US (1989): Drama
117 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Making his first movie, Gary David Goldberg, the "creator" of the TV series "Family Ties," has attempted to open his sit-com sensibility to real life; he's filled DAD with therapeutic lore about old age and hospital care, as if moviemaking were a form of community service. Now 78 and retired from his blue-collar job, Dad (Jack Lemmon) is dominated by his wife (Olympia Dukakis), who does everything for him, enfeebling him. But when his wife has a heart attack and is hospitalized, his Wall Street investment-banker son (Ted Danson) arrives, moves in with him, and stirs him to action: the helpless old coot comes alive. That's only the beginning; the movie keeps going through permutations until, finally, the banker hero's devotion to Dad helps him reach out to his own (estranged, college-age) son, played by Ethan Hawke. This is a saga: three (television) generations. At the start, Lemmon has vanished almost totally into his role, but soon he's so insufferably perky and boyish and obliging that you feel he deserves the puling lines that Goldberg gives him. With Kathy Baker, Kevin Spacey, Zakes Mokae, and J.T. Walsh. Based on the William Wharton novel. Amblin Entertainment, for Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Daddy Long Legs

US (1955): Romance/Musical/Dance
126 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This story of a May-December romance between an adorable orphan and her benefactor was published in 1912; it became a 1914 play starring Ruth Chatterton, a 1919 silent movie with Mary Pickford, and a 1931 talkie with Janet Gaynor. By the time Leslie Caron and Fred Astaire made this musical version, the accumulated adorableness was overpowering. Everybody involved seems to be trying to compensate for the dated sentimental material. Astaire doesn't look comfortable in the balletic "Guardian Angel" dance he does with Caron, and her healthy gamine charm calls attention to the age difference between them. He was about 56, she perhaps 24, and when he tries to looked charmed by her, his smiles appear forced, even pained. These two don't connect. There's one lively number-"Sluefoot"-but the two overdressed ballets choreographed by Roland Petit seem endless. Johnny Mercer did come through with a new song, "Something's Gotta Give." Directed by Jean Negulesco, from a script by Phoebe and Henry Ephron. With Thelma Ritter, Fred Clark, Larry Keating, and Terry Moore. 20th Century-Fox. CinemaScope.

The Damned

Italy-West Germany (1969): Drama
155 min, Rated X, Color, Available on videocassette

Luchino Visconti's view of the depravity in the Third Reich-grandiose, lurid, sluggish. The Nazis are rotten, scheming degenerates; green lights play on their faces and they look like werewolves talking politics. When the young hero's impersonation of Marlene Dietrich is interrupted by the news that "in Berlin, the Reichstag is burning," he goes into a snit. Visconti is grimly serious about all this curling-lip-and-thin-eyebrow decadence. The centerpiece is the orgy and massacre of Roehm's homosexual Brown Shirts, with gorgeous naked boys in black lace panties; he doesn't seem sure what attitude to take and he stages it immaculately, reverentially. Ingrid Thulin is the fag-hag mother, a Krupp-Borgia baroness who turns her son (Helmut Berger) into a dope-addicted transvestite; he molests little girls and eventually beds down with mother-which is too much even for her and turns her into a zombie. It's really a story about a good boy who loves his wicked mother, and how she emasculates him and makes him decadent-the basic mother-son romance of homoerotic literature, dressed up in Nazi drag. With Dirk Bogarde, Helmut Griem, Charlotte Rampling, Florinda Bolkan, and Umberto Orsini. Though some of the actors speak their own English, this version of THE DAMNED has all the disadvantages of a dubbed movie-everything sounds stilted and slightly off. The characters talk in a language that belongs to no period or country and sounds like translated subtitles.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

The Damned Don't Cry

US (1950): Crime
103 min, No rating, Black & White

A rigid-faced Joan Crawford, in a role that would make sense only if played by a ravishing young beauty. She's twice too old for it, and her acting is grim and masklike. She plays a woman from a drab background who wants money and power, and thinks she'll do anything to get them; she leaves her husband and takes up with gangsters. Steve Cochran, who's one of them, has the only appealing role; he has some energy and freshness, and the picture dies when he's killed off. With Kent Smith, David Brian, Selena Royle, and Richard Egan. Directed (unexcitingly) by Vincent Sherman, from a script by Harold Medford and Jerome Weidman, based on Gertrude Walker's novel Case History. Warners.

