignore the subtext.

Recommendation:  See it!  It is the James Bond film after all.
Rating:  4 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Inception

The Sound of Music

  • Title: The Sound of  Music
  • Director:  Robert Wise
  • Date:  1965
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  Musical, Romance
  • Cast:  Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Angela Cartwright
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen (70mm film)
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Fraulein, were you this much trouble at the abbey?”  – Capt Georg von Trapp
“Oh, much more, sir.” — Maria

“Activity suggests a life filled with purpose.” – Capt. von Trapp

“Maybe the flag with the black spider makes people nervous.” – Greta

The Sound of  Music is a big showy musical film, which appears to be shot at least partially on location rather than being studio-bound, like most MGM musicals.  However, it is also long, at least three hours. When the intermission card came up, I was ready for the film to be over.  Yet, despite it’s length, The Sound of Music is a good film, and one that many consider a classic.

Julie Andrews is Maria, a young noviate at a convent — it’s clear to the Mother Superior and other nuns, that, while she is likable, Maria is not quite nun material, so the Mother Superior suggests she at least attempt to make her way in the world before returning to the abbey to take her vows.  Not quite ready to put the young woman out on the street with nothing but the clothes on her back, the Mother Superior sends her to Capt. von Trapp to become governess to his seven children.

A widower, Capt. von Trapp has become increasingly cold and withdrawn since the death of his wife. This is shown with the scene where he introduces the seven children to Maria by blowing their call signs on a whistle.  Maria finds this ridiculous.  The Captain then criticizes Maria’s clothes.  When she tells him she doesn’t have any others, she gave hers away when she went into the convent, he buys her fabrics to make new dresses.  He also has new drapes put in her room in his villa (it’s a small castle).  She takes the old fabric and makes play clothes for the children.

Soon Maria becomes the best governess the children have ever had, taking them on field trips and teaching them to sing.  At first, stern Capt. von Trapp is appalled at Maria’s light-hearted way, but eventually she draws him in too.  However, he’s seeing Baroness Elsa, a cold-hearted widow.  At first, it seems like the Captain and the Baroness are a perfect couple, but eventually it’s clear that he belongs with Maria.

Eventually, Elsa breaks off her engagement with Capt von Trapp, as she realizes she’s just not capable of being a mother of seven.  Capt. von Trapp then immediately proposes to Maria, they marry and leave for their month-long honeymoon, leaving the children in the care of “Uncle Max”.  The Captain and Maria return to discover that the Captain’s beloved Austria has been annexed by Germany.  Not only that, but he is ordered to report to a naval base and become an officer in the German Navy.  Capt. von Trapp would literally rather die, and he and Maria plot their escape.

Here, Max comes to the rescue — the von Trapp Family Singers will sing in the Salzburg Folk Festival, something the Captain had been against, and their escape will be arranged after the performance.  The plot eventually works, they escape, hide in the abbey, then go first by car, then by foot through the mountains and into Switzerland.

List of  Musical Numbers

  • The Sound of  Music
  • How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?
  • When You’re 16, Going on 17
  • My Favorite Things
  • Doe a Deer / Do Re Mi
  • The Lonely Goatherd (during the children’s puppet show)
  • Edelweiss
  • So Long, Fare Well, Auf  Wiedersehen, Goodnight
  • The Sound of Music (reprise, slower version)
  • My Favorite Things (reprise)
  • I Must Have Done Something Good
  • How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? (reprise)
  • When You’re 16, Going on 17 (reprise)
  • Doe a Deer / Do Re Mi (at the folk concert, reprise)
  • Edelweiss (at the folk concert, reprise)
  • So Long, Fare Well, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight  (at the folk concert, reprise)
The good things about The Sound of  Music — the full frame (though widescreen) filming of  the singing and the few dance numbers (“When You’re 16, Going on 17” and the folk dance Maria and the Captain dance together during his grand party) is very nice, though the dances aren’t as complex as either a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musical or many other MGM musicals.  The location filming is gorgeous — and it’s nice to see a musical that isn’t so studio-bound.  However, the film is overly long.  The second half (post the intermission card) does actually move faster, and I’m not sure what I’d cut if I was the editor (well, yes I do — I’d dump a lot of the montages between Maria and the children and show more concrete examples of how she reaches them).  Anyway, over three hours is really pushing it for a musical.
Recommendation:  See it, at least once, it is a classic
Rating: 3.8
Next Film:  Spaceballs

