Down to the Sea in Ships

US (1949): Adventure
120 min, No rating, Black & White

Life aboard a New Bedford whaler, as seen by a young boy (Dean Stockwell). The conflicts between the hard-bitten old skipper (Lionel Barrymore), who has no use for book learning, and his cultured, true-blue mate (Richard Widmark) make for dismally pat situations, but when the film sweeps out to sea it's fairly lively, what with whale chases, a whaleboat disappearing in a fog, and the whaler eventually coming up heavily against an iceberg while sailing around the Horn. The director, Henry Hathaway, gets a lot of pictorial effectiveness out of the sea; it's too bad he didn't hack away some of the blubbery dialogue. With Cecil Kellaway, Gene Lockhart, Harry Davenport, Fuzzy Knight, and Jay C. Flippen. Written by John Lee Mahin and Sy Bartlett; cinematography by Joe MacDonald; music by Alfred Newman. This large-scale adventure film, designed to attract children as well as their parents, is a remake of the 1922 film success. 20th Century-Fox.

Dr. Cyclops

US (1940): Science Fiction
75 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

As Dr. Cyclops, Albert Dekker is a nutty biologist in a South American jungle who miniaturizes people to doll size; they get so small that the giant alligators down there can snap them up like beads of caviar. The color gives this lavish horror film an unintended prettiness, and Ernest B. Schoedsack's direction lacks sinister overtones. The picture didn't make it into the horror big time; the moviemakers don't seem to be cooking with the right recipe. With Victor Kilian and Janice Logan. From a script by Tom Kilpatrick; produced by Merian C. Cooper. Paramount.

Dr. Faustus

UK (1968): Drama
93 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

By the time Richard Burton was in a position to star in a movie of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, further dealing with the Devil probably had become anticlimactic. It wouldn't be hard to overlook the visual redundancies (if Faustus says "gold" or "pearls," the screen shows gold or pearls), the ominous, funereal music, the Technicolored beauties parading like the Goldwyn Girls. What can't be overlooked is that Burton gives a dead, muffled reading. And so, despite an imposing young Mephistopheles (Andreas Teuber), this production, with Elizabeth Taylor as Helen of Troy, is the dullest episode in the Burton and Taylor great-lovers-of-history series that started with CLEOPATRA. Eventually, Burton gets to the speech that begins "Was this the face that launched a thousand ships" and ends "And none but thou shalt be my paramour!" By then, it's clear that Faustus and Helen are just Dick and Taylor. Co-directed by Burton and Nevill Coghill. Released in the U.S. by Columbia.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

US (1932): Horror
97 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Fredric March goes in for hilarious makeup that includes a change in the shape of his skull and an alarming number of huge teeth, and his rampaging Hyde is so exuberantly athletic he seems to be modelled on Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.. The director, Rouben Mamoulian, rather overdoes the pseudo-science at the beginning, but at some levels this story seems to work in every version, and this one, set in a starched mid-Victorian environment, suggests the lust that has to come out-and the attraction of the gutter. With Miriam Hopkins, shiny-eyed with sexual mischief, as the trollop, and Rose Hobart. Paramount.

Dr. Knock

France (1936): Comedy
74 min, No rating, Color Also known as KNOCK.

Louis Jouvet had a special talent for the role of a happy hypocrite. Jules Romains provided the perfect vehicle with Dr. Knock, le triomphe de la m�decine, in which Jouvet played the high priest of medical pseudo-science. The role of the quack who reduces a whole healthy village to imaginary sickness became his greatest stage success. This medical entrepreneur builds a hospital and puts the entire local population in it. Jouvet filmed it twice-once in 1931 and again in 1950. The 1931 version is much better-fresher and looser. In French.


