The inspiration for this diary came from another diary called, On The Edge of Our Seats: Cinema's Most Suspenseful Moments. Submitted on Saturday September 22, 2012 by Keith930. I had commented that one of my favorite suspense movies was The Odessa File. I'll include a short pertinent section of that comment here:
The Odessa File
One of my favorite movies. And it's a timely today as it was when it came out. From beginning to end it doesn't stop. I will say it's one of those rare cases in which you want it to be redone, the only place it suffers is in some technical areas, and style. And it's got that pesky Jon Voight in it. And I could live without Perry Como and the cloyingly annoying song Christmas Dream.
Don't inquire about that song if you don't know it. It will be the death knell of any happiness you glean from life.
There are certain songs you will never be able to unhear...
So originally I was going to do a diary about songs you never want to hear again for as long as you live.
I immediately considered a flaw in that idea. That being people are plagued enough with awful songs that roam around in their consciousness, they don't need to add to that play list. It's like, "Oh my God this is the most disgusting thing I've ever put in my mouth, try some."
So, instead this diary is about movies that you would like to see redone.
I'll admit there are some movies that nobody wants redone, even if they have more technical flaws than valuable content. And they're are movies that you can't redo, they demand to be left alone.
And right now I'm thinking about one of the silliest movies ever to be made called, A Comedy of Terrors staring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Joe E. Brown, and Joyce Jameson. That cast of stars alone proves my point. As well as tells you basically everything you need to know about that movie. And the best part of it is, as soon as you get bored with it it's over.
I know I could have picked any movie except that one, but that's the one that immediately came to my mind so that's he one I chose.
But there are some movies I'll be honest I would like to see redone. Or at least in the case of a couple of my picks not redone but lets take another look at that subject.
Also I'm not including movies that are so terribly flawed there's no point in talking about them.
The movies that I picked are because I am passionate about the subject matter, or the movie itself is so good in so many ways. It just irks me when film makers got some aspects so right and others so wrong.
Now on with this brief list.
1. The Odessa File (1974)
Director: Ronald Neame
Writers: Fredrick Forsyth (novel)
Kenneth Ross (screenplay)
George Markstein (screenplay)
Cast: Jon Voight
And a lot of other actors.
This movie is based on a novel called The Odessa File by Fredrick Forsyth. It's about a struggle between a young German reporter and the Odessa, an organization for ex-Nazis.
On 22 November 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated Peter Miller, a young German freelance reporter, pulls to the curb to listen to a radio report of the event. As a result he happens to be stopped at a traffic signal as an ambulance passes by on a highway. He chases the ambulance and discovers it is en route to pick up the body of an elderly Jewish Holocaust survivor who had committed suicide, leaving behind no family. The reporter obtains the diary of the man, which contains information on his life in the World War II Riga Ghetto, and the name of the SS officer who ran the camp, Eduard Roschmann. Determined to hunt Roschmann down, Miller dares to go undercover to join and infiltrate the ODESSA and find Roschmann, who now runs a high tech company which plans to send radio gyroscopes and biochemical warheads to Egypt to use against Israel. ODESSA is an acronym for the German phrase "Organisation der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen", which translates as “Organization of Former Members of the SS."
There are several twists and turns spanning continents. And during this adventure Peter discovers a link between the ex-Nazis, the Odessa, and his own family.
Although it would be a perk, the fact that Jon Voight is in this movie is not enough to make me want to see this movie redone. I don't want someone to redo Kelly's Heroes because Clint Eastwood is in it. But if someone were to take a second look at this movie I'm sure they could find a German actor to play the part.
So why do I want it redone? For one thing, I'm sure they could find a German actor to play the part. For another the parallels between the subject matter of this movie and the events of 9/11 and afterwards are stunning. And some people might not ever see it unless it is redone.
This is an on the edge of your seat suspense thriller. If you enjoy a movie that starts and doesn't stop until the end this is your movie. But it's filmed, the cinematography, it looks like a circa 70's bad soft core porn flick. It's warm and fuzzy, and dumb. In some scenes it looks like it's foggy, inside. And other aspects could be sharpened. The story captures your attention and that's what drives you to want to stay with it all the way through, even when the technical aspects almost dare you to stop watching it.
