The Three Musketeers

US (1948): Comedy/Adventure
125 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

In grinning, leaping homage to Douglas Fairbanks, Gene Kelly plunges his sword into dozens of extras, vaults onto more horses than there are in a rodeo, swings from assorted drapes and chandeliers, and hops about 17th-century rooftops. His D'Artagnan veers between romance and burlesque, but is always enjoyable. However, the lavish MGM production is a heavy, roughhousing mess. As Lady de Winter, Lana Turner sounds like a drive-in waitress exchanging quips with hot-rodders, and, as Richelieu, Vincent Price might be an especially crooked used-car dealer. (The studio didn't want to offend anyone, so this Richelieu doesn't wear clerical trappings, and is never addressed by his ecclesiastical title.) Angela Lansbury wears the crown of France as if she'd won it in a milking contest at a county fair, and, as Lady Constance, June Allyson looks like a little girl done up in Mama's clothes. Kelly's amorous grapplings don't seem as strenuous as they actually were: he threw Lana Turner on her bed so hard that she fell off it and broke her elbow. He should have thrown the director, George Sidney, and the costume designer, Walter Plunkett, who swaddled the performers. Among them are Van Heflin, Gig Young, Frank Morgan, Keenan Wynn, John Sutton, Ian Keith, Patricia Medina, Robert Coote, and Reginald Owen. Produced by Pandro S. Berman, from Robert Ardrey's script.

The Three Musketeers

UK (1974): Comedy/Adventure
105 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

This Richard Lester version was produced in the counterculture period--a time when some of the most talked about films made corruption seem inevitable and hence something you learn to live with; Lester saw corruption as slapstick comedy, and he turned out an absurdist debauch on swashbuckler themes. He keeps his actors--Michael York, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Frank Finlay, Faye Dunaway, Raquel Welch, Geraldine Chaplin, Charlton Heston, Spike Milligan, Roy Kinnear, Christopher Lee, Simon Ward, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Michael Gothard, and Victor Spinetti--at a distance and scales the characters down to subnormal size. They're letching, carousing buffoons. Their derring-do isn't subverted; it's just cancelled out. Lester's decorative clutter is the best thing about the film: he loves scurrilous excess. But the whole thing feels hectic and forced. You want some gallantry and charm; you don't want joke, joke, joke. The second half was shot together with the first but released separately, as THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (THE REVENGE OF MILADY). The screenplay, based on Dumas, is by George MacDonald Fraser; the cinematography, by David Watkin, is ravishing (though Lester devalues the images by throwing them together so fast); the production design is by Brian Eatwell; the costumes are by Yvonne Blake de Carretero; the music is by Michel Legrand. Toledo, in Spain, is used for 17th-century Paris. Released by 20th Century-Fox.

Three on a Match

US (1932): Drama
64 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Bette Davis, Joan Blondell, and Ann Dvorak (who goes through some steamy emotions) are the girls who grew up together and, after several years, meet again in the big city. At lunch one day, they light three cigarettes on one match, and, according to the superstition (which is said to have been invented and publicized by Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish match king), there's bad luck ahead. A modest, entertaining little melodrama from Warners, directed by Mervyn LeRoy. With Warren William, Glenda Farrell, Lyle Talbot, Humphrey Bogart, Patricia Ellis, Edward Arnold, Jack La Rue, Grant Mitchell, Clara Blandick, and Allen Jenkins. Written by Lucien Hubbard, Kubec Glasmon, and John Bright. (Remade in 1938, as BROADWAY MUSKETEERS, with Marie Wilson in the Davis role.)

Three Smart Girls

US (1936): Musical/Comedy
84 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Deanna Durbin's début picture, in which the happy, toothsome 14-year-old soprano conquered audiences and rescued Universal Pictures. And you can see why. This is the definitive "family picture": three shiny-eyed sisters (Deanna and Barbara Read and Nan Grey) swing into action when they see the tears of their divorced mother (Nella Walker), who has learned that their father (Charles Winninger) is about to marry a gold-digging blonde. There are solid pros in the surrounding cast--Binnie Barnes as the blonde, Alice Brady as her scheming mother, Ray Milland, Mischa Auer, Ernest Cossart, Lucile Watson, and Hobart Cavanaugh--and they do a lot of grinning. The picture is idiotically turned on to wholesome happiness, but it isn't boring. That master of sentimental engineering, Joe Pasternak, produced; Henry Koster directed. The script is by Adele Comandini, with some assistance from Austin Parker.

