Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Media Review: Wandering the Media Library

Edna Ferber's "Show Boat" [TCM]

Not to be confused with the remake staring Ava Gardner, this is the original based on the book by Edna Ferber.  A simplistic tale of love and redemption set inside a traveling song and dance show on a Mississippi river boat.  What is most striking is the music, more tunes than that remake, and the portrayal of the antebellum south.  By todays standards this is a very racist film and pretty politically incorrect.  The happy negros that toil for the white folks is pretty hard to watch.  The standouts are Paul Robson and Hattie McDaniel.  Paul being the only cast member to reprise his role in the remake. 

"I Walked 
With A Zombie" [TCM]

I wanted to see this film for two reasons.  The film was directed by Jacques Tourneur and the film was produced by Val Lewton.  Mr. Lewton was known for this bizarre and understated thrillers in the 1940s.  Think 'Twilight Zone' before Rod Serling.  Mr. Tourneur was the cinematographer on one of my all time favorites, "Out of the Past'.  So this should have been a good film.  It was really just odd.  Beautifully shot, but with little plot and it seemed to go nowhere.  Worth the watch just to see the creepy scenery and visuals. 

Passage to Marseille [TCM]

This was an eye-opener.  This is a propaganda film shot during WWII.  It is almost a sequel to the film 'Casablanca', with much of the same cast members.  Apparently, the idea in the mid 40s was to show sympathy and empathy for those nations that had been ravaged by the Axis powers.  In this case, as in Casablanca', it is the French and their struggle against the Nazis.   A fun film to watch but overly sappy on the political message. 

Crusades [VHS]

This is a four tape VHS set that I have been making my way through.  At first, it is a bit tongue and cheek showing how the Christians of central Europe really botched the idea of liberating the Holy Land and all the terrible blunders that they made.  However, in the latter part of the series, it shows the dynamics of how the Muslim and Christian world settled on each other and came to respect the status quo.  It is a must watch for anyone that has in interest in Middle East politics and history.  I learned quite a few things about Muslim history and reasons for the schism with the west. 

The Boondock Saints [BluRay]

Wow, this was interesting.  I really can't recommend this film from an entertainment standpoint, but as educational offering , it has some merit.  I had heard of this film before and know that it has a slight cult following (as can be attested to by the numerous sequels that have gone straight to video).  A VERY violent film with lots of gunfire.  However, it is beautifully shot, almost as though it was a ballet.  The storyline is interesting, with William DeFoe's gay detective deconstructing crime scenes after the fact and then the actual crime is seen in real time.  It is a fascinating juxta positioning of story line and style.  Interesting to watch, but always ending in a bloodbath.  Interesting premise, but the film falls flat at the end with no real conclusion. 

Viva Zapata! [Laserdisc]

Another interesting find.  The credits for this read like a whos who of Hollywood in the 1960s.  Elia Kazan directs, John Steinbeck writes it, Alex North does the music and Marlan Brando stars.  Unfortunately what you get is something akin to 'On The Waterfront' with sombreros.  Brando as an Hispanic is a stretch and the story is slow to get moving.  The ending, while predictable, draws you in because of the examples of political corruption and how it affects even the most dedicated freedom fighter.  

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