Tortilla Flat

US (1942): Drama
105 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

A good-natured and engaging minor novel by Steinbeck, turned into a good-natured and engaging (though corny and quaint and picturesque) film at MGM. Spencer Tracy, John Garfield, John Qualen, Sheldon Leonard, Akim Tamiroff, and Allen Jenkins are among the wine-drinking paisanos of a studio version of a shantytown section of Monterey, California. Jenkins doesn't even try to pass, but the others make a stab at acting ignorant and talking in a folk rhythm--they sound like Broadway wiseguys out of Damon Runyon. Tracy is meant to be a scrounger loafer who leads the others astray. An unusually animated Hedy Lamarr plays a hot-tempered Portuguese girl (in pigtails) who works in a cannery and keeps a goat. The only performer who really gets into his role is Frank Morgan, bearded, as a saintly old beggar who talks to the stray dogs he takes into his chicken-coop home. Morgan is very effective, but the moviemakers know it and they milk it; he is rewarded by a vision of St. Francis of Assisi. By the time that Tracy pleads for a miracle to save the injured Garfield's life and is overheard by a silver-haired padre (Henry O'Neill), the picture's charm has become cloying. Victor Fleming directed. With Donald Meek and Connie Gilchrist. The script is by John Lee Mahin and Benjamin Glazer; Sam Zimbalist produced. It says something about MGM's attitude toward paisanos that it was made in sepia.

Touch and Go

US (1986): Romance/Comedy
101 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

It has a terribly virtuous idea: it's about the chance meeting of a tough 11-year-old "ethnic" boy (Ajay Naidu), who's economically handicapped, and the career-centered all-star forward (Michael Keaton) of a Chicago hockey team, and how they change each other's lives. But the director, Robert Mandel, who finished the film in 1984 (after his first, INDEPENDENCE DAY, and before his third, F/X), takes the drivelling story and informs it with honesty and sensibility. Keaton gives a grown-up-male performance of a kind you don't often see. As Bobby Barbato, a local boy from the South Side, he's in fighting trim, and he's quick and impudent in conversation. High up in his expensive lakefront apartment, he watches the VCR, studying replays of his moves. He's a real pro, and Keaton, who got in shape for the role, is on top of it. Blessedly, the movie isn't preachy about Bobby's single life. But when he meets the kid's mother in the person of the volatile Maria Conchita Alonso, Keaton shows us the deepening of Bobby's feelings. And Alonso has the uninhibited sexiness of the young Sophia Loren. She brings a happy sizzle to the role of the openhearted single mother who's so eager for experience that she walks tilted forward, almost at a run. The picture is stuck with crude plot turns, but Keaton and Alonso have a lovely, spinning rapport. With Max Wright, Maria Tucci, and Lara Jill Miller; the handsome cinematography is by Richard H. Kline. Screenplay by Alan Ormsby and Bob Sand and Harry Colomby. Tri-Star.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Touch of Evil

US (1958): Crime
108 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

As the madam of a Mexican bordello, Marlene Dietrich (done up in her Gypsy makeup from GOLDEN EARRINGS of 1947), greets the grotesquely oversized, padded, false-nosed Orson Welles with a glorious understatement-"You're a mess, honey. You've been eating too much candy." When the final bullet punctures him and he is floating in the water like a dead whale, she eulogizes-"What can you say about anybody? He was some kind of a man�" That may be one of the worst lines ever written or a parody of bad writing-the funeral scene in Death of a Salesman. Welles' first American production in a decade, this marvellously garish thriller has something, but not very much, to do with drugs and police corruption in a border town. What it really has to do with is love of the film medium, and if Welles can't resist the candy of shadows and angles and baroque decor, he turns it into stronger fare than most directors' solemn meat and potatoes. It's a terrific entertainment. The cast, assembled as perversely as in a nightmare, includes Charlton Heston, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, Joseph Cotten, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Mercedes McCambridge, Janet Leigh, Dennis Weaver, Valentin De Vargas, Joanna Moore, Harry Shannon, and Ray Collins. Cinematography by Russell Metty; filmed at Universal Studios and partly on location at Venice, California. The script, credited to Welles, is supposed to be a free adaptation of Whit Masterson's novel Badge of Evil. When the picture opened in 1958 it was 93 minutes long and some scenes were said to have been added that were directed by Harry Keller; in 1976 a version was released that runs 108 minutes and is said to represent Welles' original intentions. Universal.