Three's a Crowd

US (1927): Comedy
72 min, No rating, Black & White

James Agee wrote that Harry Langdon looked "as if he wore diapers under his pants." This was fine as long as Langdon was doing slapstick, but when he sought pathos the results were horrible--sickly whimsical. He directed himself in this Chaplin imitation. He plays the Odd Fellow, who lives by himself and longs for romance and a happy home. On a stormy winter's night, The Girl he has loved, who has married another, comes to his shack and has her baby there. On Christmas Eve, just as happiness begins shedding its tender rays, The Girl's husband arrives and takes her and the child away. Having prepared for the role of Santa Claus, The Odd Fellow is left with torn heartstrings--and a box-office calamity. Silent. First National.

Threshold

Canada (1981): Drama
97 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

This hospital drama about the implanting of an experimental artificial heart in a desperately ill young woman (Mare Winningham) is perhaps too antiseptic and quietly intelligent; it's underdramatized--the dramatic excitement doesn't start until about an hour and a quarter in, and the end doesn't seem to take you anywhere. Yet it's very well written, by James Salter, and though it has a tedious self-conscious side, it develops its own kind of intensity. The cool imagery (the cinematographer is Michel Brault) has a beautiful formality, and the director, Richard Pearce, works well with the cast. Donald Sutherland is somewhat sacramental as the risk-taking surgeon (based on Dr. Denton Cooley, who was the subject of a Life cover story that Salter wrote); Jeff Goldblum provides some comedy in the role of a publicity-hound biologist (and heart inventor) who talks too much, especially on TV. Also with Sharon Acker, Robert Joy, Michael Lerner, John Marley, Allan Nicholls, and a glimpse of Cooley, who served as technical adviser. (His presence may account for the restraint--and the excess of spirituality--in Sutherland's performance.) A Canadian production, the film was shot mostly in Toronto but is set in Los Angeles. The score is by Mickey Erbe and Maribeth Solomon. Released by 20 Century-Fox.

Throne of Blood

Japan (1957): War/Drama
108 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc
Also known as KUMONOSU-JO.

Kurosawa's version of Macbeth is a virtuoso exercise, as stylized and formalist in its way as Eisenstein's IVAN THE TERRIBLE movies, though not as ponderous or as inexplicably strange. This is like a demonstration of the uses of violence, decor, pageantry, and costuming, and it's almost a textbook in the techniques for making a movie move. Besides that, it has the great Isuzu Yamada washing her bloody hands, and West or East, there may never be a more chilling Lady Macbeth. Kurosawa is at his playful best when Birnam Wood advances on the castle, and that's just it--he loves this sort of effect so much it's all play. The ending, with Toshiro Mifune's Macbeth stuck full of arrows, like a porcupine-quill cushion, suggests the wildest Kabuki tradition. (Eisenstein was also fascinated by Kabuki.) The action for its own sake can seem like an orgy of masculine delight in warfare. Its greatness is in Kurosawa's glorious bad taste; he flings mad, absurd images on the screen. He has the courage to go over the top. Just one effect seems a mistake: when he uses a mechanical device (slowing down the sound) to simulate a witch's voice. (It's too obvious a trick.) With Takashi Shimura. In Japanese.