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

It begins well, wandering around the crypt of Dracula's castle in the Carpathian Mountains as the vampires get up from their coffins. But this first American version, directed by Tod Browning, was adapted from a play based on the Bram Stoker novel, rather than from the novel itself, and it becomes too stagey. It was a tremendous popular success, however (it was advertised as "The Strangest Love Story of All"), and spawned many sequels. As Count Dracula, Bela Lugosi is the courtly personification of evil. He had played the role on Broadway in 1927 and had toured in it for years, and he seemed inside it in a wonderfully hammy, slightly demented way; his stilted manner and his ripe Hungarian accent have been imitated and parodied by subsequent Draculas. With pale Helen Chandler, who seems too anemic to attract a vampire, David Manners, Frances Dade, Edward Van Sloan, and the peerlessly degraded Dwight Frye, always looking for insects to munch on. Cinematography by Karl Freund; script by Garrett Fort, with dialogue by Dudley Murphy; play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. Universal.

Dragon Seed

US (1944): War/Drama
145 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

If MGM had a sense of shame, this abomination wouldn't have been released. Based on a novel by Pearl S. Buck, it is about the effects of war on a Chinese family, but it was made in a California-built China, and the Chinese simple-folk characters are played by Katharine Hepburn, Turhan Bey, Walter Huston, Agnes Moorehead, Hurd Hatfield, Akim Tamiroff, Aline MacMahon, and Henry Travers. It's a howler all right, but so drearily, patronizingly high-minded that there aren't many laughs. Directed by Jack Conway and Harold S. Bucquet, from a script by Marguerite Roberts and Jane Murfin; with a particularly offensive "ethnic" score, devised by Herbert Stothart.


US (1981): Fantasy/Adventure
108 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

It's like reading a fairy tale that has the mixture of happiness and trauma to set your imagination whirling; the fire-breathing dragon-scaly, winged, huge-is more mysterious, probably, than any we could have imagined for ourselves. The setting is Britain during the Dark Ages. Ralph Richardson is Ulrich the Sorcerer, who receives a delegation from the remote Kingdom of Urland, which has been ravaged by the monster. The sorcerer's apprentice (Peter MacNicol) goes forth to face the dragon, but he's just a kid who's in over his head. Ulrich and the dragon are the two great antagonists in this movie-probably the only movie in which Richardson shows the full, magnificent balminess that has marked his recent stage appearances. In the terms this film sets, it's almost completely successful. The producer, Hal Barwood, and the director, Matthew Robbins, wrote the script. The cinematography is by Derek Vanlint; the score is by Alex North; the production design is by Elliot Scott. All of them understand that the film has one purpose: to be magical. With Caitlin Clarke as Valerian, Peter Eyre as the King, Chloe Salaman as the princess, John Hallam as Tyrian, and Sydney Bromley as Old Hodge. Paramount and Disney.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

The Draughtsman's Contract

UK (1982): Historical/Comedy
103 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

Set on an English estate in the summer of 1694, this formalist tease by the writer-director Peter Greenaway is a fantasia of conceits about perspective, and about the relationship between the artist, his art, and the world. It's also a victimization fantasy: the draughtsman (Anthony Higgins), a lover of landscape, is attacked and destroyed by those who love only property. The film is mannered and idiosyncratic; the speeches are so arch and twitty they seem to be pitched higher than a dog whistle, and the people talking are popinjays in perukes shaped as geometrically as the shrubs at Marienbad. This impishness congeals, because there's no dramatic motor in the sequences. For Greenaway, a movie is a set of theorems to be demonstrated by tableaux. His mind may be active but his camera is dead. With Janet Suzman and Anne Louise Lambert.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

The Dream Team

US (1989): Comedy
113 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

As a wisecracking, intermittently violent lunatic, Michael Keaton electrifies this quirky farce; in a restaurant scene, he's like a James Cagney character-doing something he knows he shouldn't while his face tells us how thoroughly he's enjoying it. Keaton, Peter Boyle (he has some of his best moments since YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN), Christopher Lloyd, and Stephen Furst are patients in a mental hospital who are taken on an excursion and then stranded in an unstructured loony bin, New York City. Directed by the (erratic) slapstick specialist Howard Zieff, from a script by Jon Connolly and David Loucka, the film isn't the knockout it might have been if it had a few big wild routines. And, yes, it's sentimental. But the sentimentality isn't overplayed, and Keaton's fast rap cauterizes much of it. He's a cross between a mouth and a moonbeam. With Dennis Boutsikaris, Lorraine Bracco, Jack Duffy as the shopkeeper in the army-navy store, and Larry Pine as the advertising executive, and Milo O'Shea, Philip Bosco, and James Remar. Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.