The second reason is, the score was written Andrew Lloyd Weber. It does absolutely nothing for the movie or events taking place at all. As another critic says it's typical 70's drivel. It's awful. To say nothing about one of the most egregious musical missteps in the history of movies; Perry Como singing that awful, awful song Christmas Dream.
It is so bad that I had to fight off not mentioning here by name for fear it would attack me in my sleep. As soon as that song is introduced the movie has to fight it tooth and nail. And in fact it does leave it butchered and bloodied on the pavement. But why, what was the point? It's just so gratuitous. It's violence for the sake of itself. And this movie is more intelligent than that.
Imagine if you will, instead of Martin Scorsese introducing Layla when he did in Goodfellas, he put Just an Old Fashioned Love Song in it's place. Yes it is. It is that bad.
Here is a trailer that demonstrates some of the issues I had with this movie. I will not include that song. I will spare you that agony.
2. Is Paris Burning? (1966)
Director: René Clément
Writers: Larry Collins (book)
Dominique Lapierre (book)
Gore Vidal (screenplay)
Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay)
Marcel Moussy (additional material for French scenes)
Beate von Molo (additional material for German scenes)
Jean Aurenche uncredited
Yves Boisset uncredited
Pierre Bost uncredited
Claude Brule uncredited
Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo
And a lot of other actors, tons.
In 1966 two movies were released which I consider "Sister Movies."
One was called Battle For Algiers, the other one was called Is Paris Burning? To me they are both cut from the same cloth. They both use a documentary film making style. Though in Is Paris Burning? it's a bit more finessed. The battle For Algiers is much more raw and immediate, as if you are right there in the midst of it all as it's happening.
Is Paris Burning? Is an epic sweeping vast movie involving American, French and German artists co-operating to tell this story. Everybody and anybody is in this movie.
When you think of movies about D-Day maybe your first thought goes to movies that focus on what is happening on the beaches in Normandy. This is not that. This is about what is happening on the streets of Paris during that time. For the most part the only fighting in this movie is Guerrilla type street fighting to take back the streets of Paris from the Nazis.
As a part of the very first scene you see Hitler putting Cholitz in charge of Paris. He tells Cholitz it's because he's the only officer Hitler can trust because he's always executed Hitler's orders. Then Hitler promotes him to full general. The more Hitler speaks the more he gets into his all too familiar irate state saying, "The enemy must not occupy Paris! Be ruthless with the population! If they disobey kill them! If you can't hold Paris, burn it! If the Allies broke through Hitler wanted them to retake nothing but rubble, ruins, and ashes.
On the other hand the German commander in charge of Paris, Dietrich von Choltitz was doing his utmost best in insuring that didn't happen. To stave off that eventuality he pretended and used stalling tactics. At one point in the movie he says to the Swedish vice-consel of Paris, Nordling (Orsen Wells), "Heir Consel, if I thought the destruction of Paris would win the war for Germany, I would set the city on fire myself. But we've lost the war." Nordling then asks, "Why has Hitler ordered the destruction of Paris?" Choltitz replies, "Because he is insane. I know it..."
Meanwhile, people were still being rounded up and sent off to concentration camps.
At one point it was decided by high ranking French Resistance operatives that the only way to save Paris was for someone to leave the city and get in contact with the Allies up north to persuade them to liberate Paris immediately.
If you can believe it, Kirk Douglas plays Patton. When you see that scene it's a bit jarring and unintentionally funny.
There are some intentional comic relief moments. My favorite being Anthony Perkins playing a soldier asking his buddy who had been to Paris before to show him where certain things were on a map.
And he has you rooting for him the whole way.
So it's a race against time.
Will the French Resistance be successful in getting through alive to convince Eisenhower into making a detour and head directly to Paris? Can it all happen before the Germans turn the entire city into dust? Will the different factions of the French Resistance quit stepping all over themselves risking the Nazi's into playing their hand in the destruction of Paris before the liberating force gets there?