Thunder Rock

UK (1942): Drama
112 min, No rating, Black & White

Michael Redgrave, perhaps the finest exponent of neurotic tensions in movies of the period, as a young war correspondent who becomes disillusioned and retires to an ivory tower--a lighthouse. He is haunted by immigrants whose ship was lost there a century before, and they talk to him and restore his ideals. Adapted by Jeffrey Dell and Bernard Miles from Robert Ardrey's play, this ambitious movie is spectacularly handsome (especially the scenes outside the lighthouse); yet the situation is very theatrical--those dead people seem an awfully elaborate contrivance just to re-invigorate the hero. There are some fine, photogenic performers among them, though: Lilli Palmer (who's very touching), Barbara Mullen, Frederick Valk, and Finlay Currie. And James Mason, who plays a live visitor to the lighthouse, provides a strong, clashing presence; when he and Redgrave speak together, their voices ring out. At one point, Redgrave loses control and smacks him, and Mason says something on the order of "That's the trouble with Irish whiskey--you don't know you've been drinking until you're delirious," and there's surprising power in the scene. It's too bad that there isn't more of Mason and less of those worthy immigrants. Produced and directed by, respectively, John and Roy Boulting; cinematography by Mutz Greenbaum.

Thunderball

UK (1965): Spy
129 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Sean Connery as James Bond. The setting is Caribbean; the enemy is Adolfo Celi, the mastermind of SPECTRE, who stoops to using sharks. Terence Young directed. Not bad, but not quite top-grade Bond. A little too much underwater war-ballet. With Claudine Auger and Luciana Paluzzi, and, of course, Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell. The script was written by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins. United Artists.

Thunderbolt

US (1929): Drama
91 min, No rating, Black & White

This Josef von Sternberg underworld melodrama (which he did just before he went to Germany and made THE BLUE ANGEL) was filmed as a silent and released in that form in some places, but sound was added after the film was completed, and it was more generally released as a talkie. George Bancroft is the gang leader known as Thunderbolt; Fay Wray is his gun moll, Ritzy; Richard Arlen is the bank clerk who knew her before she took up with Thunderbolt, and wants to marry her. Bancroft was such a genial, large-spirited actor that he makes Thunderbolt likable even while he's framing the bank clerk for murder. The two men wind up facing each other in opposite cells on death row. Tully Marshall is very funny as the agitated, sly, vaguely philanthropic warden. The picture is an imitation of von Sternberg's 1927 hit, UNDERWORLD, also starring Bancroft, and it isn't in the same class, but the first half isn't bad. After that, the contrivances are threadbare. With Eugénie Besserer as Arlen's mother, and Fred Kohler as Bad Al. Written by Jules Furthman and Herman J. Mankiewicz. Paramount.

Thursday's Children

UK (1954): Documentary
No rating, Black & White

This short film was made by Lindsay Anderson and Guy Brenton at the Royal School for Deaf and Dumb Children in England. It's a documentary that seems to transcend the documentary form: it becomes a fresh, almost lyric series of visual impressions of intent, observant faces and small bodies in movement. Cinematography by Walter Lassally.

THX-1138

US (1971): Science Fiction
88 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

George Lucas's first feature--a psychedelic view of the horrors of the 25th century, which turns out to be an abstract version of 1984. The compulsorily drugged characters are shaven-headed, wear white, and are photographed against white; the effect is both gloomy and blinding. Maggie McOmie and anxious-eyed Robert Duvall are the lovers; Donald Pleasence is the nasty, as usual. Some talent but too much "art." Movie lovers may enjoy ticking off the homages or steals--Cocteau's ORPHEUS, Dreyer's THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, and so on. With Ian Wolfe, Marshall Efron, and Irene Forrest. Screenplay by Lucas and Walter Murch, from Lucas's story; titles and animation by Hal Barwood; editing by Lucas, with sound montages by Murch; cinematography by Dave Myers and Albert Kihn; music by Lalo Schifrin. An American Zoetrope Production (the executive producer was Francis Ford Coppola) for Warners.

