Casablanca

US (1942): War/Drama
102 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Ingrid Bergman became a popular favorite when Humphrey Bogart, as Rick, the most famous saloonkeeper in screen history, treated her like a whore. Although their romance was certified by a collection of Academy Awards, they didn't press their luck and never appeared together again. In the role of the cynic redeemed by love, Bogart became the great adventurer-lover of the screen during the war years. In this film he established the figure of the rebellious hero-the lone wolf who hates and defies officialdom (and in the movies he fulfilled a universal fantasy: he got away with it). Questioned about his purpose and motives, he informs the police: "I came to Casablanca for the waters." "Waters? What waters? We're in the desert." "I was misinformed." It's far from a great film, but it has a special appealingly schlocky romanticism, and you're never really pressed to take its melodramatic twists and turns seriously. The international cast includes Paul Henreid, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, Marcel Dalio, Helmut Dantine, S.Z. Sakall, Joy Page, Leonid Kinskey, Curt Bois, Dan Seymour, Ludwig Stossel, Ilka Gruning, Frank Puglia, Madeleine LeBeau, John Qualen, and, memorably, Dooley Wilson singing "As Time Goes By." Academy Awards: Best Picture; Director (Michael Curtiz); Screenplay (Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch). And the Thalberg Memorial Award went to the producer, Hal B. Wallis. Based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick's, by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. Warners.

Casino Murder Case

US (1935): Mystery
85 min, No rating, Black & White

One in the Philo Vance series, but with Paul Lukas taking over the role created by William Powell, and which Basil Rathbone and Warren William had also appeared in. Lukas is smooth, though his Magyar accent blurs some of his mots; he's obviously battling with the English language. MGM surrounded him with an unusually bright supporting cast, headed by the rising young Rosalind Russell, and including Alison Skipworth, Louise Fazenda, Eric Blore, Ted Healy, Leo G. Carroll, Donald Cook, Arthur Byron, Leslie Fenton, Purnell Pratt, Isabel Jewell, and Claudelle Kaye. The plot, which involves a rich family of neurotics, is short on mystery, but Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf, who adapted the S.S. Van Dine novel, supplied an amiable, wisecracking script. Directed by Edwin L. Marin; score by Dmitri Tiomkin.

Casino Royale

UK (1967): Spy/Comedy/Adventure
130 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This Charles K. Feldman production, an all-star send-up of the Bond films, with multiple Bonds and multiple directors, has some laughs, but it makes one terribly conscious of wastefulness. Jokes and plots and possibilities are thrown away along with huge, extravagant sets, and famous performers go spinning by. The best excuse for seeing it is that toward the end Woody Allen (in a dual role as Jimmy Bond and as the head of F.A.N.G.) has his best moments yet on film. The directors included Joe McGrath, Robert Parrish, Val Guest, Ken Hughes, and John Huston, who also acted in it; the writers possibly included Wolf Mankowitz, Ben Hecht, Terry Southern, and Billy Wilder. With Peter Sellers, David Niven, Peter O'Toole, Orson Welles, Charles Boyer, William Holden, George Raft, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Vladek Sheybal, Ursula Andress, Deborah Kerr, Jacqueline Bisset, Daliah Lavi, and Joanna Pettet. Columbia.

Casque d'or

France (1952): Romance/Drama/Crime
96 min, No rating, Black & White
Also known as GOLDEN MARIE.

Simone Signoret had her finest role (until ROOM AT THE TOP) as a gigolette with a glorious helmet of golden hair in Jacques Becker's sultry, poetic account of the Paris underworld in 1900. Her performance is a triumph of sensuality: faintly smiling, she is so intensely, ripely physical that she takes command of the screen. Becker introduces a world of cutthroats, apaches, and gun molls, and then subtly evokes an atmosphere that gives meaning and passion-and an overdose of doom-to their rivalries and intrigues. The love scenes between Signoret and Serge Reggiani are unusually simple and tender; perhaps because of this, the grim conclusion is almost insupportably painful. The movie is beautifully made, yet there's something touristy about its view of lowlife-"Look, theyhave feelings, too." With Claude Dauphin as the gang leader, Raymond Bussières, and Gaston Modot. Written by Becker and Jacques Companeez; art direction by Jean d'Eaubonne. In French.