Dance With a Stranger

UK (1985): Crime/Biography
101 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Set in London in 1954 and 1955, and featuring Miranda Richardson as Ruth Ellis, the demi-prostitute who put a few slugs in her weakling young lover (played by Rupert Everett), and was the last woman in England to be sent to the gallows, this English film might be described as kitchen-sink film noir. Working from a no-nonsense script by Shelagh Delaney, the director, Mike Newell, doesn't give you a minute's relief. He's obviously biting off a serious theme-he might be chewing on tinfoil. Trying for an unsentimental look at England's cold hypocrisy about class and sex, he seems mortally afraid of light. He shoots in dim, smoky interiors, in a color range from olive-drab to gray. The picture is assaultingly cramped and monotonous; it's all style-style used to show us the shabbiness of the characters' lives and how they're all trapped, doing what's inevitable. Miranda Richardson's hard-edged, snippy performance took a lot of technique, and you see it all. She acts as if every cell in her body were overstimulated; she can't stop acting, even when a viewer is begging her to, hoping for a glimpse of something besides white-knuckled control. With Ian Holm and Jane Bertish. Cinematography by Peter Hannan.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Dance, Fools, Dance

US (1931): Crime
81 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Rich playgirl Joan Crawford goes to work as a reporter after her father is wiped out in the stock-market crash; her weak brother (William Bakewell) gets involved with gangsters. Turgid, forgettable melodrama, with Crawford proving what a great girl she is and winning a millionaire (Lester Vail). Redeeming features: Clark Gable, before his starring days, as a wicked gangland boss, and Cliff Edwards as a reporter. Harry Beaumont directed. MGM.

Dance, Girl, Dance

US (1940): Musical/Dance
90 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The RKO B-movie plot undermines the attempts of the director, Dorothy Arzner, and the writers, Tess Slesinger and Frank Davis, to work in modern, liberated-woman attitudes. Maureen O'Hara plays a hardworking ballet dancer and Lucille Ball, also a dancer, is "Bubbles," a tough, generous-hearted gold-digger who gets a job in burlesque. Friends, they both become entangled with a millionaire playboy (a disastrously stilted performance by Louis Hayward), and it seems to take forever for O'Hara to discover that her future lies with Ralph Bellamy, the head of a ballet company. Lucille Ball gives the flabby film some bounce when she does her long-legged semi-burlesque numbers, and, as a club owner, Harold Huber has a nifty scene of reacting to O'Hara's dancing (mildly, appreciatively) and then reacting to Ball's strutting (with shiny-eyed fervor). With Maria Ouspenskaya as a former Russian ballerina now teaching in New York, Virginia Field, Katharine Alexander, Mary Carlisle, Edward Brophy, Walter Abel, Sidney Blackmer, Emma Dunn, Ernest Truex, and Chester Clute. Based on a Vicki Baum story. Handsomely designed and shot, in .

Dancing Mothers

US (1926): Drama
60 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Clara Bow, Alice Joyce, and Conway Tearle are the stars in this flapper period piece-a scandalous success in its day. The clothes of the 20s are worn triumphantly by the alarmingly active Miss Bow and the languidly patrician Joyce. The sentiments are frightfully noble, though the serviceable theme-mother-daughter competition-was later used for less noble (and less amusing) effects in movies such as MILDRED PIERCE. Glittering sheaths enclose Elsie Lawson, Dorothy Cumming, and Leila Hyams, while Norman Trevor is an impeccable figure in white tie and tails. Herbert Brenon directed, from a play by Edgar Selwyn and Edmund Goulding. Silent.

A Dandy in Aspic

UK (1968): Spy
107 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The sorrows of espionage. Laurence Harvey is the homesick Russian spy who finds solace in the emaciated arms of Mia Farrow, a product of Western decadence. But not for long: a double agent, he's given orders by the British to assassinate himself. An overproduced, glossily self-important thriller that promises more ingenuity than it delivers-maybe because the director, Anthony Mann, died during the shooting. (Harvey completed the film.) Derek Marlowe, who wrote the novel, also did the screenplay; the elegant cinematography is by Christopher Challis. With Tom Courtenay, Per Oscarsson, Lionel Stander, Peter Cook, and Harry Andrews. Set in London and Berlin. An English production, released by Columbia.


