Sunday, April 30, 2017

Review of "The Manchurian Candidate," DVD version

Review of
The Manchurian Candidate, DVD version

Five out of five stars
 The term “brainwashing” entered the world vocabulary in the 1950s as a means to explain the behavior of United Nations soldiers after they had been captured and held by communist soldiers in the Korean War. When the soldiers engaged in extensive cooperation with their captors, it was believed that it was a consequence of heavy psychological manipulation.
 That concept is taken to the extreme in this movie, a small unit of American soldiers is on patrol with their Korean interpreter when they are captured alive and then subjected to a series of intensive psychological manipulation techniques. Some of the captured soldiers are killed while in captivity and one soldier, Raymond Shaw, is singled out for praise, his fellow soldiers repeat by rote, “Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life." They say this even though they know that he is a cold loner.
 Shaw’s mother is a ruthless political plotter with a heart of stone and a member of the plotting cabal. Her husband is a United States Senator (Senator Iselin) that is engaging in communist-hunting tactics reminiscent of Senator Joe McCarthy. Shaw has been so conditioned that he can be triggered to kill people he considers friends when properly approached. The goal is to make Senator Iselin president of the United States so that his wife can control the country.
 Frank Sinatra plays Major Bennett Marco, one of the members of the patrol and he gives a very good performance. However, the movie is made by the performance of Angela Lansbury as the scheming mother of Shaw. There has never been a better depiction of a ruthless, unprincipled woman that will sacrifice anyone, including her son, in order to satisfy her lust for political power.

Review of "A & E Biography of Richard Widmark," VHS version

Review of
A & E Biography of Richard Widmark, VHS version

Five out of five stars
 Like so many other movie stars, Richard Widmark was from a small town and his family struggled when he was growing up. In the video there is the note that his first hometown was so small that it did not appear on any map. His father was a traveling salesman and a bit of a con man, so the family moved a great deal. He entered college with the intention of studying law, but he soon discovered that he had a natural talent for projective speaking, a skill essential for a strong lead actor.
 After acting in many radio dramas, Widmark was cast as the sociopathic villain Tommy Udo in the movie “Kiss of Death.” It was his first major role and it won him his first and only Academy Award nomination. His act of pushing a wheelchair bound woman down a flight of stairs made him a villain that people loved to hate and typecast him a bit. In a humorous sidelight, Widmark mentions that a man was so incensed by what he did in the movie that he actually punched Widmark.
 One clear point about Widmark that is indisputable is that he was an incredibly nice man. When black actor Sidney Poitier first came to Hollywood, Widmark made it a point to invite him over for dinner. The two were together in a movie where Widmark played a virulently racist man. Although his lines required Widmark to utter racial slurs, after the scenes were over, Widmark would go over and apologize to Poitier, saying that what he was saying are only his lines in a movie and not him.
 Another interesting point is when Widmark is describing the early career of Marilyn Monroe. He describes her as a scared little girl, afraid to come out of her dressing room until the last instant and sometimes only after some significant pleading.
 Widmark was a talented actor that appeared in over 60 films as well as making a large number of television appearances. His personal life was free of scandal, he was a demonstration that baseball manager Leo Durocher was wrong when he said, “Nice guys finish last.”

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Review of "Bawdy Songs & Backroom Ballads," by Oscar Brand

Review of
Bawdy Songs & Backroom Ballads, by Oscar Brand

Two out of five stars
 While the songs in this collection are entertaining and are as bawdy and crude as the cover suggests, the problem is that you generally need a microscope to read the lyrics. In order to verify that the songs were as crude as claimed, I was forced to use a search engine to find the words. They were entertaining and it is easy to imagine a group of men loaded with drink singing the songs in as close to unison as such a collection can manage. Too bad the book is largely unintelligible.