Cast a Giant Shadow

US (1966): War/Biography
142 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

Melville Shavelson wrote and directed this big biographical action picture about (Colonel) "Mickey" Marcus (Kirk Douglas), a West Point graduate and an adviser to President Roosevelt during the Second World War, who, at the request of the Israelis, went to Israel in the late 40s to re-organize the army. In this account, based on a book by Ted Berkman, Mickey Marcus is the master strategist who leads the Israelis to victory in the war with the Arabs. Shavelson admires him too much to make him human; he doesn't become a myth-he's a blank. And Shavelson is so eager to please the public that he throws in guest stars, such as Frank Sinatra and Yul Brynner, and agonizes over Mickey's moral conflict between Angie Dickinson, the wife he leaves at home in the U.S., and Senta Berger, the female warrior he takes up with. Even those willing to accept the hours of incoherence and banality may recoil at the obscenity of being asked to experience the horrors of Dachau as reflected in John Wayne's bleary eyes. With Topol, who, briefly, revitalizes the audience, and Hordern, James Donald, Stathis Giallelis, Ruth White, Gordon Jackson, Luther Adler, Gary Merrill, and Jeremy Kemp. Cinematography by Aldo Tonti. Released by United Artists.

Casualties of War

US (1989): War
113 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A great, intense movie about war and rape, based on a Vietnam incident of 1966 that was reported in The New Yorker, October 18, 1969, by the late Daniel Lang. He gave an emotionally devastating account of the actions of a squad of five American soldiers who kidnapped a Vietnamese village girl, raped her, and then covered up their crime by killing her. One of the five men refused to take part in the rape, and, despite threats and attempts on his life, forced the Army to bring the other four to trial. He's the one who suffers from guilt: he can't forgive himself for his inability to save the girl's life. Directed by Brian De Palma, the movie is the culmination of his best work. Sean Penn gives a daring performance as the squad's 20-year-old leader; Michael J. Fox is impressive as the soldier who can't keep quiet; Thuy Thu Le is the dazed, battered girl who haunts the movie long before she's dead. Also with Erik King as Brownie, John Leguizamo as Diaz, John C. Reilly as Hatcher, Don Harvey as Clark, Ving Rhames as Lieutenant Reilly, and Sam Robards as the chaplain. The adaptation (too explicit in a few places) is by David Rabe; the cinematography is by Stephen H. Burum; the music is by Ennio Morricone. Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

A Cat and Two Women

Japan (1956): Comedy
No rating, Black & White
Also known as NEKO TO SHOZO TO FUTARI NO ONNA.

A wry psychological comedy about a man who prefers his cat to his two wives. The tart flavor of the film derives from the familial nastiness: one can't like any of them, one can't even really like the cat. Some of the most famous Japanese players are the leads: the first wife is the legendary Isuzu Yamada (she was in over 300 movies between 1929 and 1956, had been married six times, and was still playing romantic roles); Kyoko Kagawa, usually a demure heroine, plays the unsympathetic second wife; Hisaya Morishige is the indolent, cat-loving husband; the character actress Cheiko Naniwa plays his mother. The manner in which these four scheme for affection and power, using the cat as a decoy, is a perverse object lesson in Japanese mores. The story (by Junichiro Tanizaki) is set among shopkeepers at a small seaside town near Osaka, in the Kansai district. The director, Shiro Toyoda, is more traditional than is usually the case with Japanese directors whose films reach this country, and the narrative construction is a bit trying for American moviegoers, but the film is distinctive enough to be worth the small effort of adjustment. (Japanese movies are notorious for badly selected, derivative music; this one is an exception.) In Japanese.