All these people are involved and all these people have their point of view.
So it sounds like a great movie what's wrong with it?
Well, it's clunky, and quirky, and weird. It's a riveting story. And with events happening at rapid fire pace it should have you on the edge of your seat. But this movie didn't do that for me. It chugs and sputters and stalls along. It's as if the movie doesn't seem to quite understand the hand it's given structurally or how to use it. And it's too fast when there needs to time to absorb certain characters and events.
It gets a bit tiring trying to keep track of all the different factions of the French Resistance and their agendas. The characters should have been defined more clearly, and the transitions from one set of events to another in that respect should be handled much more deftly.
The Allies have have landed which to everyone in Paris means this is the end one way or another, you have the Nazis preparing Paris for destruction, and you have the French People's Front, and The People's Front of France, and the People's Popular Front of France all vying for power and control of how to defeat the Nazis and save Paris.
If you get up to go to the bathroom you would come back saying, "What the fuck happened I thought those guys were the French Resistance, WTF?"
"No, no, no those are the French People's Popular Front, and that guy is was actually a Nazi spy."
I must admit watching it the first time I found myself thinking, OK you French persons, you are just fighting with yourselves. If you don't knock it off you'll be fighting over mounds of rubble. I left the movie emotionally and just said,
"OK then my ears, I understand, lets get on with it."
Skip to the end."
I've seen it twice after that and still it's hard to keep it all straight.
There are funky sound problems, and the cloths the French wear are a bit too modern. You half expect The Beatles to show up and do a concert.
This movie needs to get all spruced up to go to the big dance.
But the last third of this movie is where it starts firing on all cylinders and begins to shine.
In one of the last scenes the phone has rung, someone has picked up the receiver and you hear Hitler on the phone yelling, "Is Paris burning?" As the bells of Notre Dame which had remained silent since the occupation are ringing again. It's one of the most lasting and powerful scenes in the film. So much so I had to watch it again to write this. It's been a while since I had seen it, and I was positive the whole movie was a flashback, but it's not.
I've included two scenes which are different to give you an idea of the feel of this movie. The first one is in French but it's of no real consequence. You get the nub of it's gist:
This is one of my favorite scenes in the movie.
As the Commander of Paris sees the city swiftly falling into the hands of the French Resistance he gets a visit from two S.S. officers on a mission of another kind.
Yeah that's the guy who played the German in Kelly's Heroes:
3. The Search (1948)
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Writers: Richard Schweizer (screenplay)
David Wechsler (collaborator on screenplay)
Paul Jarrico (additional dialogue)
Montgomery Clift (uncredited)
Richard Schweizer story (uncredited)
Betty Smith uncredited
Peter Viertel draft (uncredited)
David Wechsler story (uncredited)
Cast: Montgomery Clift
Edwart G. Morrison
And a lot of children, some of them Holocaust survivors.
This is a story that takes place in post-war Germany. Many of the scenes were shot amidst the actual ruins of Ingolstadt, Nuremberg, and Würzburg.
At it's heart is a story of a mother in search of her son who was separated from her at Auschwitz.
The movie opens up with a train pulling up to a stop, the doors open and it's full of children that were survivors of the camps. The mother and her son were from Czechoslovakia.
The children at this point are in the charge of the United Nations Relief Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA).
The children are taken out of the trains and brought to a place where they are fed and taken care of. It's there that their identities are trying to be established and where they are from. The little boy, Karel doesn't speak, and doesn't know his name.
Eventually the children are to be taken from where they are to a better, more suitable place to house and tend to them.
But they are told to go into ambulances with big red crosses on them. And these children know full well what happens in ambulances with big red crosses on them. Some try to run away then and there, but they are reassured that no harm will come to them.
While en route the ambulance backfires and the children smell gas. They start yelling and screaming and banging. The children find a hammer and break the glass of a window in the door, the ambulance stops and the children run away. They manage to gather the children back up but Karel runs away.