A Touch of Larceny

UK (1959): Comedy
93 min, No rating, Black & White

Few people appear to have seen or even heard of this pleasantly adult Anglo-American comedy; it's a little too thin to be memorable, but it's surprisingly light and debonair. James Mason gives one of his best comic performances as the naval commander, weary of his desk job at the British Admiralty, who makes it appear that he has gone over to the Russians, in order to sue the papers for libel. The best scene is one of the quietest: Mason, who has carefully shipwrecked himself on an uninhabited island, sees a passing vessel; he sips champagne while murmuring, "Help, help!" With George Sanders, Robert Flemyng, Harry Andrews, Duncan Lamont, and Vera Miles, who acts in an aloof, low-keyed manner which is apparently meant to be highly suggestive--she's not totally objectionable. Guy Hamilton directed; the script by Roger MacDougall, Peter Winterton, Hamilton, and the producer, Ivan Foxwell, is based on Andrew Garve's novel The Megstone Plot.

Tough Guys Don't Dance

US (1987): Crime
110 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Norman Mailer directed and did the adaptation of his murder-mystery novel. The setting is Provincetown in November, and we're meant to feel the wintry corruption that has seeped into the town--it involves five or six killings. The writer hero (Ryan O'Neal) is ravaged from hard living with a rich wife and three years in the pen for dealing drugs, but he can tell his tough old father (Lawrence Tierney) that in those three years no man used him for a punk. His having remained anally inviolate is the proof of his manhood. Women victimize him, though-at least, the dirty-sex, Pia Zadora blondes (like Debra Sandlund) do. He has a love-hate bond to them. He needs to escape to a true-love earth-mother brunette (Isabella Rossellini). This is paltry stuff; it has an eerie, dated quality, like a copy of Playboy left out in the sun for 15 years. The women are subhuman, and most of the actors look stranded-lost and undirected. Yet the tawdriness of Mailer's self-exposure and self-glorification has a low-level fascination. After a while, the movie turns into a burlesque of itself. It's thin-thinner than pulp, lacking the shock and suggestiveness of pulp. Mailer isn't enough of a moviemaker to draw us in on a primitive level: we're not caught up in the hero's fear that he may be a murderer, and so we're outside the movie from first to last. What Mailer provides is an intellectual's idea of a pulp thriller. You stare at it knowing it's hopeless yet not really wanting to leave. With Wings Hauser and John Bedford Lloyd (who gives the best performance). Cinematography by John Bailey. Cannon Films.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Tout va bien

France (1972): Comedy
95 min, No rating, Color

Not as deadly in its pedagogical tone as other Jean-Luc Godard-Jean-Pierre Gorin films of the period. There's some relaxation and humor in this story of a workers' takeover of a sausage factory, but the way Jane Fonda, as an American journalist, and Yves Montand, as her French filmmaker-husband, are radicalized by the situation seems mechanical and na�ve. In French.


US (1937): Comedy
98 min, No rating, Black & White

The 30s stage play about a penniless Russian prince and his grand-duchess wife who are happy to get jobs as servants in a Paris household. It's the sort of vehicle that comes to life in the theatre, because of the opportunities it affords dazzling technicians, but in the movie version, although Charles Boyer has a devilish cuckoo quality and Claudette Colbert is very charming, the whole thing seems rather attenuated. It's pleasant, but there's no energy in it, and the director, Anatole Litvak, who had demonstrated a highly developed visual style when he worked with Boyer only the year before (in MAYERLING), seems paralyzed by the stagey material. With Basil Rathbone, Isabel Jeans, Anita Louise, Morris Carnovsky, Melville Cooper, Montagu Love, and Fritz Feld. From the play by Jacques Deval, adapted for the American stage by Robert E. Sherwood; the screenplay is by Casey Robinson. (Another version was made in France, in 1935.) Warners.