US (1935): Drama
72 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Bette Davis is such an eerie stimulant in this movie that you can see why some people loved her and others hated her, while still others were split. This is the mawkish, trashy movie for which she won her first Academy Award; the award was generally considered to be belated recognition of her work the year before in OF HUMAN BONDAGE, but terrible as DANGEROUS is, she hypes it with an intensity that frequently makes you sit up and stare. She plays Joyce Heath, a self-destructive, hard-drinking actress (possibly modelled on Jeanne Eagels) who is convinced that she jinxes the people she gets involved with. Davis is remarkable in her gone-to-the-dogs barroom scene, and she can be tough and surly, as in her scene with Alison Skipworth ("I don't want any of your greasy food; give me a drink"), but nobody could do much with the sequences in which she's required to renounce her true love, an architect (Franchot Tone), and sacrifice herself to the mealy-mouthed husband (John Eldredge) who is crippled for life as a result of her enraged, suicidal driving. (He's such a crawly masochist that she seems to have done him a favor by mutilating him.) Alfred E. Green directed, without much control over the tone, so that certain scenes seemed ludicrous even when the picture first came out. Written by Laird Doyle; with Margaret Lindsay, Dick Foran, and Richard Carle. Warners.

Dangerous Liaisons

US (1988): Drama
120 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

One of the least static costume films ever made, and what costumes! The women-Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, Uma Thurman, Swoosie Kurtz, Mildred Natwick-look as if they'd been dressed by Gainsborough. (Actually, it was James Acheson, who also dressed THE LAST EMPEROR.) Principally about the erotic power games played by the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich), who were once lovers but are now allies and co-conspirators, this first-rate piece of work by the daring and agile director Stephen Frears is alive in a way that movies of classics rarely are. The paradisially beautiful Pfeiffer is wonderfully affecting as the pawn of the debauchers' final game. The screenwriter, Christopher Hampton, reworked his 1985 theatrical version of the 1782 novel by Choderlos de Laclos; cinematography by Philippe Rousselot. Filmed in France. Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Dangerous Liaisons 1960/Les Liaisons Dangereuses

France (1959): Drama
106 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Valmont and Juliette, the 18th-century characters in the Laclos novel, are former lovers who, writing to each other about their strategies, targets, and fresh conquests, turn love into something as studied and calculated as war. They take the love out of love. Modernizing the story, the director Roger Vadim ties things up rather neatly by having Valmont (in a tired, too-sweet performance by G�rard Philipe-his last) and Juliette (Jeanne Moreau at her ravaged best) married. In Laclos the pleasure seems to be in carrying out the plan, achieving the victory-a triumph of austere, rational conquest; in Vadim's version a sensuous aura surrounds and permeates the objects. The first scene of Marianne (Annette Stroyberg) in the snow, her mouth open in laughter for a romantic eternity, isn't on a much higher level than the Playboy bunnies of the month; Vadim also uses jazz and Negroes and sex all mixed together in a cheap and sensational way that was probably exotic for the French in the 50s. But, using these elements, he attempts to give them a rhythm and feeling that are, at least, unusually high-class commercialism. Vadim's erotic cleverness is so transparent and shoddy that it verges on the comic; yet the snowflower lyric innocence about Marianne does have pathos and there's a suggestion of spirituality to Valmont's feeling for her. It is Juliette's independence when Valmont wants to halt their activities that gives the film its character. She is not, then, pursuing this life of conquest merely to hold her husband: she has developed a passion that, once he has softened and reneged, can only destroy them both. When Valmont and Juliette declare their war on each other, the film becomes less corrupt, more interesting. Though it is he who wants to give up the game, it is she who breaks the rules by using his letters against him. They were both talented at long, drawn-out military maneuvers, but when it comes to the passions of war, they finish each other off as viciously and destructively as if they had never heard of finesse. (If you've read the novel, in which Juliette, at the end, is disfigured by smallpox, you may get a turn when you see the vaccination mark on Moreau's arm.) With Jeanne Valerie, Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Simone Renant. Background music by Thelonious Monk; party music by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, with Kenny Clarke. In French.

Dangerous Moves

Switzerland (1984): Thriller
100 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette
Also known as LA DIAGONALE DU FOU.