Cat Ballou

US (1965): Western/Comedy
96 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

A self-consciously cute parody Western about a girl (Jane Fonda) who turns train robber, a lovable old drunken wreck of a gunfighter (Lee Marvin), two gun-shy young cattle rustlers (Michael Callan, Dwayne Hickman), a bronco-busting Indian (Tom Nardini), and assorted robberies, killings, and wisecracks. There are occasional good lines and some nice things: Nat King Cole singing "They'll Never Make Her Cry;" Lee Marvin's ritual preparations for a gunfight; Marvin mistaking funeral candles for a birthday celebration. But mainly it's full of sort-of-funny and trying-to-be-funny ideas. The director Elliot Silverstein's spoofy tone is ineptitude, coyly disguised. Adapted from Roy Chanslor's novel, by Walter Newman and Frank R. Pierson. With Stubby Kaye, John Marley, Bruce Cabot, J.C. Flippen, and Reginald Denny. Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

US (1958): Drama
108 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The Tennessee Williams play about the girl (Elizabeth Taylor) whose husband (Paul Newman) doesn't want to have sex with her. Much hocus-pocus about the reasons; when the "true" reason is revealed it sounds the hokiest. But Taylor looks very desirable, and the cast is full of actors whooping it up with Southern accents (Burl Ives, Judith Anderson, Madeleine Sherwood). Directed by Richard Brooks. MGM. CinemaScope.

Cat People

US (1942): Horror
73 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The psychoanalyst (Tom Conway) calmly explains to his patient (Simone Simon) that her idea that she is turning into a member of the cat family is a fantasy; she silences him with fang and talon. Val Lewton made his name as a producer with this ironic horror film, produced for RKO on a minuscule budget. While other B-budget horror producers were still using gorillas, haunted houses, and disembodied arms, Lewton and the director, Jacques Tourneur, employed suggestion, creepy sound effects, and inventive camera angles, leaving everything to the viewers' fear-filled imagination. Lewton pictures aren't really very good, but they're so much more imaginative than most of the horror films that other producers were grinding out at the time that his ingenuity seemed practically revolutionary. Some of the sequences, such as the scare at the swimming pool, are in their own way classic. The acting of most of the cast isn't up to the effects; with Kent Smith as the Cat Woman's husband, Jane Randolph, Jack Holt, and Alan Napier. Written by DeWitt Bodeen; cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca; editing by Mark Robson.

Cat People

US (1982): Horror
118 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Working with his team-the visual consultant Ferdinando Scarfiotti, the cinematographer John Bailey, and the composer Giorgio Moroder-the director Paul Schrader is perfecting an apocalyptic swank. Each shot looks like an album cover for records you don't ever want to play. The picture (it's set in New Orleans) is meant to be poetic and "legendary." It has all the furnishings for a religious narrative about Eros and Thanatos, but what's going on is that Nastassja Kinski and Malcolm McDowell-the sister and brother with black leopards inside them-are jumping out of their skins and leaving little puddles of guck behind. The obscure proceedings are often ludicrous (especially in the orange-colored primal-dream sequences), yet you don't get to pass the time by laughing, because it's all so queasy and so confusingly put together that you feel shut out. Just when a scene begins to hold some interest, Schrader cuts away from it; the crucial things seem to be happening between the scenes. The film is comatose; you're brought into it only by the camera tricks or the special-effects horrors, or, perhaps, the nude scenes. With John Heard, Annette O'Toole, Ruby Dee, and Ed Begley, Jr. From a script by Alan Ormsby that's a total reworking of the much simpler 1942 film of the same title. Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Catch-22