At one point Karel manages to run into Montgomery Clift (Steve). Steve is immediately taken with Karel and after some maneuvering on Steve's part Karel trusts him and they share billets.
Meanwhile Karel's mother is going from place to place, and camp to camp looking for her son. She winds up at the place Karel was first brought to. Someone has recognized the name but it was not her son.
Eventually she winds up at the place where Karel would have been taken to. Since she is weak and in need of care herself she stays. As she is regaining her health she bonds with the children that are there.
There are tender moments between Steve and Karel. Steve tries to get Karel's name out of him but it's not that easy. Steve knows no Czech., and Karel knows no English except Bambi. Steve ends up calling Karel Jim. As time goes on Steve ends up teaching Karel how to speak English. And he tries to find out to whom and where he belongs but it's to no avail.
The two of them become best friends and are practically inseparable. And Steve sets out to adopt Karel.
As Karel learns more English and can communicate more and more with Steve his memory starts to come back. He starts remembering something about a fence and presses Steve to tell him about his mother. Unsatisfied with Steve's answer Karel runs away to try to find his mother. Steve finds Karel and the UNRRA gets involved and eventually Karel is reunited with his mother. And Steve, with a half broken heart goes back to Baltimore.
This was Montgomery Clift's second movie and he is wonderful as always, and sexier than ever. In fact he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best actor in a leading role. He was unhappy with the quality of the script, and rewrote most of it himself. The movie was nominated for a screenwriting Academy Award, but the original writers were credited.
Ivan Jandl is so good you can't imagine anyone else in the role.
I have never seen a movie that deals with this subject. All the issues and troubles dealing with what to do and how to handle all the child survivors of the Holocaust.
So what's my gripe?
This movie is fine but deals with the subject matter with staged events that gloss over this complicated issue too much. And there is a hoaky melodramatic overtone of this movie including voice over at the beginning that is not good.
And at one point one of the UNRRA officers tries to convince Karel's mother to stay with them and work with the children instead of continuing on to look for her son.
She says, ..."Stay with us here, you won't be so lonely. Let these other children try to take your Karel's place..."
This movie is so earnest in every way it can be, and that line just irks the Hell out of me.
This is a subject that deserves a deeper, more realistic, fluid, unstaged look.
Some important facts about Ivan Jandl the boy who played Karel:
He was born in 1937 in Prague Czechoslovakia. And he spoke no English and learned his lines phonetically.
I saw this movie on Turner Classic Movies and afterwards Robert Osborne said that at the time the Soviet Union was in control of Czechoslovakia. And due to Ivan's participation in this movie after he finished high school he was sent to work in a quarry and died in his forties.
Wikipedia, on the other hand had this to say about Ivan Jandl.
After the film's success, he got lots of fan mail from all over the world, and in 1949 he received a telegram, an approximate translation of which reads:
"You won the Academy Award for the outstanding child actor. Congratulations. F. Zinnemann", followed the next day by an explanation (since Oscars were not generally known there at the time) from the production company (Praesens Film): "An Oscar is the highest award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Congratulations."
He couldn't attend the ceremony, so the Oscar was brought by some members of the Academy to Prague. There he received many offers (films and contracts), but it was decided by the government that he was to be "preserved to be used by the Czech film industry." But, ironically enough, he went onto make only 3 films (2 in 1949, 1 in 1950).
After graduating from high school, he wanted to study at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (DAMU), but he was told that he should not have accepted an award from the American film industry and was thus turned down.
He than changed many professions only to return to the radio in 1965 as a program manager, becoming an announcer in 1969. In 1972, he was forced to leave the radio and excluding a short career as a stage manager in a theatre in Teplice, that is all there was for him in the show business.
In 1985 he met Jarmila Novotna, the famed opera singer who portrayed his mother in The Search, for the first time in years.
In 1987 Ivan died at the age of 50 of diabetic complications in his apartment in Prague.
The acting in this movie carries the film. More specifically Montgomery Clift and Ivan Jandl carry this film. The reason you continue to watch it is because of the individual chemistry of those two actors, and the chemistry they have with each other. Clift's naturalistic performance led to director Fred Zinneman's being asked, "Where did you find a soldier who can act so well?"