UK (1985): Fantasy/Biography
94 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

Coral Browne plays Lewis Carroll's Alice in 1932, just before her 80th birthday, when she sails to New York to speak at the Lewis Carroll centenary celebration at Columbia University. Disoriented by the voyage and exhilarated by New York City, she experiences a second childhood; her mind wanders back to 1862, when the young Reverend Charles Dodgson (Ian Holm), Lecturer in Mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford, where her father was the Dean, had attempted to entertain her and her sisters by spinning his nonsense tale. It's only now, at the commemoration, and with her own death close at hand, that the elderly Alice grasps how deeply tormented he was and that he loved her. And with New York jogging her out of her confining Victorian primness, she sees how narrow her life has been. Written by Dennis Potter and directed by Gavin Millar, the picture suggests a literate TV show rather than a movie; but it's very enjoyable, and in some scenes it achieves levels of feeling that movies rarely get near. The elderly Alice's Potteresque adventures in the Art Deco New York wonderland wobble in tone, yet the picture is magically smooth, and it's full of felicities. Nothing in Coral Browne's other screen performances suggests the frailty and beauty she brings to her Alice, and Ian Holm's performance is wonderful-sneaky-dirty in its recessiveness, funny and painful at the same moments. With Amelia Shankley as the forthright little Alice at 10, Jane Asher as her mother, Peter Gallagher and Nicola Cowper as young lovers, and six Lewis Carroll-Tenniel creatures, from Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Billy Williams' cinematography has a glowing dreaminess; his lighting helps us over the transitions between 1932 and 1862, and into the glimpses of the world inhabited by these eerie critters.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Dreaming Lips

UK (1937): Drama
93 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

That extraordinary chameleon Elisabeth Bergner, who could be alternately a drab little mouse or an astonishingly sophisticated sensual animal, had a triumph in this English production. As the wife of one artist (Romney Brent) and the mistress of another (Raymond Massey), she moves like a starved cat, talks on tiptoe, and ever so cleverly breaks your heart. Henri Bernstein, the greatest boudoir dramatist of them all, wrote the play (Melo). Carl Mayer adapted it, and Paul Czinner directed. This film is one of the best examples of a genre that has all but disappeared: the bittersweet conflict of desire versus responsibility-pure romance.


Sweden (1955): Drama
86 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as KVINNODR�M.

Ingmar Bergman on the sex wars, with Eva Dahlbeck as a fashion editor and Harriet Andersson as a young model. The editor visits a former lover (Ulf Palme); the model gives an old goat (Gunnar Bj�rnstrand) a run for his money. Bergman's source material seems to be the MGM women's pictures of the previous decade. In Swedish.


US (1984): Science Fiction
99 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Joseph Ruben, the young director of this tight, clever thriller, starts off with a cocky swagger and he can sustain it, because he has the bedrock of a script, by David Loughery, Chuck Russell, and himself, that has real development and structure. Dennis Quaid plays a young psychic who has been having a fine time hanging out at the racetrack picking winners and making out with girls; then Max von Sydow, a research scientist working for the government, sends for him, and pretty soon he's involved in some of the funniest, most audacious dream sequences since the 1962 THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE. Quaid's slightly mocking free-and-easy manner makes it possible for him to hold his own against David Patrick Kelly, who might otherwise have walked away with the picture-his performance as a psycho psychic gives the political assassination plot the primal terror it needs. Ruben has a light, happy touch with the actors, who include Kate Capshaw, Christopher Plummer, George Wendt, and Eddie Albert as the President-tan and fit-looking but racked by nightmares. Released by 20th Century-Fox.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

Dressed to Kill

US (1980): Thriller
105 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

One of the most sheerly enjoyable films of recent years, this sophisticated horror comedy, written and directed by Brian De Palma, is permeated with the distilled essence of impure thoughts. Set in Manhattan, it's about sex and fear; De Palma presents extreme fantasies and pulls the audience into them with such apparent ease that the pleasure of the suspense becomes aphrodisiacal. Angie Dickinson shows a much warmer expressive range than might be expected as a beautiful, aging golden blonde, married yet frustrated, and longing to be made love to; Michael Caine brings fine, precise shadings of ambiguity to the role of her analyst; the breezy comedienne Nancy Allen is a pretty, investment-minded hooker, who witnesses a murder; Keith Gordon is Dickinson's teenage prodigy son, who builds computers; and Dennis Franz is a brash police detective. The music is by Pino Donaggio, the cinematography is by Ralf D. Bode, and the editing is by Jerry Greenberg. Filmways.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