Thy Kingdom Come… Thy Will Be Done

UK-US (1988): Documentary/Religious
107 min, No rating, Color

This powerful and thoughtful documentary has a great subject: the union of Christian fundamentalism and the political right, which was engineered in the 80s by the use of computers, direct mail, and organized phone campaigns. The English producer-writer-director Antony Thomas comes on too strong at first, but he settles down quickly. He knows how to ask piercing questions without being hostile, and how to keep the footage tense and dramatic. And he shows deep-felt empathy with the people drawn into the born-again movement. In the second half, in which he examines the First Baptist Church of Dallas--the "richest and most powerful stronghold" of the religious right--he gets into the subject of how rich Christians keep themselves comfortable in their faith while abandoning the core of Christ's teachings. The film's central character is (Dr.) W.A. Criswell, the dignified white-haired pastor of First Baptist, who preaches the Gospel of Success. The crew was American, headed by the cinematographer Curtis Clark. Co-financed by Britain's Central Television and by WGBH (the PBS station in Boston).
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Ticket to Heaven

Canada (1981): Drama
107 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

A Canadian film on a hot, dramatic subject. On a trip to San Francisco, the hero (Nick Mancuso), a handsome young Toronto schoolteacher, is sucked into a religious cult that worships its Oriental founder. Deprived of sleep, of food, and of any solitude for reflection, he gradually shrinks into a smiling child-zombie panhandler, part of a team selling flowers on the streets. It's a plausible metamorphosis: his independent spirit is visibly drained away until his greatest excitement is joining with the others in the chant "Bring in the money! Stay awake! Smash out Satan!" As the hero's friend, a would-be standup comic who organizes a kidnapping plot to rescue him, Saul Rubinek rescues the movie, too, by providing it with some personality. Rubinek has a wry, affectionate manner and bright, brimming eyes that register double-takes. After the kidnapping, when the bullying de-programmer (R.H. Thomson) stalks in and takes over, the dramatic logic collapses, because the director, Ralph L. Thomas, and his co-writer, Anne Cameron, haven't clarified the steps in the de-programming process (if it is a process, rather than just hit or miss). The picture could have used a better script and more taut direction, but the subject in itself makes it fairly compelling. Based on Josh Freed's 1978 newspaper series and on his 1980 book Moonwebs. With Meg Foster, Guy Boyd, and Robert Joy.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

A Ticket to Tomahawk

US (1950): Western/Comedy
90 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

Written by Mary Loos and directed by Richard Sale, this is a pleasantly offbeat railroad comedy. The train in it may be the only one you'll ever see that takes its track with it. With Dan Dailey, Anne Baxter, Rory Calhoun, Walter Brennan, Sen Yung, Connie Gilchrist, and, though you might miss her if you're distracted for a minute, Marilyn Monroe. 20th Century-Fox.

Tiger Shark

US (1932): Drama
80 min, No rating, Black & White

The material of this brisk (80-minute) Howard Hawks melodrama is naďve and far from virgin-new, but the movie is freshly and powerfully directed, and the tired plot is filled out by surprisingly exciting footage of tuna fishing in the Pacific. Edward G. Robinson gives a shrewd, energetic performance as the Portuguese captain of a tuna boat; the beautiful, sullen, dark-eyed Zita Johann is his wife, and his best friend (Richard Arlen) is, inevitably, in love with her. Wells Root did the script, from Tuna, by Houston Branch. With Vince Barnett and J. Carrol Naish. Warners.

Tight Little Island

UK (1949): Comedy
82 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as WHISKY GALORE!

The only amusing famine in movie history is the whiskey famine on the mythical Scottish island of Todday; the wartime ration of whiskey has run out, and the island is devastated by drought. Then a ship bound for the United States with 50,000 cases of Scotch is wrecked on the shore, and the parched islanders take on the sweet task of salvage. Alexander Mackendrick directed this convivial little classic, based on Compton Mackenzie's novel Whisky Galore, adapted by Mackenzie and Angus MacPhail. With Joan Greenwood, Gordon Jackson, Basil Radford, Catherine Lacey, James Robertson Justice, A.E. Matthews, Jean Cadell, John Gregson, Mackenzie himself, and a contingent of gloomy Scots. Photographed on Barra, the Hebrides.