The Towering Inferno

US (1974): Disaster
165 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Disaster blockbuster, with each scene of someone horribly in flames presented as a feat for the audience's delectation. The picture practically stops for us to say, "Yummy, that's a good one!" These incendiary deaths and the falls from high up in the 138-floor tallest skyscraper in the world are the film's only feats. Paul Newman and Steve McQueen mutter heroic sentiments, and Faye Dunaway manages to look goddessy-beautiful through it all, wandering through the chaos in puce see-through chiffon. John Guillermin directed and Irwin Allen produced. Stirling Silliphant wrote the series of bloopers that make up the script, which is based on two books--Richard Martin Stern's The Tower and Thomas M. Scortia's The Glass Inferno--that were sold to Hollywood studios. The plots were so similar that the two studios--20th Century-Fox and Warners--got together and jointly financed this one expensive (and highly profitable) movie. The picture asks us to believe that the tallest building in the world--a golden glass tower that's a miracle of flimsiness, as it turns out--would have been set down in San Francisco, of all places. With William Holden, Susan Blakely, Robert Vaughn, Jennifer Jones, Fred Astaire, Robert Wagner, O.J. Simpson (he gets to rescue a pussycat), and Richard Chamberlain as a rat-fink electrical contractor--can you imagine him negotiating with the electricians' local? Cinematography by Fred Koenekamp.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Toys in the Attic

US (1963): Drama
90 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

This Freudian Southern gothic is well done for what it is-one of those hyped-up unflinching movies in which a family that is "living a lie" suddenly finds its glass house crashing down. ("You never really loved me�. It was Jed, your own father, you really wanted�. Go on, say it.") The main characters in James Poe's adaptation of Lillian Hellman's play are an incestuous trio of two sisters (Geraldine Page and Wendy Hiller) and a dependent, weakling brother (Dean Martin, pitiably miscast). Page shows considerable brio, as she makes her transitions from fluttering Dixie charm to granitic cruelty; Hiller has the trembling-lip role. There's no shortage of dramaturgy, such as a crucial overheard conversation. And Martin has to perceive the psychological truth of Page's attachment to him, and walk out a man. Whatever made anyone think there'd be an audience for this? George Roy Hill directed. With Yvette Mimieux and Gene Tierney. United Artists.

T.R. Baskin

US (1971): Drama
90 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

Baroque in its stupidity. Candice Bergen, looking like a million dollars, as an alienated, friendless typist in Chicago. The movie feminizes alienation by turning it into whimsey. Herbert Ross directed, from a script by Peter Hyams, who also produced. With Peter Boyle, James Caan, and Marcia Rodd. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

Trade Winds

US (1938): Romance/Comedy
90 min, No rating, Black & White

Hedy Lamarr was the rage in Hollywood the year this was made, and she had also just married Joan Bennett's ex-husband. So Bennett, in a witchy, prankish mood, turned from blonde into sultry brunette, � la Lamarr--and had no trouble at all outacting her. This picture is made from glamour and jokes and scraps of old melodrama, and the trashy mixture is pretty lively, with Bennett on a ship, trying to escape a charge of murder, Fredric March as the detective whose job it is to take her back, and Ann Sothern on hand as a cynical, wisecracking blonde. The script was written by Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell, and Frank R. Adams, and they supplied Sothern with some real zingers. Audiences liked her so much that there was a spin-off--she went on to star in the MAISIE series. With Ralph Bellamy, Thomas Mitchell, and Sidney Blackmer. Directed by Tay Garnett, who seems to give it spurts of energy--he dozes in between; the cinematography is by Rudolph Mat�. Produced by Walter Wanger; United Artists.