The Producers

  • Title:  The Producers
  • Director:  Mel Brooks
  • Date:  1968
  • Studio:  Embassy Pictures / MGM
  • Genre:  Comedy, Musical
  • Cast:  Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn, Kenneth Mars, Lee Meredith, Christopher Hewlett, Andreas Voulsinas
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC
“It’s amazing, it’s absolutely amazing, but under the right circumstances a producer could make more money with a flop than with a hit!”– Leo
 
“But if we get caught, we’ll go to prison.” – Leo
“You think you’re not in a prison now? Living in a grey little room, going to a grey little job, leading a grey little life?”  — Max
 
“Leo, how much percentage of a play can there be altogether?”  — Max
“Max, you can only sell 100 percent of anything.”  — Leo
“And how much of ‘Springtime for Hitler’ have we sold?” – Max
“Twenty-five thousand percent.” – Leo
 
Mel Brooks’ first comedy film, The Producers, is a tour-de-force. It’s laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end. The film is so over-the-top and so funny that what could have easily been a very offensive movie is instead a true comedy classic. The film first introduces Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) – a failing Broadway producer who has gone from running six hit shows simultaneously, to having nothing but a run of failures. The only way he can find investors now, is by seducing little old ladies for checks made out to “cash”. Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder, in only his second film role) is a mild-mannered accountant. One day, he’s sent to go over Max’s books and walks in on him playing sex games with an 80-year-old. To say that Leo is shocked is an under-statement. But soon Max gets the old lady to leave, and Leo enters the producer’s office.  This opening scene between Max and Leo is hilarious – and sets a slightly surreal, out there, quality for the entire film.
 
In doing the books, Leo discovers a simple accounting error – Max raised $2000 dollars extra for his last play and never invested it in the play or returned the profit to his investors. This, Leo points out is fraud. Max convinces Leo to not turn him in. Then, Leo has a lightbulb moment, and innocently says that a producer could make more money with a flop than a hit. The rest of the film is about the two trying to do just that – produce a flop, and keep all the extra money they’ve raised from their investors.
 
Leo, being an honest accountant, though a bit neurotic (his reaction when Max takes his “blue blanket” is screen perfection – as is his breakdown in hysterics slightly later when Max threatens him), so Max must convince Leo to do it. Max seduces Leo with a day in the park, like an extended date, and it really is Max’s kindness that convinces Leo what the heck – he wants everything.
 
Once he has Leo on board, they must find a play. And they do – “Springtime for Hitler – a gay romp with Adolph and Eva”. They locate the author, the slightly insane German, Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars), and buy the play. Then Max goes to raise money from his little old lady brigade – in a wonderful montage sequence. Next, it’s casting. The cattle call for Hitler, is both similar to A Chorus Line or the opening of All that Jazz (tho’ it pre-dates both films, but posssibly not the play of “A Chorus Line”) and is quite funny. But it’s the audition of Lorenzo St. Dubois (Or “LSD”) that is brilliant. Not only is Dick Shawn’s performance brilliant, but the song, “Love Power” and the choreography of the audition, with LDS’s band, is priceless. (Another ’60s moment is Max’s new Swedish secretary (Lee Meredith) – who speaks no English, and when told to “Go to Work” turns on the record player and starts Go-Go Dancing.)
 
Soon it is opening night. Remember – Max and Leo want the play to tank. The play, “Springtime for Hitler” opens with the big Broadway production number, that includes everything:  a parade of beautiful chorus girls in elaborate German-style outfits (including beer steins or preztels on the girls boobs – simply hilarious), a rockets-style section in black leather, and a Bugsy Berkley style overhead shot. Oh – and the columns turn into cannons that fire at the audience. The number has to be seen to be believed and is SO over the top, (and SO bad) that no description can do it justice. Audience members are, of course, shocked, and some even walk out.  Max and Leo go over to a nearby restaurant, to drink and celebrate.
 