Tightrope

US (1984): Thriller
114 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Clint Eastwood is Homicide Inspector Wes Block, of the New Orleans Police Department, who is investigating a series of murders: young prostitutes are being tortured, raped, and strangled. The gimmick is that Wes is struggling with dark, sexist impulses, and that the killer is his doppelgänger and carries out his sadistic fantasies. The writer-director Richard Tuggle keeps whomping us on the skull with good-evil symbolism, but the movie has no more depth than the usual exploitation film in which pretty girls are knocked off. (Their naked corpses are photographed more tenderly than their live bodies.) And the movie has a queasy (unexplored) aspect: Eastwood's own 12-year-old daughter, Alison, who looks like him and acts like him, plays Wes's daughter Amanda, whom the doppelgänger means to rape. There's no progression in the plot--it's just one body after another--and the picture just grinds along. Eastwood seems to want to be fiery, but he doesn't have it in him--there's no vigor or puritan grandeur in Wes Block's character. And there's nothing in the psycho doppelgänger (played by Marco St. John)--he's just a bogeyman. The movie is like a sombre, pedestrian HALLOWEEN. With Genevičve Bujold, Janet MacLachlan, and Jamie Rose; cinematography by Bruce Surtees. A Malpaso Production, for Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

Till the Clouds Roll By

US (1946): Musical/Dance/Biography
137 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This monster thing, spawned at MGM, was meant to be the life of Jerome Kern. Robert Walker was the actor given the role (unlucky Walker was also miscast as Brahms), and he was surrounded by an all-star troupe that included Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Van Johnson, Dinah Shore, Tony Martin, June Allyson, and Frank Sinatra, who, in perhaps the most ill-conceived sequence in this staggeringly ill-conceived venture, sings "Ol' Man River" in white tie and white tails. There are 22 songs by Kern, most of them reasonably well performed, but not one performed memorably. Richard Whorf directed; Vincente Minnelli staged some of the sequences.

Time After Time

US (1979): Science Fiction/Drama
112 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Nicholas Meyer, the author of several popular novels (among them THE SEVEN-PER-CENT SOLUTION, which he also adapted for the screen), turned director with this tall tale about H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) and Jack the Ripper (David Warner). The movie doesn't fully succeed: McDowell's shy, flustered Wells doesn't fit the Wells of our recollections, and the Ripper, with his big, bony hands, is too frighteningly sociopathic to fit into the film's romantic framework. (His murders are gruesome.) But most of the plotting is ingenious, and soft-faced Mary Steenburgen, as the woman from 20th-century San Francisco who is charmed by the Victorian Wells, makes it all semi-engaging. She's very sweet in an out-of-it way--a stoned cupcake--and she and McDowell seem to belong together in an enchanted playroom. With Patti D'Arbanville, who's terrific as a hooker, and Charles Cioffi, Joseph Maher, and Corey Feldman. From a story by Karl Alexander and Steve Hayes; the cinematography is by Paul Lohmann; the production design is by Edward C. Carfagno; the music is by Miklós Rózsa. An Orion Release through Warners.

Time Bandits

UK (1981): Fantasy/Comedy
110 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Written by two members of the "Monty Python" group, Michael Palin and the American expatriate Terry Gilliam, who also directed, this surreal adventure fantasy has been conceived as a movie for children and adults. It's about a little English boy who is hurtled from one era to another by a pack of six dwarfs who have stolen The Supreme Being's map of the holes in the space-time continuum, and it's as picaresque as you can get, with Ian Holm as Napoleon, John Cleese as Robin Hood, Sean Connery as Agamemnon, Ralph Richardson as The Supreme Being, who's too busy to get his three-piece-suit pressed, and David Warner, who's a great-looking Evil Genius--he wears talons and a Nixon nose out of a David Levine drawing. (The light shining up from hell makes his nostrils red.) All this seems to do something for the 8-to 12-year-old boys in the audience-the ones known to be very high on d & d (Dungeons and Dragons)-that it may not do for adults, who will probably see and hear a lot of jokes without feeling much impulse to laugh. The whimsical rhythms of the vaudeville-skit humor often seem to be the result of mistiming; the interludes with Palin and Shelley Duvall as wonky sweethearts are especially musty--the two of them seem more amused than the audience. Gilliam has a cacophonous imagination; even the magical incongruities are often cancelled out by the incessant buzz of cleverness. It's far from a bad movie, but it doesn't quite click together, either.The director doesn't shape the material satisfyingly; this may be one of those rare pictures that suffers from a surfeit of good ideas. With David Rappaport, Kenny Baker, Jack Purvis, Mike Edmonds, Malcolm Dixon, and Tiny Ross as the bandits; the boy is Craig Warnock, and Peter Vaughan and Katherine Helmond are The Ogre and his wife. Songs by George Harrison.