US (1970): War
121 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Mike Nichols' third picture was this hugely ambitious failure. He gave Joseph Heller's World War II novel-a black comedy about the insanity of military life-a grandiloquent staging, with Terry Southern-style caricatures out of DR. STRANGELOVE and Fellini-style episodes set in Rome, and the picture got so heavy and messagey that the ironies were buried. There's a beautiful flight-tower sequence early on, and there are startling effects and good revue touches here and there, but the picture goes on and on, as if it were determined to impress us. It goes on so long that it cancels itself out, even out of people's memories; it was long awaited and then forgotten almost instantly. With Alan Arkin as Yossarian, Jon Voight, Richard Benjamin, Art Garfunkel, Buck Henry (who also wrote the script), Martin Balsam, Orson Welles, Bob Balaban, Paula Prentiss, Martin Sheen, Jack Gilford, Peter Bonerz, Charles Grodin, Tony Perkins, Bob Newhart, and, in a particularly offensive scene, Marcel Dalio. The acting of some of the high-ranking officers is so gross that at times one thinks the moral must be that as soon as your rank reaches major, you're a monster. Cinematography by David Watkin. Paramount.

The Catered Affair

US (1956): Drama
93 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette Forgettable. Paddy Chayefsky's TV drama, adapted by Gore Vidal, of whom there is no detectable trace. A Bronx cab-driver (Ernest Borgnine) and his shrewish, socially ambitious wife (Bette Davis) wrangle about whether their daughter (Debbie Reynolds) should have a big wedding or a simple ceremony, in which case the father could invest his money in a new taxi. The wife's leprechaun brother (Barry Fitzgerald)-full of Gaelic shenanigans-gets into this drab argument. Richard Brooks directed. With Rod Taylor, Madge Kennedy, and Dorothy Stickney. MGM.

Cattle Annie and Little Britches

US (1980): Western
95 min, Rated PG, Color

An unusual Western with a tip-top cast. The movie is based on the lives of two adolescent girls in the late 19th century who became infatuated with the outlaw heroes they'd read about in Ned Buntline's stories and ran off to join them. The girls (Amanda Plummer, who is excitingly, weirdly lyric in her movie début, and the fastidious young actress Diane Lane) find the mangy, demoralized remnants of the Doolin-Dalton gang, led by the aging Bill Doolin (Burt Lancaster), and try to inspire them to live up to the legend created by Buntline. Scott Glenn, in long sideburns and a mustache, is Bill Dalton, and the gang also includes John Savage. The director, Lamont Johnson, has a warm, honest touch that the actors respond to. He even manages to hold down Rod Steiger, who plays the beady-eyed U.S. marshal chasing Doolin, and the result is one of Steiger's best performances in years. Though the script, by David Eyre and Robert Ward, from Ward's book, doesn't seem to build, and the film isn't as explosively funny as it should be, most of the incidents have a neat, dry humor, and Burt Lancaster's Doolin is a magnificent, sagging old buffalo-a charmer. The cinematography (with crisp, intense color) is by Larry Pizer. A King-Hitzig Production; Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Caught

US (1949): Drama
88 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

This movie, with its portrait of Howard Hughes, is probably the most American of Max Ophüls' American movies. Ophüls had suffered at Hughes' hands-had wasted time on worthless projects and been referred to as "the oaf." In this movie, a vicious, half-mad millionaire (Robert Ryan) marries a young innocent (Barbara Bel Geddes) in order to spite his analyst. The movie centers on the desperate predicament of the girl when, pregnant, she realizes that she is just a cynical joke to her husband. James Mason plays the doctor who tries to help her. Curt Bois appears as the millionaire's slimy pimp-a worm who finally turns. This well-acted, little-publicized melodrama was a financial failure, but it's emotionally complex and has strong undercurrents. Robert Ryan is very convincingly scary. The script, by Arthur Laurents, was ostensibly based on the novel Wild Calendar, by Libby Block, which Enterprise Pictures had hired Ophüls to do, but which he had no interest in. Actually, Laurents built the script on stories that Ophüls told him about Hughes, and on the accounts given by one of Hughes' girls. Cinematography by Lee Garmes; music by Frederick Hollander. MGM.

