Showing posts with label Ernest Borgnine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ernest Borgnine. Show all posts

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Last Command (1955)

Promotional Still from The Last Command (1955). The film was shot in TruColor. (Photo Source)

Director Frank Lloyd's The Last Command (1955) tells the story of Jim Bowie (Sterling Hayden) and the events leading up to the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. Tensions between the Mexican government and American settlers in the territory of Texas, before it became a state in 1845, were high. Bowie hears of the imprisonment of political prisoner Austin (Otto Kruger) and pleads with William B. Travis (Richard Carlson) and Mike Radin (Ernest Borgnine) for a peaceful resolution. Having fought with Mexican General Santa Anna (J. Carroll Naish) and marrying a Mexican citizen, he feels some loyalty to that side until young Jeb Lacey (Ben Cooper) tells him of the Mexican's mistreatment of Americans. Things shift for Bowie when he meets Consuelo (Anna Maria Alberghetti), a beautiful teenager whose father supports the American side. Tragic loss and illness comes to Bowie and when it becomes clear that Santa Anna will attack, Bowie, Davy Crockett (Arthur Hunnicutt), Travis and their men must prepare for a battle of no return.

This film is perhaps most well-known for its connection to John Wayne. A few years earlier Wayne had wanted to make this film with Herb Yates of Republic Pictures. These two could not see eye-to-eye on the project. Wayne wanted to film in Mexico and Yates insisted on Texas. The two had a falling out which resulted in Yates making the film without him. Wayne left Republic and directed, produced and starred in his own version of the story The Alamo (1960). Yates and Wayne never spoke to each other again and as a big middle finger to Yates, Wayne re-used a lot of the same sets that were in Yates' film.

Promotional shot of Anna Maria Alberghetti and Sterling Hayden from The Last Command (1955). (Photo Source)

The Last Command (1955) is not exceptional but is enjoyable. Hayden is perfectly suited to play the loner and free spirited Bowie. The sheer size of Hayden dwarfs pretty much every other cast member. He was truly larger-than-life in more ways than one. The Consuelo-Bowie love story was frustrating. When they meet Bowie is married and Consuelo is only 17 years old. The plot conveniently gets rid of Bowie's wife and children with the plague making room for their affair. In real life Bowie did suffer this devastating loss but it seems Consuelo only exists to add a love story to the film. I'm not well-versed in the history of the Battle of the Alamo and the key figures involved. From what I understand, this film does a good job staying true to the historical events but also using fictional elements to delivering the story as entertainment. According to the AFI, director Frank Lloyd said the following:

"The addition of fiction to fact is permissible and often dramatically desirable so long as the fiction does not contradict the fact, but is presented as a logical and reasonable development. It is the perversion of facts, not their augmentation, that destroys authenticity."

The movie is well-worth watching not only for the cast but also the attention to detail that went into the costumes by Adele Palmer, for Max Steiner's score and for the great battle scenes. There is a great knife fight scene between Ernest Borgnine and Sterling Hayden that reminded me of Borgnine's fight with Montgomery Clift in From Here to Eternity which released a couple years before.

The Last Command (1955) is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thanks!

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray is from a brand new HD master from a 4K scan of the 35mm Trucolor original negative. It includes audio commentary by Alamo historian Frank Thompson and a variety of Kino Lorber trailers.

While the publicity stills above are in black-and-white the film was shot in Trucolor.

Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of The Last Command (1955) for review.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Cinema Shame: The Wild Bunch (1969)

Four years ago I created a watch list for 2014. These were the films that I hadn't seen yet that I wanted to make a point to watch that year. The Wild Bunch (1969) was one of those films. Unfortunately I never got to it that year or since. So when Jay of Cinema Shame prompted bloggers to submit their Cinema Shame statements for 2018 I added this one to mine!

Directed by Sam Peckinpah, The Wild Bunch (1969) follows a band of outlaws as they seek out one big heist. The year is 1913. Pike Bishop (William Holden) leads his "wild bunch", consisted Dutch Engstrom (Ernest Borgnine), Lyle Gorch (Warren Oates), Angel (Jaime Sanchez), Tector Gorch (Ben Johnson) and others to a dessert town to rob the railroad office's bank. What Pike and his men don't know is that this was a lure created by the railroad, Deke Thornton (Robert Ryan) and his own band of bounty hunters to trap the wild bunch. The robbery goes south and ends in a deadly shoot-out with the wild bunch getting away. When they discover their loot was nothing but bags of steel washers, they seek out another opportunity for a big pay day to make up for this failure. They head for the border and pick up old Freddie Sykes (Edmond O'Brien) along the way. Pike's past begins to haunt him. He's tired of this life and wants one last big heist so he can settle down. But his former partner Deke has made it his mission to capture Pike no matter what it takes. As the two bands cross the border into Mexico, a long chase filled with more heists, lots of booze, women, guns and violence.