Trading Places

US (1983): Comedy
116 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Dan Aykroyd plays a snooty young blueblood who runs a Philadelphia brokerage house and Eddie Murphy plays a con man-beggar who disguises himself as a blind, legless Vietnam veteran. The two don't exactly trade places; they're traded, by a pair of heartless, rich old brothers (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) who have made a heredity-versus-environment bet--something we've been spared in movies of the past few decades. John Landis directed this comedy in a mock-30s formal style; it's eerily arch and static. But the picture has its big, chugging structure working for it; the whole apparatus picks up speed toward the end and comes to a rousing, slapstick finish, with the younger guys rich and the old skinflints punished. And the audience appears to enjoy the premeditated obviousness. With Denholm Elliott, who deserves better than his role as a butler; Jamie Lee Curtis, who deserves better than her role as a prostitute named Ophelia; and Paul Gleason and Kristin Holby. From a script by Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod. Paramount.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.


France (1972): Comedy
89 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

This time Jacques Tati's M. Hulot is a car designer on his maundering way to an international automobile exposition in Amsterdam. As a comic figure, Tati had a nice spare bouyancy in JOUR DE F�TE and was poignantly quick and eccentric in MR. HULOT'S HOLIDAY, but here his whimsical bumbling seems precious and fatuous. And as the director, he keeps the actors at a distance--an oddly depersonalizing technique for a movie that is commenting on modern depersonalization. Still, the color and design are pretty, and Tati's style is in his purest form--evocative and bittersweet--in the sequence where two garage mechanics simulate walking on the moon. Released by Columbia; in English.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man

Italy (1981): Drama
116 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

Bernardo Bertolucci's movie about a left-wing terrorist kidnapping in Parma centers on the father (Ugo Tognazzi) who is required to give up everything he has worked for--a big cheese factory, a villa, and a yacht--to recover a son, who he suspects may be in on the plot. Tognazzi does his robust-life-force and peasant-cunning number. He does have more energy than anything else in the movie, but it's the hollow kind of actor's energy you want to get away from. The movie is logy--complex yet undramatic; there's no urgency, no tension, and you sense that you're not going to find out what's going on, that it's all metaphorical. Bertolucci's vision is grayed-out here; there's no feeling of discovery in the acting, no zest in the editing--it's like an old man's movie. Screenplay by Bertolucci. With Anouk Aim�e, Laura Morante, Victor Cavallo, and Riki Tognazzi; cinematography by Carlo Di Palma. In Italian.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Taking It All In.

Trail of the Lonesome Pine

US (1936): Drama
102 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

Made in pale picture-postcard colors (blue hills and green trees), this folk Western about the feud of the Tollivers and the Falins is awfully pokey and loaded with fake mythmaking, yet it has lovely, affecting qualities--some attributable to Henry Hathaway's direction; more to Sylvia Sidney's and Henry Fonda's youth and talent; and some to Fuzzy Knight's singing of "Twilight on the Trail." Fred MacMurray plays the young mining engineer who comes into the Kentucky backwoods community and falls in love with Sylvia Sidney (so does the entire audience). The producer, Walter Wanger, provided a big cast, including Fred Stone, Beulah Bondi, Nigel Bruce, Alan Baxter, Robert Barrat, Spanky McFarland, and Richard Carle, for this first three-color-process outdoor movie. The screenplay by Grover Jones, Horace McCoy, and Harvey Thew was based on a novel by John Fox, Jr. Paramount.

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp

US (1926): Comedy
68 min, No rating, Black & White

Harry Langdon's first full-length comedy. Not quite the picture that his second, THE STRONG MAN, is, but the restrained slapstick is charming. In this one, he enters a footrace across the continent and gets caught in a chain gang and a cyclone before winning. Harry Edwards directed, with Frank Capra on the script. With Joan Crawford. Silent.

Transatlantic Tunnel

UK (1935): Science Fiction/Disaster
70 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Though actually a remake of a much better German sci-fi adventure film, this melodramatic English production, directed by Maurice Elvey, has some memorable and gripping sequences once it gets under way--which takes a while. The title tells the story: it's about trying to drive a tunnel under the Atlantic, with all the floods and eruptions imaginable. Iron-jawed Richard Dix, one of the most appealing early screen stars, is the lead, with Madge Evans opposite him.