The Dresser

UK (1983): Drama
118 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Almost everything in this screen version of Ronald Harwood's 1980 play is good except what relates to its theme: the symbiotic relationship between an old Shakespearean actor-manager (Albert Finney)-a knight of the theatre who is touring the provinces with his dilapidated company during the Second World War-and his dresser (Tom Courtenay). The material is conceived as a tribute to the flyweight dresser, who cajoles and teases and mothers the old trouper, and keeps him going. In the film's view, great actors are incorrigible, demented children; they need these dedicated nannies hopping about and fussing over them. Courtenay played the dresser on the stage, and his performance is too practiced; it's all dried up. Finney, however, is juicy, with a thundering voice and wonderful false humility. Peter Yates directed, and he provides some fond, light moments. Lockwood West, Edward Fox, and Cathryn Harrison shine in smaller roles; Eileen Atkins is the stage manager and Zena Walker is the old star's "Lady Wife."
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

The Dressmaker

UK (1988): Drama
89 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The whole cast rises to the occasion-a chance to appear in John McGrath's fine adaptation of the 1973 Beryl Bainbridge novel (published in the U.S. in 1974 as The Secret Glass). Joan Plowright as Nellie, the prudish unmarried dressmaker, and Billie Whitelaw as Margo, the widow with a roving eye who works in a munitions factory, are sisters. The setting is Liverpool in 1944, and the plot centers on what happens when sallow, skinny Rita (Jane Horrocks), the 17-year-old niece they have raised, falls in love with Wesley (Tim Ransom), a Yank from Mississippi, but is frightened of his hands on her and keeps slapping him away. There's a tinge of comedy in the situation, but there's also a tinge of queasy horror. This good, inexpensive British movie is about morbid respectability, and the director, Jim O'Brien, makes it possible for the actors to create a maze of claustrophobic subtexts. It's doubtful if either Plowright or Whitelaw has ever before been this scarily effective onscreen; Whitelaw's sky-blue eyes stab you-she seems to have become the nakedest of performers. With Peter Postlethwaite, Pippa Hinchley, and Rosemary Martin.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

The Driver

US (1978): Crime
90 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

This gangster picture, which failed commercially here and is also an aesthetic failure, was Walter Hill's second film as a writer-director. (It was made after HARD TIMES and before THE WARRIORS.) Hill attempted to stylize gangster characters and conventions, and although he succeeded in the action sequences, which have a near-abstract visual power, the stylized characters, with their uninflected personalities, flatten the movie out. In trying to purify the gangster film, he lost the very element that has made gangster movies so enjoyable: the colorful lowlifes and braggarts, with their own slang. (Instead, the characters stare at each other in silence.) And in exalting "professionalism"-in setting forth a neo-Hemingway elitist attitude for judging people on the basis of their grace and courage-Hill shows such a limited perspective that the film is comic-book cops-and-robbers existentialism. Ryan O'Neal, with his soft voice, gives the central role a strange, callow quality that's very effective, but as his adversary in the police department, Bruce Dern is at his mannered worst. As a woman of mystery, Isabelle Adjani drops her voice down to a Dietrich level and never varies it-or her expression: she's as blank-faced as a figure at Mme. Tussaud's. With Ronee Blakley, who looks more vividly alive than anyone else but gets killed off fast, and Joseph Walsh. Cinematography by Philip Lathrop. 20th Century-Fox.