"Being sure is my business." - William Holden as Pike Bishop

The Wild Bunch is a movie that revels in violence. Right from the very beginning when we see children feeding scorpions to fire ants, we realize that this movie is going to be tough as nails. In a post Hays Code world, this movie tested the waters and set the standards for increased violence and blood shed on film. Ernest Borgnine once said, "I made The Wild Bunch, which was the beginning of the splattering of blood and everything else. But there was a moral behind it. The moral was that, by golly, bad guys got it. That was it." The film was highly controversial at it's time. It won praise and disdain from those who were in awe of the filmmaking techniques and the performances and others who were appalled by its graphic and relentless representation of violence.

Maybe that's why The Wild Bunch is a mixed bag for me. I can appreciate the artistry of this film but am also repulsed by its violence. The cast is superb and includes some of my favorites like Borgnine, Ryan and O'Brien. I marveled at the excellent filmmaking and on location shooting. The film felt real to me. Like I was in Mexico right alongside the wild bunch on this outrageous adventure. It's not a film I feel the need to watch again but one I'm glad I saw. The Wild Bunch does make me want to watch more of Peckinpah's work. He received his one and only Academy Award nomination, in the Original Screenplay category, for this film.

Have you seen The Wild Bunch (1969)? What did you think of it? Tell me your thoughts below.
Stay tuned for more reviews or quick takes on my Cinema Shame movies for 2018!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

The Poseidon (1972)

This review is sponsored by DVD Netflix.

It's New Year's Eve, and the S.S. Poseidon is on its scheduled final journey. The cruise liner is a few days behind schedule and the captain (Leslie Nielsen) is feeling pressure to speed things up from new owner Linarcos (Fred Sadoff). He wants to make up ground but the captain is worried that the old vessel won't be able to handle going full speed ahead and it will put their passengers in danger. On board are a motley crew of vacationers heading to different ports of call. Reverend Scott (Gene Hackman) tends to the religious needs of the passengers. His approach to faith is radically different from the more traditional view of the ship's chaplain (Arthur O'Connell). Then there is Robin (Eric Shea), a young curious boy who wants to learn everything there is to know about the S.S. Poseidon. He's traveling with his sister Susan (Pamela Sue Martin) on the way to see their parents. Rogo (Ernest Borgnine) his devoted to his wife Linda (Stella Stevens), whom he rescued from a life of prostitution. Then there are the Rosens, Belle (Shelley Winters) and Manny (Jack Albertson), a loving couple on their way to see their new grandchild in Israel. They befriend bachelor Martin (Red Buttons), whose focus on health and fitness keeps him busy to avoid feelings of loneliness. Then there is the staff like Acres (Roddy McDowall) a waiter in the main dining room and Nonnie (Carol Lynley), a singer whose band hitches a ride on the Poseidon and pay their way with performances.

Little do the passengers and crew know that a disaster is impending. A nearby earthquake creates a tidal wave and because the captain had to speed up the vessel, they are headed straight for it.  While everyone celebrates the ringing in of a New Year, the wave hits the S.S. Poseidon turning it over. Led by Reverend Scott, Robin, Susan, the Rogos, the Rosens, Martin, Acres and Nonnie make their way to the bottom of the ship which is now the top. They face doubts from other passengers and internal doubts as they struggle their way to freedom. With so many deaths and more to come, who will survive? How will they work together to save their own lives? Will this team make it out of the vessel to be rescued?

The principal players of The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Based on the novel by Paul Gallico and directed by Ronald Neame, The Poseidon Adventure (1972) was a box office hit. It was a gamble for 20th Century Fox which had been backtracking from investing in big budget movies. This movie paid off. They invested $4.7 million and made $40 million+ in rentals. Some significant changes to the novel's plot and the portrayal of the main characters helped develop the film adaptation into something cinema goers would enjoy. It was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won 2. The film spawned a sequel and a remake.

Disaster movies always give me anxiety. I emotionally invest myself in the characters and I want to see them survive. Watching The Poseidon Adventure, I was the most anxious I have ever been since watching Titanic (1997) when it came out in theaters. I was at the edge of my seat. This film had some really great moments of tension. Each stage to climb the different levels in order to get off the ship was like an insane obstacle course that challenged each group member physically and emotionally. I expected this movie to be cheesy but was pleased how for the most part it wasn't. The drama felt real not forced.

Faith plays an important role in the movie. It starts with Gene Hackman's character Reverend Scott. He's a man of the cloth going through a crisis of faith but has to lead others in their own beliefs. When the disaster strikes, he comes up with a plan to escape but it takes the faith of a small group of people who believe in him to follow Rev. Scott on this treacherous journey. Some of the characters struggle with faith whether its with themselves or with their leader. There is also little Robin who has learned some very useful information about the ship but because of his young age characters like Rogo doubt him. It takes the faith Rev. Scott has in him to use that information for them to move forward.

The Poseidon Adventure (1972) is a captivating disaster movie that will keep you enthralled to the very last minute. I highly recommend it.

I rented The Poseidon Adventure (1972) on DVD Netflix. Click on this link to add it to your queue. Thank you to DVD Netflix for sponsoring this post.

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