The Time Machine

US (1960): Science Fiction
103 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Entertaining George Pal sci-fi, loosely derived from the H.G. Wells novel and set at about the time the book was written--1895. The plush Victorian furnishings in the home of the time-travelling scientist (Rod Taylor) are contrasted with the catacombs of the cannibalistic future, where Yvette Mimieux is a dainty morsel on the menu. The machine itself is a beauty, with a red velvet seat and gadgets made of ivory and rock crystal, and the time-travel effects help to make this film one of the best of its kind. However, it deteriorates into comic-strip grotesqueries when the fat, ogreish future race of Morlocks torments the effete, platinum-blond, vacant-eyed race of Eloi. With Alan Young, Sebastian Cabot, and Whit Bissell. MGM.

Times Gone By

Italy (1951): Drama
106 min, No rating, Black & White
Also known as ALTRI TEMPI.

This is a lavish episodic film, based on stories, plays, and sketches by well-known Italian writers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Peasants argue about "a matter of property;" would-be lovers go to great pains to achieve a clandestine meeting and then fritter away their time quarrelling; two children who are separated feel the first stirrings of love. There's a Pirandello one-act play, The Vise, and there's a witty finale, The Trial of Phryne, in which Vittorio De Sica as an arm-waving lawyer defends Gina Lollobrigida, the amiably loose woman of the town who is charged with murder. It's florid, with great verve--it's the only real reason to see the (tolerable but uneven) movie. Alessandro Blasetti directed. In Italian.

Tin Men

US (1987): Comedy
112 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Written and directed by Barry Levinson, this movie about aluminum-siding salesmen in Baltimore in 1963 (the year that the state cracked down on their bunco games) is a middle-aged echo of his 1982 film DINER. He's making essentially the same point--that guys relate better to guys than they do to girls. His basic theme here is the stunted imaginative life of the businessman who hangs out at the racetrack because he can feel good about himself when he's joking with his business pals. (The men's get-togethers are a form of consciousness-lowering.) The picture centers on a feud between two strutting tin men--Richard Dreyfuss and Danny De Vito--who work for different outfits, and on Dreyfuss's trying to score off De Vito by seducing his wife (Barbara Hershey). The salesmen's scams are entertaining, but their spritzing is too tame, and the action is prolonged with limp, wavering scenes. Levinson wants to be on the humane side of every issue. The best work is done by the supporting players. Dreyfuss's sales team includes John Mahoney as his partner, and Seymour Cassel, Matt Craven, Richard Portnow, Alan Blumenfeld, and Michael Tucker as the boss. De Vito's team includes Jackie Gayle as his partner, and Stanley Brock, Bruno Kirby, and J.T. Walsh as the boss. Touchstone (Disney).
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Tin Pan Alley

US (1940): Musical
94 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Big, splashy, pinheaded musical in the tasteless 20th Century-Fox style, with Alice Faye (the Fox queen of the 30s, on her way down), Betty Grable (scheduled to become the Fox queen of the 40s), the Nicholas Brothers, Jack Oakie, Billy Gilbert, and that Fox inevitable John Payne. The numerous songs include "Honeysuckle Rose," "You Say the Sweetest Things," "The Sheik of Araby," "On Moonlight Bay," and "K-K-K-Katy." Walter Lang directed.