Then LSD takes to the stage as Hitler – and before long the audience is laughing hilariously!  That Franz is in the audience and takes this as an affront adds to the choas – especially when he runs on-stage and is hit over the head, something the audience assumes is part of the play.
 
Much to the shock of Max and Leo – the play is a hit! They then decide to blow up the theatre, and end up in court. Leo actually gives a pretty moving speech defending Max and their friendship. Soon Max and Leo are behind bars, selling percentages of a new play, Prisoners of Love, to the inmates, and rehearsing.
 
What makes Brooks’ The Producers so funny is in the execution. Merely writing, or reading, a plot summary just doesn’t do the film justice – especially the production number, and any scene with LSD. Shawn is simply inspired. But all the actors give the performances of their lives in this – which is why it remains one of Brooks best films.
 
It goes without saying, but I suppose I must, that Mel Brooks is Jewish. And he himself has said on numerous occasions, that the way to deal with despots isn’t in giving speeches, or using rhetoric or psychology – it’s in ridicule and poking fun at them. The film caught some flak when it was made, but it did quickly win over it’s sophisticated audience once people realised the joke.  And, also, the film is very witty and has a lot of faster-paced dialogue and less reliant on sight-gags than many of Brooks’ more recent films (tho’ the production number has both sight gags and witty dialogue). Again, one of Brooks’ best films, highly recommended.
 
Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  The Purple Rose of Cairo

Mary Poppins

  • Title:  Mary Poppins
  • Director:  Robert Stevenson
  • Date: 1964
  • Studio:  Disney
  • Genre:  Musical, Children
  • Cast:  Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Hermoine Baddeley, Reta Shaw, Karen Dotrice, Matthew Garber 
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC (40th Anniversary 2-disc ed)

Kindly do not attempt to cloud the issue with facts. — George Banks

“As I expected:  ‘Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.’ ” — Mary Poppins

“I never explain anything.”  — Mary Poppins

“You know, begging you pardon, but the one my heart goes out to is your father. There he is in that cold, heartless bank day after day, hemmed in by mounds of cold, heartless money. I don’t like to see any living thing caged up.”  — Bert
“Father? In a cage?”  — Jane
“They makes cages in all sizes and shapes, you know. Bank-shaped, some of ’em, carpets and all.” –Bert

Mary Poppins is a wonderfully inventive film made for children but that the entire family can still enjoy.  The animation looks a bit flat by today’s standards, however the film’s music and storyline still hold up.  Set in 1910, Mr. Banks is a banker with two children and a wife.  His wife is involved in the Suffragette movement (to give women the right to vote).  It’s implied the children are holy terrors — the Banks have fired six nannies in four months. However, Mary Poppins shows up and takes the children through a series of adventures, with her friend, Bert – a Cockney who makes money any way he can (as a one-man band, painting chalk drawings on the sidewalk, selling roasted chestnuts, even as a chimney sweep).  But it’s Mary’s ability to loosen up the stiff, cold, and indifferent Mr. Banks and bring him closer to his own children that is at the heart of this film.

Though largely live-action, with plenty of special effects, the entire section where Mary, Bert, and the children jump through a chalk drawing and have adventures in a park is animated.  This is classic Disney animation, and the technique of combining animation with live action was new when the film was made.  It does look a bit dated now, but the dances, music, and even excitement of things such as the horse race, or Mary and Bert being carried across the animated river by animated turtles still work.

This film is also filled with music, song, and dance  — and contains some of Disney’s best songs:  “A Spoonful of Sugar”, “Chim-Chim Cheree”, and “Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious! — all of which I knew as a child and can still sing along to and even recite.  (I still have all of “Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious!” memorized!)

Please note in the list below I am not including a single line or two of a main song repeated later.