Cavalcade

US (1933): Drama
110 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

An orgy of British self-congratulation in the restrained, clipped style of Noel Coward, with the added know-how of an American producer (Winfield Sheehan) and a Hollywood director (Frank Lloyd). Americans doted on this gilded tearjerker that begins with Clive Brook and his wife, Diana Wynyard, toasting the advent of the 20th century, and follows the fortunes of their son (Frank Lawton) and their servants (Herbert Mundin and Una O'Connor) up to the present-i.e., when the picture was made. The self-conscious good taste of it all creaks, but Noel Coward knows plenty of tricks, and the performers know how to get the most out of his lines. The cast includes Ursula Jeans, Billy Bevan, Beryl Mercer, and John Warburton and Margaret Lindsay honeymooning on the Titanic. Adaptation of Noel Coward's play by Reginald Berkeley; William Cameron Menzies worked on the war scenes. Fox.

Caveman

US (1981): Comedy
92 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

A funky, buoyant farce, in which Ringo Starr plays Atouk, a peewee caveman who, in order to win the beautiful Lana (Barbara Bach), learns to stand upright and, in one great day, discovers fire and then cooking. That night, he and his group, sitting around the first campfire, discover musical instruments; in about 10 seconds, they're chanting and singing, and 30 seconds later they have moved on to syncopation, and Atouk has become a rock drummer. Making his début as a movie director, Carl Gottlieb (a comedy actor and a co-writer on JAWS, and JAWS 2, and THE JERK), gets crack timing from the whole cast and never lets a routine go on too long. The picture doesn't have the dirt or meanness or malice to make you explode with laughter, but it's consistently enjoyable. With John Matuszak, Dennis Quaid, Shelley Long, Jack Gilford, Avery Schreiber, and four dinosaurs. (Created by highly sophisticated animation techniques, they're domesticated, parody versions of the scary monsters in sci-fi horror films.) Written by Gottlieb and Rudy DeLuca, who devised a 15-word language for the cave people; it's indebted about equally to comic-strip balloonese and Yiddish. Shot in Mexico; with a satiric musical score by Lalo Schifrin. United Artists.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Cesar

France (1936): Drama
170 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The last film of the Marcel Pagnol trilogy (after MARIUS and FANNY) is named for the pivotal character, played by Raimu. César, the proprietor of a waterfront bar-and the soul of the trilogy-is the father of Marius (Pierre Fresnay), who runs off to sea, leaving his fiancée, Fanny (Orane Demazis), pregnant. She marries the kind, middle-aged sailmaker, Panisse (Charpin). In this concluding film-the only one of the three actually directed by Pagnol-Marius and Fanny are, at last, reunited. Pagnol wrote the story for the stage in the 20s, and, despite the Marseilles setting, the films are very literal-minded and constricted. But the actors redeem much of the pedestrian filmmaking. After Raimu's death, J.B. Priestley wrote, "We can magically command him to return out of those flat tins of film, and show us again his rich humanity and massive, deliberate art … The French should erect a monument to the memory of this player, who reminded us that France had known a François Rabelais, a Molière, a Balzac." (There was a 1938 American version, PORT OF SEVEN SEAS, with Wallace Beery at his most offensively "human" as César, and a Broadway musical, Fanny, which compressed the trilogy, was filmed in 1961, retaining the score only as background music and with a miscast Charles Boyer as César.) In French.

Cesar and Rosalie

France-Germany-Italy (1972): Romance/Comedy
104 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Yves Montand, in a jovial, parodistic performance as César, a scrap-metal tycoon-a super-confident self-made man who enjoys being No. 1 in work and in play. He adores Rosalie (Romy Schneider), and there are no obstacles to their happiness; they have everything-yet almost inexplicably, before our eyes, it evaporates. An old love of Rosalie's-an eminent cartoonist (the wan, elegantly despondent Sami Frey)-turns up, and when she sees him again, her feelings about César change. Nobody's fault-just bad luck; it's as if César were cuckolded by a moonbeam. Whenever you think the relationships are going to be stabilized into formulas, the picture wiggles free. It's a fluky, wry ode on the imperfect, haphazard nature of romantic love. What sustains it is that it never takes its three subjects too solemnly; the movie's essential frivolousness makes its melancholy tone acceptable: we can laugh at the characters' self-centered sorrows. Directed by Claude Sautet, the film suggests a chanson. The script is by Sautet and Jean-Loup Dabadie; the whirling, soft-color cinematography is by Jean Boffety. With Umberto Orsini and Isabelle Huppert. In French.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Chained