Titanic

US (1953): Historical
98 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

In 1912, the Titanic, the largest ship in the world, struck an iceberg while on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York and sank. Of the 2,207 people board, only 690 survived. The disaster was one of the most terrifying and fascinating in maritime history, but one wouldn't guess it from this movie. The scriptwriters (Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, and Richard Breen) describe the emotional ups and downs of an unbelievable American fop (Clifton Webb); his estranged wife (Barbara Stanwyck), whom he is trying to win back; and their dreary kids. While the Titanic goes racing along, Webb and Stanwyck argue the respective merits of the Continent and the Middle West as a place to bring up children, until Stanwyck gets so heated about the advantages of the prairie that she informs him that she's cuckolded him and his son isn't even his. Unstrung by this information, Webb dashes to the ship's bar and plays bridge furiously for many hours. It should be funny, but it isn't even that. In standard variations of GRAND HOTEL style, the cast includes an unfrocked priest (Richard Basehart), an obtrusive bore (Allyn Joslyn), a rich and salty Western lady (Thelma Ritter), and the doomed master of the ship (Brian Aherne). Jean Negulesco directed; the actual sinking looks like a nautical tragedy on the pond in Central Park. Also with Robert Wagner and Audrey Dalton. Brackett produced, for 20th Century-Fox.

Titicut Follies

US (1967): Documentary
87 min, No rating, Black & White

Fred Wiseman's first documentary, photographed in the state hospital for the criminally insane at Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Crude in technique, but a revealing (and shocking) piece of visual muckraking. It has some unforgettable scenes.

To Be or Not to Be

US (1942): War/Drama/Comedy
99 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Some people have great affection for this anti-Nazi comedy-melodrama, with its knockabout seriousness. The stars are Carole Lombard and Jack Benny, bizarrely cast as a famous Polish actress and her actor-husband; the plot involves actors disguising themselves as Nazis in order to foil the Nazis. Ernst Lubitsch, who directed, starts off on the wrong foot and never gets his balance; the performers yowl their lines, and the burlesque of the Nazis, who cower before their superior officers, is more crudely gleeful than funny. With Robert Stack, Lionel Atwill, Stanley Ridges, Felix Bressart, Tom Dugan (as Hitler), Sig Rumann, Maude Eburne, Halliwell Hobbes, and Miles Mander. Produced by Lubitsch and Alexander Korda, for United Artists. Edwin Justus Mayer wrote the script, from a story conceived by Lubitsch and Melchior Lengyel. Cinematography by Rudolph Maté. It was Lombard's last film; two weeks after completing it, she was killed in a plane crash while on a tour to sell defense bonds.

To Be or Not to Be

US (1983): War/Comedy
108 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This remake of Ernst Lubitsch's 1942 picture about a Polish theatre troupe that outwits Nazi officialdom is a mild farce--benign but not really very funny. The roles once played by Jack Benny and Carole Lombard--the husband and wife who run the theatre and are its stars--are now filled by Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. With her thick, dark curly hair cut short, pencil-line 30s eyebrows, a broad, lascivious smile, and her body jiggling in silver lamé, Bancroft is friendly and sexy, and she seems more at ease in the general silliness than Brooks does. He rushes around in one disguise after another, pretending to be a whole series of Nazis; he never cuts loose. The tall, dazed Christopher Lloyd has a good moment or two, and Charles Durning (as a Nazi colonel) keeps his energy up high enough to give the picture a boost. Others in the cast include José Ferrer, Jack Riley, Tim Matheson, George Gaynes, and, in a new subplot, James Haake as a fey homosexual. Directed by Alan Johnson, who doesn't seize his opportunities to work up a head of steam; the film's high spot is its opening number--"Sweet Georgia Brown," sung in Polish. The semi-new script is by Thomas Meehan and Ronny Graham. Produced by Mel Brooks, for 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

To Catch a Thief

US (1955): Romance/Crime/Comedy
106 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The later, jaded Alfred Hitchcock leans to malice and manner. He gets by with it here, largely because of Cary Grant's elegance as a retired cat burglar, and the luscious, sunny Riviera scenery, and Grace Kelly--she actually looks alive, and she's sexier than she is in anything else. The suspense plot (reprised in the 1974 THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER) isn't much; there are few thrills in this romantic comedy-thriller--it's no more than a pleasant minor diversion, but it does have a zingy air of sophistication. With Jessie Royce Landis, Charles Vanel, John Williams, and Brigitte Auber. The screenplay by John Michael Hayes is based on a novel by David Dodge. Paramount.

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