List of Songs and Musical Numbers

  • Sister Suffragettes — Mrs. Banks
  • The Age of Men/Banks Schedule — Mr. Banks
  • The Nanny Song (a desperate advertisement) — Jane and Michael Banks
  • A Spoonful of Sugar — Mary Poppins
  • Chim Chim Cheree — Bert
  • Jolly Holiday (with Mary) — Bert, Mary
  • Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious! — Mary, Bert, Ensemble
  • Stay Awake (a lullaby) — Mary
  • I Love to Laugh — Ed Wynn
  • Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag) — Mary
  • Investing in the Bank / Interest — The Bankers
  • Chim Chim Cheeree — Bert
  • Step in Time — Bert, Ensemble
  • Let’s Go Fly a Kite — Mr. Banks

Again a wonderful film, especially for children.

Oh, and I should say that I am aware that the life of chimney sweeps and the children they used was not a good one, and also that Suffragettes were treated horribly, often force-fed and jailed, but that still doesn’t stop this from being a good fantasy film.  However, I do find it amusing that Disney cleaned-up the old British saying, that “it’s good luck to kiss a chimney sweep”, changing it to “good luck will rub off if I shake-hands with you.”

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:   4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Master and Commander:  The Far Side of the World

Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD (Dr. Who)

  • Title:  Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 AD (Dr. Who)
  • Director:  Gordon Flemyng
  • Date:  1966
  • Studio:  AARU Productions LTD, British Lion Films LTD
  • Genre:  Science Fiction
  • Cast:  Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins, Roberta Tovey, Ray Brooks, Jill Curzon, Andrew Keir
  • Format:  Technicolor, Techniscope (early widescreen process)
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC, Widescreen

This time Dr. Who (Peter Cushing), as he is called in these films, is traveling with his grand-daughter Susan, and his niece, Louise, when a policeman named Tom Campbell mistakes the TARDIS for a real Police Call Box and stumbles inside. The Doctor travels to 2150 AD anyway, and discovers that London has been destroyed in an Dalek invasion. The film’s first half hour or so actually works pretty well, as the Doctor and his companions are split up and manage to meet up with the local rebel / resistance group. The iconic scene from the black and white television story of a Dalek coming out of the waters of the Thames River is repeated in this movie. However, the equally iconic shot of the Daleks crossing the Tower Bridge, waving their plungers, isn’t present.

The Dalek spaceship is actually a very nice model, and it has Thunderbird Two-like jets on the back.  Why, I have no idea, as jets would be rather useless in space. But I digress. The majority of the Daleks are grey in this film, but with silver and periwinkle accents. Yes, you read that right, periwinkle.  And yes, it’s hard to take light purple Daleks seriously. Leader Daleks are red, black or gold. So, overall, the Daleks aren’t the really awful technicolor variety of the previous film.

Periwinkle_Daleks_cropped

However, after a promising start, the film wanders as various members of the Doctor’s group get lost, reunite, get captured, reunite again, etc. Plot involves first a rebel attack on the Dalek spaceship, which seems to go well, but ends a dismal failure. (And yes, that was an effective portion of the film.  The TV Series Doctor Who, which is much better than these films, is often at it’s best when the Doctor doesn’t completely win). After the failed attack, each of the survivors separately makes their way to Bedfordshire and the Daleks’ mine, either as prisoners or in hopes of rescuing the prisoners. Finally at the end, Dr. Who, foils the plot of the Daleks to drop a bomb to the core of the Earth in an attempt to crack the Earth in some sort of plan to re-fuel their spaceship.

I will say the acting is a bit better than the previous film. However, Susan’s been dumbed down considerably, and she even manages to “twist” her ankle.

Again, I only have this because I got it in a set, for free, from a friend. And I have it as a collectible.  But it’s really not a good movie. BTW — bit of trivia, Bernard Cribbins, who plays Tom Campbell, more recently played companion Donna Noble’s grandfather in the recent television series of Doctor Who.

Recommendation:  Don’t Bother.
Rating:  2 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Double Indemnity