This Swiss picture is about a world-championship chess match held in Geneva between the longtime titleholder (Michel Piccoli), a courtly and cagey gray-bearded Russian Jew from the Soviet Union, and his former pupil, the handsome, high-strung challenger (Alexander Arbatt), a young Lithuanian who defected from the Soviet Union and now lives in France. At first, the young man's flamboyance and the older man's seething anger put us in an expectant mood, but the film turns into an uninspired account of the psychological pressures laid on the contestants, who are both being manipulated by the Soviet bureaucracy. And after the arrival of the young man's wife (Liv Ullmann), who is sent from a psychiatric hospital in Moscow to Geneva to upset him, the picture caves in on itself. Even Piccoli, who gives a cunning, authoritative performance, has no chance to wing past the pedantry of the conception. Written by Richard Dembo, who makes his d�but as a director; the cinematography is by Raoul Coutard. With Leslie Caron in the dismal role of Piccoli's earnest, devoted wife, and Bernhard Wicki as the monitor. In French.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.


US (1983): Drama
130 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

Sidney Lumet directed, from E.L. Doctorow's script, based on his 1971 novel The Book of Daniel. The quasi-modernist novel is a personal fantasy that plugs into the persecution fears that the Rosenberg case stirred up. Doctorow went right for the torn, bleeding heart of the matter: the emotions of the two young children orphaned by the electric chair. It's a mussy, mixed-up, passionate book-demagogic and harrowing. The movie is all those things, too, except it's not passionate, and so it doesn't carry you along. When Lumet gets into one of his chronicles of agonized morality, it seems as if his normally high energy level sinks, and the melodramatic materials he's working with thicken and become clotted. The action here jumps back and forth among four decades shot in slightly different color ranges, and nothing takes hold now or then or in between. Timothy Hutton is Daniel, the son of the "Isaacsons," who is searching for the meaning of his dead parents' lives, and Amanda Plummer is his driven-mad younger sister; Lindsay Crouse and Mandy Patinkin are the parents. The cast includes Ellen Barkin, Ed Asner, Carmen Matthews, John Rubinstein, Maria Tucci, Julie Bovasso, Tovah Feldshuh, and many other well-known players; some of them must have flinched when they saw their performances here. Paul Robeson's voice rolls across the sound track during perhaps half a dozen sequences. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

Dark Eyes

Italy (1987): Romance/Comedy
118 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette
Also known as OTCHI TCHORNYIA.

Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov and shot in Italy and the Soviet Union, it amalgamates several short stories by Chekhov and is the kind of movie that is referred to as a "broad tapestry," or, as Variety put it, "a joyful sleighride through the turn of the century." It features obviousness and mugging-each in almost unprecedented amounts. Everything in it is overacted, is too slow and too close. And everything-the peasant merrymaking, the bands of gypsies who sing, the servants who are humiliated, the decadent rich who go to spas and take mud baths-provides us with a moral lesson. Marcello Mastroianni is the weak, self-hating Romano who tells the story of his wasted life: how he became the spoiled pet of his rich wife (Silvana Mangano), took mistresses (Marthe Keller is one of them), and at a spa was touched by the seriousness of Anna (Elena Sofonova)-Chekhov's woman with the little dog-and, on the pretext of opening a factory, followed her to Russia. At this point, the film turns into a satire of bureaucracy in Imperial Russia as he goes from ministry to ministry trying to get the necessary permit. Mastroianni won the best-actor award at Cannes in this massive hunk of Italo-Russian kitsch. When he's Romano, it's as if he were putting on a classroom exhibition of how to turn yourself into another person-he shows the class every bit of calculation. It's exemplary; it's horrible. (He's like Paul Muni in JUAREZ and THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA.) The cast includes Vsevolod Larionov as the beaming Pavel and Innokenti Smoktunovski as Anna's husband. The script is by Alexander Adabachian and Mikhalkov, with the collaboration of Suso Cecchi D'Amico. In Italian.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Dark Habits

Spain (1984): Comedy
116 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc
Also known as ENTRE TINIEBLAS.

This amusingly erratic convent farce by the Spanish writer-director Pedro Almod�var shows us his naughty-Catholic-schoolboy side. (Here, and in his later movies, he uses Catholic fetishism as camp.) Cristina S. Pascual plays Yolanda, a Madrid nightclub singer, who hides out from the police in a convent that specializes in the salvation of murderesses, prostitutes, and junkies. The Mother Superior (Julieta Serrano) is so avid to recruit sinners that she'll shoot them up with heroin and supply anything else they want. (She's a junkie herself.) The jokes are sometimes labored; still, Almod�var already had the disreputable sensuality that links him to early De Palma. And he catches something very appealing in the musical numbers, especially at the convent party where three singing nuns (including Carmen Maura on the bongos) serve as backup singers for Yolanda. Maura is a dadaist clown-which, of course, is what Almod�var himself is; we're witnessing the director and his star finding each other. In Spanish.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Dark Passage