US (1934): Romance
76 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Joan Crawford and Clark Gable and a superabundance of MGM's big, turgid, melodramatic emotions. It's all somewhere between camp and plod, but with a strong enough sexual current between Crawford and Gable to make it a hit. She plays a woman who's going with a married man (Otto Kruger) when she meets Gable. Clarence Brown directed; the cast includes Stuart Erwin, Akim Tamiroff, Una O'Connor, Marjorie Gateson, and Mickey Rooney. The script by John Lee Mahin was based on an Edgar Selwyn story.

The Champ

US (1931): Sports
87 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Jackie Cooper, who had just scored in the good-natured SKIPPY, was asked to carry this soggy load of heartbreaking melodrama on his all-too-valiant little shoulders. He plays the pathetic son of an alcoholic ex-prizefighter (Wallace Beery, who pulled out more than a few stops and won the Academy Award for best actor) in a tedious story devised by Frances Marion (she got an Academy Award, too)-something about Tiajuana and horse racing and boxing. King Vidor directed. MGM.

The Champagne Murders

France (1967): Crime
98 min, No rating, Color
Also known as LE SCANDALE.

Odd, sardonic murder mystery, directed by Claude Chabrol, released here in an English-language version that never sounds quite right. The characters are affluent, bored, and ambivalent; Chabrol himself seems rather ambivalent about the whole handsome, hollow project. With Maurice Ronet, Tony Perkins, Stéphane Audran, and Yvonne Furneaux. Cinematography by Jean Rabier. Universal.

The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith

Australia (1978): Drama
124 min, No rating, Color

This great Australian film was taken from Thomas Keneally's novel, which is like Nat Turner's story as a lusty ironist-an Irish Nabokov, perhaps-might have written it. The director, Fred Schepisi, dramatizes the inability of the displaced Europeans at the turn of the century (scrabbling tightwads who got where they are by self-denial) to understand the aborigines who live in the remnants of a tribal society with an elaborate structure of claims: men are obliged to give a share of their earnings to their kin, even if their kin are drunken and diseased and want the money only to go on a binge. And men offer their wives to visiting kin as a form of hospitality. To the whites, giving money away is unfathomable laxity, and since the black women are so easily available the white men treat the aboriginal settlements as brothels. Jimmie Blacksmith is a product of one of these visits to a tin shanty: a half-caste who is taught by a Methodist minister, he grows up determined to escape the debased existence of aborigines in their hovels by working hard, buying land, and, as the minister's wife has advised him, marrying a nice white girl off a farm, so his children will be only a quarter black and the next generation scarcely black at all. The film is the grotesque, explosive comedy-tragedy of what happens to this young man; trying to improve himself, he's like a hair-raisingly foolish cross between Jude the Obscure and Gunga Din. When he rebels, it isn't out of conscious militancy or a demand for political justice, it's out of helplessness and frustration. It's as if he had let his unconscious take over. He says he has declared war, but he doesn't wage war directly against the men; he attacks the men's most prized possessions-their robust, well-fed women, their pink-and-white children. With Tommy Lewis as Jimmie, and Freddy Reynolds as laughing Mort, his aborigine half-brother, a loyal, easygoing bum in ragged tweeds who makes us understand what the Europeans have destroyed. This is a large-scale film-a visually impassioned epic.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