Here is the scene where Karel and Steve meet for the first time:
4. The Buddy Holly Story (1978)
Director: Steve Rash
Writers: Alan Swyer (story)
John Goldrosen (source material "Buddy Holly His Life and Music")
Robert Gittler (screenplay)
Cast: Gary Busey
Charles Martin Smith
Matthew "Stymie" Beard
And other actors. More than were in The Search, but much fewer than were in Chaplin. About the same number of actors that were in Cadillac Records.
What? Are you fucking kidding me? What could you possibly have against
this one? I love this movie I watch it all the time. I just watched it again last night. Who are you, what are you doing here?
Just hear me out a second. I agree this movie stands alone. You can't remake this movie. But I believe that The Buddy Holly Story doesn't need to be the final word on the subject. I think it's fair to say there can be another look at his life.
I bought a DVD package that included The Buddy Holly Story and La Bamba. I thought that was brilliant marketing. If I watch one movie it just begs me to want to watch the other.
When you compare the two movies there isn't a comparison. La Bamba has The Buddy Holly Story beat by a mile.
I feel that The Buddy Holly Story has two major flaws. The screenplay is much too thin. I felt that there was a check list of important things that happened in Buddy Holly's life and the actors were set there to act them out.
For instance the scene where Buddy buys the car the Crickets were like well we want to go back home. How much money do we need? But we don't get to see why they are so burnt out. We just have to take their word for it.
The second flaw is, it holds you at arm's length, you must not don't get too close, artist's at work.
Where as La Bamba, will have none of that. It's a much more fluid, richer story. La Bamba invites you in it's house, and you can't leave until you've had dinner, had some drinks, and sang some songs. And you understand and are involved in their passions and emotions and all the reasons why.
La Bamba can stand alone as a story without Richie Valens. But there would be no reason to watch The Buddy Holly Story if it weren't for Buddy Holly. Do you see what I mean?
All I'm saying is I think there's room in this world for another look at the life of Buddy Holly.
The acting was great on the part of everyone. I just wish the actors though had been given a chance to spread their wings and fly.
Here is the Apollo Theater Scene:
5. Chaplin (1992)
Director: Richard Attenborough
Writers: David Robinson (book "His Life and Art")
Charles Chaplin (book "My Autobiography")
Diana Hawkins (story)
William Boyd (screenplay)
Bryon Forbes (screenplay)
William Goldman (screneplay)
Cast: Robert Downey Jr.
Penelope Ann Miller
And a lot of other actors, lots of other actors. But not even close to the number of actors in Is Paris Burning? But a lot.
Well I am a self-identifying Chaplin fan so what the fuck is this movie doing on this list?
I will admit right now this movie is as close to being flawless as any movie could be. Excellent, everything.
The only problem I have with it is that Chaplin was born in 1889 and died on Christmas Day 1977. His story is an epic tale. And there is never a dull moment. A lot of attention is foisted on a lot of celebrities since show business began. And mostly for no good reason, but in Charlie's case it was all well deserved. Every five minutes he's up to something different. I have read several books on Chaplin including his autobiography and David Robinson's book. And he was captivating, and fascinating, and prolific, and worth all the fuss. At one point he was called the most famous man in the world.
We all know about "Beatlemania", but before that there was "Chaplinitis."
And there were Charlie Chaplin look-a-like contests but as for Charlie entering in one and losing to Bob Hope or coming in second, those are all "legend."
Even in his death there's a story. Who steals a dead body? Well two auto mechanics stole Chaplin's body two months after he died. Their original plan was not to actually steal the body but to dig it up and bury it deeper in the ground in the same plot. But weather conditions made that impossible. Even that is a story in itself.
I don't want Chaplin to be redone I want the BBC to do a series on his life. The last thing we need is another British tale of Queen Elizabeth I, or Henry VIII. Or another adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.