US (1947): Crime
106 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

"Dark" in a movie title generally seems to be an attempt to give some sinister allure to opacity and confusion, as in THE DARK CORNER, DARK WATERS, THE DARK MIRROR. And this Bogart-Bacall bummer is no exception. Throughout most of the miserably plotted picture, Bogart, accused of murder, hides out in Bacall's fashionable San Francisco apartment while recovering from plastic surgery; with his head bandaged, he can't do much except nod appreciatively while Bacall feeds him through a glass straw. In moments of stress, she dilates her nostrils; he's so trussed up he can't even do that. The picture is an almost total drag, though Agnes Moorehead, as the villainess, has a sensational exit through plate-glass windows. Written and directed by Delmer Daves, from a David Goodis story. Warners.

Dark Victory

US (1939): Drama
106 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Bette Davis in a kitsch classic, playing a rich doomed-to-die girl who throws herself away on meaningless pleasures and then finds redemption in unselfish love-for her doctor, George Brent. A gooey collection of clich�s, but Davis slams her way through them in her nerviest style. The steals from all over include a Lawrentian stable groom, played by Humphrey Bogart. Ronald Reagan is among the heroine's swains, and Geraldine Fitzgerald is her best friend. Edmund Goulding directed. Warners.


UK (1965): Drama
122 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Written by Frederic Raphael and directed by John Schlesinger, this English film was one of the big hits of the 60s. The key sequence invites us to laugh at documentary footage of boobish "little" people in the street answering a television interviewer (played by Dirk Bogarde) who is asking "What is wrong with England?" The film itself presents an answer just as silly and badly thought out as theirs. The darling, played by Julie Christie, drifts upward. She casually models, has a bit part in a movie, leaves a husband, deceives a lover, goes to new ones; after such tribulations as an abortion, an orgy, and a religious conversion, she winds up unhappily married to a prince. We know what we're supposed to think: that this girl has no direction in life. We can see that she's supposed to be as bored and as jealous of what she doesn't understand as Mildred in OF HUMAN BONDAGE: there she is screaming, "I hate books," as she throws them off the shelves. We can see that she's supposed to be as empty and lonely and loveless as THE GODDESS: there she is in her palace not enjoying her finery one little bit. We can see that she's as starved for playful companionship as Jo in A TASTE OF HONEY: there she is saying to a homosexual photographer, "We could do without sex. I don't really like it that much." She even spells it all out for us: "If I could just feel complete." What is DARLING saying beyond such decorative jabs as showing overstuffed rich people being served by little black boys in livery and powdered wigs while they listen to an appeal for funds to fight hunger? It's saying that the boobs on the street are taken in by this girl and believe that she's an ideal success story, while we in the audience are being taught better. We are prodded to see that this bitch is a child of our times. But is this mod movie any different from, or more profound than, the "inside-story" magazines and columns which also show how dirty the lives of celebrities really are? Since the girl was empty and pushing at the beginning and is still empty at the end, all we can really feel is, "Well, if she's going to be unhappy, rich is better." The film's chief distinction is Julie Christie; she's extraordinary-petulant, sullen, and very beautiful. With Laurence Harvey; cinematography by Ken Higgins; music by Johnny Dankworth. (In the English TV series "The Glittering Prizes," which was written by Raphael, he has a thinly disguised version of his achieving success with this film.)
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Das Boot/The Boat

Germany (1981): War
145 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc
Also known as THE BOAT.

If you want to experience the tedium of life in a German submarine, this is the movie that will give it to you-you're trapped for 2 1 hours in a Second World War U-boat that's 10 feet wide by 150 feet long. And with men who have the same kind of anti-war nobility that the men had in American submarine epics of the 50s. About ten minutes in, you may feel that you've already seen this picture. It even has the same kind of heroic man-of-few-words-but-strong-deep-feelings captain (J�rgen Prochnow). The camera keeps moving, yet the whole feeling is claustrophobic-the movement of the camera (deliberately) calls more attention to how cramped everything is. The director, Wolfgang Petersen, did the adaptation of the bestselling autobiographical novel by Lothar-G�nther Buchheim, a former war correspondent. (Petersen had an international success with this film.) The set was constructed at the Bavaria Studios in Munich. In German. A dubbed-into-English version was released as THE BOAT.