The Chapman Report

US (1962): Drama
125 min, No rating, Color

If you want to see how entertaining a trashy American movie can sometimes be, this is a nifty example. It's adapted from an Irving Wallace novel that takes off from The Kinsey Report. Chapman (Andrew Duggan) is doing a study of women's sex behavior in a suburb. This silly, opportunistic premise allows for some stunning performances. The 24-year-old Jane Fonda, brittle and skittish in a broad-brimmed hat, proves herself a skillfully naughty comedienne. The comic veteran Glynis Johns is as deft here as she was in 1952, in THE PROMOTER, when she explained to Alec Guinness about the death of her rich, old husband on their honeymoon-"The doctor said it was over-exertion." And the greatest surprise is Claire Bloom: as the nympho, she's thin, beautiful, exhibitionistic, and quite brilliant. The movie is burdened with Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., but to balance that it has Henry Daniell, and it has color design by Hoyningen-Huené and some amusing dialogue, by Wyatt Cooper and Don M. Mankiewicz. Directed by George Cukor, the picture was initially reputed to be even more of a kick than it is now; Cukor said his version was recut by Darryl F. Zanuck. The cast includes Shelley Winters, Ray Danton, Cloris Leachman, Ty Hardin, Harold J. Stone, John Dehner, Jack Cassidy, Corey Allen, Grady Sutton, and Chad Everett. Warners.

Chappaqua

US (1966): Drama
92 min, No rating, Color and Black & White

Conrad Rooks stars himself in this hokey phantasmagorical-autobiographical account of a spoiled rich boy's drug visions and his attempted cure at a sanatorium in Paris; Jean-Louis Barrault is the attending physician. Eugen Schüfftan started as the cameraman, then was replaced by Robert Frank, who shot most of the startlingly elegant footage, which has been stunningly edited; the sound is also often experimental. But Rooks is at his peak when he shuffles around in his nightie, blinking sleepily; when he tries to act, he's hopeless. He financed the film and takes credit as both director and writer, but there is little evidence of either function. The film seems auto-erotic, in a pre-sexual way; it's put together as a psychedelic turn-on, mostly about the fun and glamour of addiction, with a score by Ravi Shankar, who also appears in the film, as do William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Ornette Coleman, Paula Pritchett, Swami Satchidananda, Moondog, and the Fugs.

Charade

US (1963): Thriller/Comedy
114 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

A debonair macabre thriller-romantic, scary, satisfying. "How do you shave in there?" Audrey Hepburn asks, putting her finger up to the cleft in Cary Grant's chin. (She's trying to seduce a legend.) This piece of high-style kitsch, directed by Stanley Donen, from a smooth, smart script by Peter Stone and Marc Behm, is as enjoyable in its way as THE BIG SLEEP. (Yet it was widely panned when it came out; the mixed tones of comedy and grisliness seemed to offend the press.) The setting is Paris. Hepburn is a young widow who is stalked by the mourners at her husband's funeral. With Walter Matthau, and James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass as scheming thugs. The score is by Henry Mancini; the cinematography is by Charles Lang, Jr.; Hepburn's clothes are by Givenchy. Universal.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

US (1936): War/Adventure
116 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

In this Michael Curtiz version-a military swashbuckler-the foreground story is conventional nonsense about two brothers (Errol Flynn and Patric Knowles), lancers in India, who have quarrelled over a girl (Olivia De Havilland). In historical terms the film is simply a bad joke, yet the patriotic inanities serve a rousing melodramatic function and when the charge comes it is so spectacularly staged and choreographed that it takes over the movie, and it is really all that one remembers. This sequence is a testament to the virtuosity of the second unit. A Warner Brothers production, from a screenplay by Michael Jacoby and Rowland Leigh, with a Max Steiner score. With Nigel Bruce, Donald Crisp, David Niven, C. Aubrey Smith, Spring Byington, Henry Stephenson, C. Henry Gordon, J. Carrol Naish, E.E. Clive, Robert Barrat, and Lumsden Hare.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