Driving Miss Daisy

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

Alfred Uhry's adaptation of his much honored play is still full of manipulative bits-it's virtually all manipulative bits-but the director, Bruce Beresford, understands how to work them while cutting down on their obviousness. Set in Atlanta, starting in 1948, the movie is the story of the companionship that develops between stubborn, suspicious Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy), a wealthy Jewish widow of 72, and her resilient chauffeur, Hoke (Morgan Freeman), a widower about a decade younger than she is. Essentially, it's about how he changes her. He's made upright, considerate, humane-he's made perfect-so that nothing will disturb our appreciation of the gentle, bittersweet reverie we're watching. But it's acted (and directed) eloquently. Tandy and Freeman achieve a beautiful equilibrium. And Dan Aykroyd comes through with a fine performance as Miss Daisy's good-ol'-boy son. With Esther Rolle and Patti LuPone. Cinematography by Peter James. Academy Awards: Best Picture, Actress (Tandy), Adapted Screenplay, Makeup. Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Drugstore Cowboy

US (1989): Drama
100 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Nihilistic humor rarely bubbles up in a movie as freely as it does here. Set in Portland, Oregon, in 1971, the story is about two couples who live together and travel around the Pacific Northwest robbing hospitals and pharmacies, grabbing fistfuls of pills and capsules. They're like a junkie version of Clyde Barrow's gang. The director, Gus Van Sant, takes us inside a lot of underground attitudes: the druggies are monomaniacal about leading an aimless existence-they see themselves as romantic figures. They're comic, but they're not put down for being comic. The picture keeps you laughing because it's so nonjudgmental. Van Sant is half in and half out of the desire of adolescents to remain kids forever. As the gang's 26-year-old leader, Matt Dillon brings the role a light self-mockery that helps set the tone of the film, and Kelly Lynch is strikingly effective as his wife. Also with James Le Gros, Heather Graham, James Remar, Max Perlich, Beah Richards, Grace Zabriskie, and William Burroughs. The script, by the director and Daniel Yost, was based on a then unpublished novel by James Fogle, who's in prison for drug-related robberies. Avenue Pictures.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Drums Along the Mohawk

US (1939): War/Historical/Adventure
103 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

One of John Ford's less inspired epics, this lavish color version of the Walter D. Edmonds novel never seems to get going. No one appears to know why the picture is being made, or what its point is, exactly. Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda are the young couple who go to the Mohawk Valley of upstate New York and are caught up in the Revolutionary War; there are scraps with Indians and various upheavals, but one gets more involved in Colbert's spotless gowns-a tribute to pioneer laundering-and the fussy, dainty interiors, full of Early American decorator touches. Script by Lamar Trotti and Sonya Levien; the enormous cast includes Edna May Oliver, John Carradine, Ward Bond, Dorris Bowdon, Jessie Ralph, Arthur Shields, Robert Lowery, and Mae Marsh. 20th Century-Fox.

A Dry White Season

US (1989): Drama
107 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

In Johannesburg, a na�ve white schoolmaster (Donald Sutherland) has his eyes opened to the police brutality involved in the death of his black gardener, and imagines he can obtain justice for the man's family. Marlon Brando is airily light and masterly as the veteran anti-apartheid barrister who takes the case even though he knows that he can't get anywhere with the rigged court. The romantic in Brando must have responded to the old rebel's romantic gesture: he saves the picture for the (short) time he's onscreen. But the director, Euzhan Palcy, seems lost; her work is heavy-handed, and the script (by Colin Welland and the director, from a novel by Andr� Brink) is earnest and didactic. Performers such as Susan Sarandon, J�rgen Prochnow, Winston Ntshona, Janet Suzman, Michael Gambon, and Zakes Mokae sink into the obviousness of their roles and leave no trace. (Poor, uninspired, virtuous Sutherland is out of it; his characterization is one long whimper.) MGM.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Duck Soup

US (1933): Comedy
70 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The Marx Brothers in their greatest movie-a semi-surrealist farce about war. With Margaret Dumont, Edgar Kennedy, and Louis Calhern. The unsentimental screenplay is by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, who also did the songs. Directed by Leo McCarey. Paramount.