A Date With Judy

US (1948): Musical/Dance/Comedy
113 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

A Joe Pasternak-MGM musical intended for the whole family; deliberately corny, shiny clean, and cheery, but with some redeeming energy. Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Powell are the ingenues, and Robert Stack, looking like a Greek god, junior division, is the juvenile. Tolerable score, with one especially pleasing number ("It's a Most Unusual Day"); Richard Thorpe directed. With Wallace Beery, Carmen Miranda, and Xavier Cugat and his orchestra.

David and Lisa

US (1962): Drama
94 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This awkward movie about two disturbed adolescents (Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin) in an institution is an attempt to do something in decent, understanding terms, but, lacking toughness of mind, it becomes sickly sweet. It's like a 50s television program sponsored by a psychiatric association. What emerges as the theme is that love conquers mental illness, and audiences seemed to believe it. (They even seemed willing to believe that earnestness conquers art.) Made independently, on a small budget, the film was a surprise success-perhaps because the amateurishness of the director, Frank Perry, was perceived as fidelity to life. (Perry repeatedly shows us the psychiatrist-Howard Da Silva-thinking out his kind, humane thoughts before he delivers them. Those words must be loaded with wisdom, they take so long getting out.) Redeeming feature: Dullea's fine performance. With Neva Patterson and Clifton James. Written by Eleanor Perry, based on a book by Theodore Isaac Rubin. Produced by Paul M. Heller.

Dawn of the Dead

US (1978): Horror
126 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The recently deceased rise from their graves; they're insatiably hungry, and they cannibalize the living, chomping on anyone they can grab. The chomped, in turn, become ghouls. This idea had already served the director George A. Romero as the subject of his 1968 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, a cheaply made, gray and grainy, truly frightening movie, but this time he did it in shining, comic-book color, and on an epic scale. The four central characters hole up in a suburban shopping mall and are besieged there, and for most of the film's 2 hours and 6 minutes the audience watches as, one by one, heads splatter and drip in bright, gory reds. You're supposed to need a strong stomach to sit through this one, but it's so stupefyingly obvious and repetitive that you begin to laugh with relief that you're not being emotionally affected; it's just a gross-out. With Scott Reiniger, Ken Foree, Gaylen Ross, and David Emge. Made in the Pittsburgh area. A Laurel Group Production.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

The Dawn Patrol

US (1938): War
103 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Edmund Goulding is the director and Errol Flynn the star of this remake of the famous 1930 Howard Hawks film. With its flying scenes, the continual din of the big guns, the bad nerves at headquarters, and schoolboy aviators being sent up to be shot down by a vicious German ace, the film was generally lauded as a stirring attack on the futility of war, though the Hawks version, made in peacetime, was far more pointed in its disillusionment, and this Goulding version, made on the eve of the Second World War, turned the plot to patriotic purposes. The most perceptive movie critic of the day dismantled the pacifist claims made for it; see Graham Greene on Film. With David Niven, Basil Rathbone, Donald Crisp, Melville Cooper, Barry Fitzgerald, and Carl Esmond. Warners.

A Day at the Races

US (1937): Musical/Dance/Comedy
111 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The Marx Brothers in a sort of morning-after to A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. It has something to do with a sanatorium, a group of bankers, a blond siren, and a steeplechase. Groucho Marx is Hugo Z. Hackenbush, a horse doctor posing as a fashionable neurologist. ("Either this man is dead or my watch has stopped.") He shuffles off with the picture. (Marx's rendezvous with a big, beautiful blonde-Esther Muir-is interrupted by paperhangers. "This is the worst insult I've ever had in my life," she announces. "Well, it's only eight o'clock," replies Marx.) The total effect is that of highly satisfying derangement; it's not up to OPERA or DUCK SOUP, but it's better than just about everything else they did-though A NIGHT IN CASABLANCA has its moments. The Brothers are fortified by Margaret Dumont; the cast includes Maureen O'Sullivan, Allan Jones, Douglass Dumbrille, and Sig Rumann; the teenage Dorothy Dandridge may be glimpsed among the kids in the "All God's Chillun Got Rhythm" number, and the singer is Ivie Anderson. Directed by Sam Wood, from the script by Robert Pirosh, George Seaton, and George Oppenheimer. Two songs-"I'm Dr. Hackenbush" and "I've Got a Message from the Man in the Moon"-were cut after the film's opening, before the general release; the footage was later destroyed. MGM.

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