UK (1968): Historical
130 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

Tony Richardson's quasi-absurdist vaudeville-epic-a view of the Crimean War with modern revue humor. It's composed of Victorian vignettes, with fragments of dialogue, mostly a few lines leading to a snapper. It's extravagantly pretty (David Watkin shot it); some of it is very funny (especially John Gielgud as the whimsical, doddering supreme commander of the British forces, and an undressing sequence with Trevor Howard and Jill Bennett). And at times, the satire of political platitudes is excruciatingly entertaining. But Richardson and his scenarist, Charles Wood, seem to shrink everything they touch. This epic has so little feeling for the courage that went with the idiocies of the past that it diminishes itself along with its targets. And at the end what should be the military debacle is instead a debacle of staging-you can't figure out what went wrong or who is responsible. With David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave. The interpolated animation (by Richard Williams), which provides the only clear exposition of what's going on in the movie, is remarkably witty and effective.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Going Steady.

Chariots of Fire

UK (1981): Sports/Biography
123 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The story of the courage and the triumph of two young runners who represented Britain in the 1924 Olympics, held in Paris. The runners-Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), a wealthy Jewish boy who is a student at Cambridge, and Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a Scottish divinity student-win because they have something to run for. The unbelievably self-possessed Abrahams runs against anti-Semitic snobbery and prejudices, represented here, rather grandly, by Lindsay Anderson and John Gielgud, as a pair of gargoyles-masters at Cambridge. The devout Liddell runs in an ecstatic state, because "when I run, I feel His pleasure," and the film is structured so that its big crisis comes when Liddell's qualifying heat is scheduled for a Sunday and he refuses to take part. The picture is a piece of technological lyricism held together by the glue of simpleminded heroic sentiment; basically, its appeal is in watching a couple of guys win their races. One good scene: a charming flirtation between Abrahams and a young D'Oyly Carte singer-actress, played by Alice Krige, whose cooing, artificial style is a little reminiscent of Joan Greenwood's purring. Produced by David Puttnam; directed by Hugh Hudson (it's his début film); cinematography by David Watkin. With Ian Holm, Cheryl Campbell, Dennis Christopher, Brad Davis, Nigel Havers, Nicholas Farrell, Nigel Davenport, Patrick Magee, and David Yelland as the Prince of Wales. Academy Awards: Best Picture, Original Screenplay (Colin Welland), Score (Vangelis), Costume Design.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Charley Varrick

US (1973): Crime
111 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

Walter Matthau as a droll, wily bank robber who discovers he has stolen Mafia money, and outsmarts the police and the Mafia, too. He's presented as an underdog figure, an old-timey hood David against the Mafia Goliaths; he traps everyone who stands in his way to freedom, and gets everyone killed. It's noisy and brutal, with sentimental flourishes. The director, Don Siegel, slogs along from scene to scene. This picture's idea of characterization is to have the Mafia man (Joe Don Baker) a boorish racist who says "nigra," and the bland, smooth Mafia-connected banker (John Vernon) an anti-Semite. You may feel sordid watching a scene in which a drunken, cowardly lout (Andy Robinson) slobbers while he's being kicked and butchered. And when the gruesome sequences need suspense, Lalo Schifrin's music beats your ears. With Sheree North, Felicia Farr, and Norman Fell. The script, by Howard Rodman and Dean Riesner, is based on John Reese's novel The Looters. Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Charlie Bubbles

US (1968): Drama
91 min, No rating, Color

Albert Finney as a rich, incredibly famous writer (from a working-class background) who feels alienated. The details are well written (by Shelagh Delaney), and the movie is photographed by Peter Suschitzky in an extremely complicated style that attempts to produce for us the flat unreality of how things look to Charlie-the world with some vital dimension omitted. There is talent in the movie, but a larger dose of irritation. The dreariness of Charlie's life, though deliberate and stylized, alienates the audience, too. With Liza Minnelli and Billie Whitelaw-she's wonderful as Charlie's ex-wife. Finney directed. Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Going Steady.

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