Duel in the Sun

US (1946): Western
130 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

Hilariously florid-sometimes referred to as "Lust in the Dust." This Wagnerian Western features Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones as lovers so passionate they kill each other. She's Pearl Chavez, a half-breed wench, and so, by Hollywood convention, uncontrollably sexy, and Peck actually manages to bestir himself enough to play a hunk of egotistic hot stuff-maybe the name Lewt McCanles got to him, or maybe the producer, David O. Selznick, used electric prods. Peck clangs his spurs and leers, while Jones tosses her hair and heaves her chest; when they kiss, lightning blazes. Set in Texas, it's a lavish, sensual spectacle, so heightened it becomes a cartoon of passion; the director, King Vidor, gives much of it a galloping bravura excitement, and the hokum is irresistibly entertaining. With Walter Huston having a roaring good time as a hellfire preacher, Butterfly McQueen going even further with the character she created in GONE WITH THE WIND, and Joseph Cotten, Charles Bickford, Lillian Gish, Herbert Marshall, Lionel Barrymore, Harry Carey, Sidney Blackmer, Joan Tetzel, Otto Kruger, Tilly Losch, and other well-known performers. The cinematographers include Lee Garmes and Hal Rosson; Dmitri Tiomkin perpetrated the score. The movie was "suggested" by the Niven Busch novel, and Selznick himself takes the screenplay credit. He also directed some scenes and Josef von Sternberg, William Dieterle, Otto Brower, B. Reeves Eason, and others had a hand in it. (138 minutes.)

The Duellists

UK (1977): War/Historical
101 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

An adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Napoleonic-period story "The Duel," about a cavalry officer's sudden flare-up of rage over a trifling, imagined insult by another officer, which grows into a private war. The hussars (Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine) go on fighting for over 15 years, and the origin of the quarrel becomes lost in legend, like the causes of the larger wars that they're both fighting in. This English production-a first film by the director Ridley Scott-is consistently entertaining and eerily beautiful. Its special quality is in its G�ricault-like compositions; what keeps them from palling is that they have a graphic power of their own, and they're coolly impassioned-a story of obsessive enmity is being told by way of these ravishing yet unsettling images. The mixed American and British cast includes Cristina Raines, Albert Finney, Alan Webb, Edward Fox, Diana Quick, Jenny Runacre, Robert Stephens, Tom Conti, and Meg Wynn Owen.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book When the Lights Go Down.

Duet for Cannibals

Sweden (1969): Drama
105 min, No rating, Black & White

Written and directed by Susan Sontag, who made this hermetic, guess-what's-real movie in Sweden. It's about two couples and the games they play, which would be more entertaining if we could figure out the rules or discover if there is anything at stake. Adriana Asti acts mysterious and neurotic, and the other performers (G�sta Ekman, Lars Ekborg, and Agneta Ekmanner) seem to be stranded on the screen, trying to fill in the slack of the dry, expository dialogue and looking for clues to what's wanted of them. There's a good bit-a psychotic old man eating in a restaurant and making everybody nervous. In Swedish.


US (1984): Science Fiction
140 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

David Lynch directed, and he did the adaptation of Frank Herbert's ecological sci-fi fantasy, but he doesn't make the story his own. Basically, this isn't a David Lynch movie-it's Dune. He lays out Herbert's grandiose vision of a galactic system, with hordes of characters parcelled out over four planets, and a messiah who is preordained to lead the righteous in a holy war. And he brings on the giant man-eating worms that produce the consciousness-altering spice that holds this universe together. The movie is heavy on exposition, and the story isn't dramatized-it's merely acted out (and hurried through), in a series of scenes that are like illustrations. And despite the care that has gone into the sets and costumes and the staging, the editing rhythms are limp and choppy. Lynch's best work is in the comedy scenes that involve Kenneth McMillan, Sting, Brad Dourif, Linda Hunt, Leonardo Cimino, and the creepy 8-year-old Alicia Roanne Witt. The cast includes Sian Phillips, Max von Sydow, Francesca Annis, Jos� Ferrer, Freddie Jones, Richard Jordan, Virginia Madsen, Everett McGill, Dean Stockwell, Sean Young, Silvana Mangano, J�rgen Prochnow, Paul L. Smith, Jack Nance (of ERASERHEAD), and Kyle MacLachlan as the warrior messiah. Cinematography by Freddie Francis; production design by Anthony Masters; and creatures by Carlo Rambaldi. Produced by Raffaella De Laurentiis; a Dino De Laurentiis film, released by Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.

Back to Home

Hosted by