US (1956): Drama
105 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Trapeze work is so graceful, so scary, and so marvellously photogenic that it has always been a source of regret that circus movies generally slight the high flyers and dwell on the seamy side (the sad-faced-clown-loves-the-beautiful-bareback- rider-who-loves-the-strong-man sort of thing). The script of TRAPEZE doesn't have much distinction; the characters aren't likely to be called deep, and their fates seem to be determined by theatrical convenience, but one is, nevertheless, caught up in the excitement. There's vitality in Carol Reed's direction, and an exuberant sweep in Robert Krasker's camera work. Burt Lancaster and Gina Lollobrigida function as stars--they're magnetic. And Tony Curtis shows the beginnings of acting skill (the later SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS showed how much he could learn). While the film is going on, you're too absorbed to consider how banal the story is; after it's over, you've had too good a time to care. Filmed in large part at the Cirque d'Hiver in Paris. United Artists. CinemaScope,


US (1970): Comedy
110 min, No rating, Color

Absurdist porno-comedy about an impotent junkie (Joe Dallesandro) who drags himself around while various women try to arouse him. His sort-of-wife is played by a goofy female impersonator, Holly Woodlawn, whose intensity amidst the general dejection is crazily--and entertainingly--incongruous. The wife's highest aspiration is to get on welfare, and to accomplish this she pretends to be pregnant, but the welfare investigator (Michael Sklar) wants the fabulous-40s shoes that the wife found in a garbage can, and she refuses to give them up. The picture is steeped in a sense of grotesque parody, though most of the time it's as enervated and limp as its hero. The knocked-out couple do their put-on of marriage, and we are invited to laugh at their outcast status and their meaningless lives and to feel sorry for them. This Andy Warhol production was directed by Paul Morrissey, who lingers over needles going into flesh and puts a nimbus around the messiest head of hair. With Jane Forth, as the indolent housewife in the modern apartment that the hero tries to burglarize.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

Travels With My Aunt

US (1972): Comedy
109 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Maggie Smith gives a desperate, flustered performance as the disreputable Augusta, a woman in her 70s who induces her stuffy nephew (Alec McCowen) to accompany her on her travels. Whatever private joke Graham Greene was working out in the novel, the message here is "Live, live, live!" But the movie itself has no real zing; it seems to run down before it gets started, and just about everyone in it looks miscast. With Lou Gossett, Jr., Cindy Williams, Robert Stephens, and Robert Flemyng. Directed by George Cukor; written by Jay Presson Allen and Hugh Wheeler; cinematography by Douglas Slocombe. MGM.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

US (1948): Adventure
124 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

One of the strongest of all American movies. Three Americans stranded in Mexico dig for gold and strike it rich--and the writer-director, John Huston, "looks on," as he says, and "lets them stew in their own juice." Bogart is the paranoid tough guy, Fred C. Dobbs; Walter Huston is the toothless, shrewd old prospector; Tim Holt is a blunt, honest young man. With Alfonso Bedoya as a primitive bandit who makes one appreciate civilization, Robert Blake as a Mexican boy, and Bruce Bennett, and the director himself as the victim of Bogart's cadging. From the B. Traven novel; Ted McCord was the cinematographer; Max Steiner wrote the terrible score. The first section (about 20 minutes), set in Tampico, with Bogart getting a haircut and fighting Barton MacLane in a bar, is so sure and lucid it's as good as anything John Huston ever did--maybe even better than THE MALTESE FALCON. But there he sustained the hard, economic style; here, he doesn't. And an episode involving the reading of a letter written by Bruce Bennett's wife is so false and virtuous that it's hard to believe that it's in the same movie as those scenes in Tampico. The picture is emotionally memorable, though--it has a powerful cumulative effect; when it's over you know you've seen something. (It was a box-office failure in 1948; apparently audiences resented Bogart's departure from the immensely popular CASABLANCA stereotype.) Warners.