I just don't understand, one of their own, a prized gem is in the palm of their hand and nobody has ever thought to do a series of his life. It would be the dream of a lifetime for young actors everywhere. I guess maybe that's the reason, it would be too expensive.
But they did do a series on the French Impressionists, and it was lavish. So I need an explanation as to why this can't happen. The only other thing I can think of is that someone did think of it, but they haven't the permission from Chaplin's estate.
Well that's what I want for my birthday.
In Chaplin's life he went from working with the likes of Ben Turpin to Marlon Brando, and to signing posters for John Cleese. He saw it all, and did it all. He was an artist, a visionary, a man for the people, the Tramp and a clown.
I'm weird I like long movies, and I like interesting intriguing stories that take forever to tell.
This is a brief clip of the making of Chaplin:
Here is a clip from a documentary that shows things Charlie was doing later in life:
Here is one of my favorite clips from Chaplin:
I'm not going to add clips of Chaplin movies, that would be a diary in itself. Maybe next April 16th.
6. Cadillac Records (2008)
Director: Darnell Martin
Writer: Darnell Martin
Cast: Adrien Brody
Cedrick the Entertainer
And a lot of other actors. I don't think anyone could have done a better job of playing Willie Dixon than Cedrick the Entertainer.
A story about a fascinating time, and the fascinating people that were a part of changing the face of popular music forever. And the musicians and Leonard Chess deserved better than this movie. I think the director frankly didn't quite know what to do with them. At the end of the movie the characters just sort of vanished into thin air.
And how on earth do you talk about Muddy Waters without talking about the Newport Jazz Festival and Got My Mojo working? And how do you talk about Willie Dixon without talking about Wang Dang Doodle?
Especially when those moments could have been a mood changers. When all of that macho alpha male business was going on, the atmosphere could have been cleared by those events. It would have been like a breath of fresh air.
I have a documentary called Sweet Home Chicago. And in that documentary Koko recalls how it all came to be.
Willie called up Koko around 1am. and said, "Koke I just wrote a song especially for you."
"What kind of song is this, that can't wait until tomorrow, that you got to call me in the middle of the night?"
He said, "Wang Dang Doodle."
Koko said, "What?"
Willie said, "Wang Dang Doodle. You've got to get over here right now because it's hot, and it's fresh in my mind. And we need to go over it right away."
So Koko gets out of bed, and she and her husband go to Willie's house to go over it. Then she records one of the best encore songs in the history of the world.
Both of those extraordinary watershed moments in musical history could have been been used to cut through all the heaviness that was so prevalent in that movie.
They were sort of on the right track when they brought in the Rolling Stones, but they just left it there without another word about it. Remember the Stones refused to do Shindig unless they agreed to Put Howlin' Wolf on. Which in turn gave all of the Blues and Rhythm and Blues musicians all across America a much needed jolt. It gained them a worldwide audience that never went away.
The outline of this movie was mashed potatoes.
This subject deserves another look.
The acting on the other hand was right on the money, top notch.
This scene is an example of the promise of what this movie could have been, and an example of it's flaws. In it you see Little Walter traveling down south and he sees that someone has taken his name pretending to be him. Walter then shoots the imposter. That incident is all hearsay. I understand about condensing a story, or using symbolism. For instance Leonard Chess did not die in his car a block away from Chess Records. He died months afterwards. So the director was saying Chess Records was Leonard's life, it was a till death do us part marriage so to speak. I get that.
But don't give me that "legend" and present it as a fact. Especially in a story like this, a straight up biopic. And Walter's death was not due to a street fight. The official cause of death on the death certificate was coronary thrombosis, (a blood clot in the heart).
In this scene you see Little Walter doing My Babe:
So, what are some of your thoughts? Are there movies you like, but see the advantage of them be given a face lift of sorts? Or is there a subject of a movie that you feel should be given a second chance or a deeper look?
Just so you know I have all the movies I mentioned here, except for The Odessa File. When I want to watch it I borrow it from my dad.
That was a lot of work. I need a drink. I thought this was going to be a simple, short, cute little diary, but I guess it had other ideas. It's gin and tonic time.