The Trial

France-Germany-Italy (1963): Drama
118 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Orson Welles' theatricality and bravado would seem to be especially unsuited to the matter-of-fact comic horror of the Kafka novel, but he manages some striking effects that aren't at all jarring. This little-seen film has effective passages; it's more than an honorable try, though the hollow sound (that is, of the English-language version) is sometimes off-putting. With Anthony Perkins, Jeanne Moreau, Romy Schneider, Akim Tamiroff, Fernand Ledoux, Elsa Martinelli, Jess Hahn, Suzanne Flon, Madeleine Robinson, Michel Lonsdale, and Welles. Cinematography by Edmond Richard; the pin-screen animation of the prologue is by Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker. Made in Europe. A French-Italian production.

The Trial of Billy Jack

US (1974): Drama
175 min, Rated PG, Color

A maudlin sequel to the 1971 BILLY JACK which for 2 hours and 50 minutes expands on the most melodramatic elements of the earlier film. Once again, Delores Taylor, who made both pictures with her husband, Tom Laughlin (he plays Billy Jack), is the founder of the Southwestern interracial Freedom School, built on Indian land, which is being harassed by crooked and bigoted townspeople. This time, the Laughlins give the director's credit to their 19-year-old-son Frank, and from the look of this film he may actually have done it, though more likely he assisted his father. An orgy of victimization, the movie tosses together My Lai, Wounded Knee, Kent State, and battered children. The half-breed Billy Jack is also involved in Carlos Castaneda spin-offs; he turns red and blue, walks among serpents, is attacked by bats, and listens to doggerel wisdom supplied by Indian maiden guides. This big Pentecostal tub-thumping show brings together the worst of mass culture and the worst of the counterculture. Released by Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

The Trial of Joan of Arc

France (1962): Drama/Biography
65 min, No rating, Black & White
Also known as PROC�S DE JEANNE D'ARC.

Terse, spare, and oddly perfunctory. Robert Bresson's hour-long pr�cis of the trial is based on the historical records but it's directed as unemotionally as if Joan were a philosophy student taking an oral examination for which she's overprepared. (She rattles off her answers.) The actors are not merely nonprofessionals, they're also non-actors--this is by Bresson's choice. Unexplained: why Bresson sticks to the trial testimony but then introduces melodramatic behind-the-scenes material. (Also unexplained: What's the dog for?) With Florence Carrez; cinematography by L.H. Burel. In French.

Trick Baby

US (1973): Crime
89 min, Rated R, Color

Mel Stewart as a black con artist who enjoys shearing the sheep, and Kiel Martin as his partner, the Trick Baby--the child of a black whore and her white trick. He can pass for white but chooses to be black. (Both blacks and whites should be able to enjoy the joke when a rich white woman, taking him for white, is astounded by his sexual prowess.) But, for the racial-switch-hitter premise of the picture to be effective, he needs to have some recognizable "soul," which we in the audience can perceive, even if the whites in the movie are blind to it, and Kiel Martin, with his dimply, spoiled-baby face, doesn't have it. Shot in Philadelphia, the film strikes some fresh sparks; Mel Stewart gives his role the black equivalent of old-world grace, and the first half is entertaining. Then, disappointingly, he's killed, and the picture shifts from comedy to melodrama. The director, Larry Yust, has a good feel for street life, but he's weak in his handling of the actresses, both black and white, who are unnecessarily degraded. From the novel by Iceberg Slim--Robert Beck, the black pimp turned writer. Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

The Trip

US (1967): Fantasy
85 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette

Exploitation, late 60s style. Roger Corman takes his hero, Peter Fonda (playing a TV-commercials director who lives in Los Angeles), on an extended LSD trip, during which he is reborn. (He may not look any different to you.) Fonda's hallucinations provide Corman with the chance to imitate several styles of filmmaking, and to introduce what appear to be brief clips from his own horror movies. With Dennis Hopper, Susan Strasberg, and Bruce Dern. Written by Jack Nicholson. A.I.P.

The Trip to Bountiful

US (1985): Drama
106 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Geraldine Page gives a controlled, all-out performance as Carrie Watts, an old-age pensioner who wears seat-sprung housedresses and lives in a tiny apartment in Houston with her sad, defeated son and his shrill wife, who keeps picking on her. The movie--a weeper--is about Carrie's longing to escape and return to Bountiful, the Gulf Coast town where she grew up; she runs away, gets on a bus headed in the right direction, and lives out her dream. Directed by Peter Masterson, from Horton Foote's adaptation of his 1953 teleplay (Lillian Gish starred in it on TV and Broadway), it's a "spiritual" picture--a tribute to the decency of the common people who endure by doing the best they can, and it has the glow that movies get when they're about the need to have compassion. The camera is meant to be the mirror of Carrie's soul, but we look in that mirror for so long that finally all we see is Geraldine Page acting. Foote can't make poetry out of material as laundered and denatured as what he comes up with here. The movie is intended to be a hymn, but all he and Masterson can do is give some of the characters a limp, anesthetized grace. With John Heard as the son, Carlin Glynn as the daughter-in-law, Rebecca De Mornay as a soldier's young wife, and Richard Bradford as a Texas sheriff. Cinematography by Fred Murphy. Academy Award for Best Actress (Page). Released by Island Pictures.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

Triple Echo

UK (1973): Drama
90 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

Grim (but absurd) pastoral tragedy--isolated Wiltshire farm in the 40s, ailing dog, lonely woman (Glenda Jackson), and an AWOL soldier (Brian Deacon). He becomes her lover and she protects him by dressing him as a woman and passing him off as her sister. The gimmick is he begins to dig it. Unfortunately the movie is not played for comedy; it's lugubriously stark, except for Oliver Reed (gross, yet funny) as a no-neck bullying brute of a sergeant, who takes a fancy to sister. The soldier idiotically agrees to be Reed's date for the Christmas ball at the barracks, and when Reed tries to deflower him, the tragedy winds up fast. Sister-soldier has used a shotgun to put the old dog out of its misery, so when he has been exposed and is being horribly beaten, the woman uses the shotgun on him. Everyone is put out of his misery but the audience. It's a very weird picture; spiky-thin Glenda Jackson, who speaks as if she were biting on a bullet, is so masculine here that she gives it an extra dimension of sexual ambiguity. (When you see the shy soldier in frilly clothes and padded breasts, you wonder whom he's imitating.) Michael Apted directed; from an H.E. Bates novel, adapted by Robin Chapman. Cinematography by John Coquillon.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.


UK (1970): Science Fiction
91 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

Joan Crawford plays Stella Dallas with an ape instead of a baby girl. Some actors will do anything to be in movies: she probably would have played the ape. An English horror film, directed by Freddie Francis, from a script by Aben Kandel. With Michael Gough and Bernard Kay. Released by Warners.

The Trojan Women

Greece-US (1972): Historical/Drama
105 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

The Euripides play is the greatest lament for the loss of freedom ever written; it is not just the first but the one great anti-war play, and, despite the makeshift style of the film, the material catches you by the throat, and by the most legitimate of all means--its simplicity and its intensity. Katharine Hepburn, always forthright, starts as a fine, tough Hecuba, plainspoken and direct; she's splendid when she's angry. (Later, she comes to seem pitiful and mummified.) A false nose gives Genevi�ve Bujold's mad seeress Cassandra a classical look, and the actress plays with a bursting conviction; though the performance doesn't fully come off, she makes a stunning try. As Andromache--as anything--Vanessa Redgrave never does the expected. Her Andromache is being freshly thought out as you watch--a dazed, pale-golden matron, unflirtatious, free from guile. A tiny half-sob gurgles from her throat. Redgrave gives the finest performance in the film, and the director, Michael Cacoyannis, demonstrates his love of the material and his right to film it, in casting her as Andromache, and not in the obvious role for her--Helen. Because it is Irene Papas as a demonic Helen of Troy who lifts the movie out of the women's-college virtuous cultural ambiance that plagues stage productions. Helen is introduced prowling behind the slats of the stockade that protects her, and all you see are her brown-black eyes, as fiercely alive as a wolf's. While the other women mourn their dead, Helen uses all her animal cunning to survive. This is a cast that one could never hope to see on the stage. Released by Cinerama.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

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