My Lord and Savior

King of Kings is an epic worthy of praise. Happy Easter everyone! After The Ten Commandments, MGM searched for their next Biblical epic. The story of Jesus Christ will forever be the greatest story ever told. And I’m not just saying that as a Christian. There have been so many portrayals of Jesus, but they weren’t as common in major Hollywood productions. Save for a few silent films, Jesus was mostly kept off camera à la Ben-Hur. King of Kings put Jesus front and center with future Star Trek actor Jeffrey Hunter in the role. My parents often referred to him as the “pretty” Jesus, because of his piercing blue eyes and long flowing hair.

Nevertheless, Hunter is strongly dedicated to playing the messiah in the most respectful way possible. King of Kings begins with the end of the Old Testament, but mostly covers the first four books of the Holy Bible. We witness the birth of Christ, Jesus preaching the Gospel, performing miracles, the Sermon on the Mount, gathering his disciples, the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven. Although King of Kings is nearly 3 hours long, it helps that I know the story by heart. Even the script is an almost word for word translation of the King James Bible. I was mostly curious to see an older interpretation of Biblical events. All told with a glorious large scale and a prominent cast that I wasn’t too familiar with.

With the exception of Orson Welles as the narrator or a young Rip Torn as Judas. Jesus is the main character, but all other important figures are given just as much attention. Including Mary, Joseph, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Peter, and Barabbas. As well as Romans like King Herod, Pontius Pilate, Lucius of Cyrene, and Salome. I knew even a tame version of the crucifixion would make me emotional, but I didn’t officially weep until Jesus forgave the thief on the cross. Mary Magdalene finding my risen savior made me cry as well. King of Kings was a blessing to watch.

King of Kings

Jesus faces judgement

Onward to Tahiti

Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) nearly sank Marlon Brando’s career. The original Mutiny on the Bounty was good enough to win Best Picture, but the remake wasn’t so fortunate. Although nominated in the category, Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) was a major box-office bomb and not exactly adored by critics. Of course most of the criticism was aimed at Brando. He developed a reputation for being difficult to work with and his interpretation of Mr. Christian isn’t much better.

Clark Gable was appropriately rugged, but Brando saw him as a high class British dandy instead. It’s hard to take him seriously at times. Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) is also 3 hours long, but it wasn’t difficult to sit through. The Ultra Panavision 70 Technicolor presentation does bring the ocean and Tahiti to life. The overall story is the same, but a lot of elements are either reduced or empelished. Trevor Howard doesn’t feel cruel enough as Captain Bligh. Christian’s anger and eventual mutiny doesn’t feel as earned as the original.

Bligh is practically sidelined by the end with more attention given to Christian discovering an island to settle on. The only other crewmember worth acknowledging is a very young Richard Harris as a troublemaking Seaman. More emphasis is actually given to breadfruit and the Bounty’s layover in Tahiti. It’s an island paradise shot on location with actual Tahitians cast. Christian’s love interest Maimiti was played by Brando’s third wife Tarita (but that’s a story for another day). Various script rewrites led to an ending that wasn’t very Hollywood. Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) is a setback for Brando that only The Godfather could redeem.

Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

Mr. Christian and Maimiti

Remake of: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?

O Romeo and Juliet (1968), I write. William Shakespeare’s work hath ne’er sounded best. A tale of two star-crossed lovers told in years since past. The greatest love story of thine age is best suited for St. Valentine’s Day. Romeo and Juliet ’tis a tragedy taught in school that all should know by now. Mine own brother brought the 1968 interpretation to mine attention. In spite of countless retellings, this may in truth be the most definitive version. ‘Twas the final adaptation of a Shakespearean play nominated for Best Picture. Sir Laurence Olivier brought fine class to the opening narration.

Director Franco Zeffirelli truly captures an impassioned romance with a massive production set in fair Verona. Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design were worthy wins. Romeo and Juliet (1968) is an easy follow if thou art familiar with it. Threatened by thy feuding Montague and Capulet families, Romeo and Juliet risk love in a time of strife. They fall in love at the ball, recite famous monologues on yonder balcony, and are married with great haste. A 17 year old Leonard Whiting and 16 year old Olivia Hussey art real teenagers who bring the Bard’s immortal words to life.

Regardless of age, both young actors canst be seen naked when their union is consummated. Wherefore ’twas allowed I know not? Only that great tragedy soon follows. Both lovers art given help by Friar Laurence and the nurse of Juliet. Mercutio ’tis the scene stealing jokester best friend of Romeo who meets the longsword of rival kin Tybalt. When the Prince sends Romeo away, Juliet is faced with the unmet love of suitor Count Paris. In spite of mine knowledge of their tragic deaths, the emotional weight ’twas just as effective. Romeo and Juliet (1968) is spoken with great sincerity.

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet embrace on the balcony

A World Beyond Imagination

Mysterious Island is the original Lost World. Famed French author Jules Verne is known for his spot on predictions about the future. 1874 novel The Mysterious Island is actually a sequel that follows in the footsteps of In Search of the Castaways and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I don’t know much about the former, but concepts from the latter are unmistakable. Mysterious Island follows a band of Union soldiers from the Civil War who escape a Confederate prison.

There’s the leader Captain Harding, the youthful Herbert, the African American Neb, accompanying war correspondent Spillet, and Confederate prisoner Pencroft. They’re later joined by two shipwrecked women named Lady Mary and Elena. Mysterious Island almost feels like a cross between every Jules Verne movie I’ve seen up to this point. The men use a hot air balloon to escape just like Around the World in 80 Days. The titular mysterious island is populated by giant creatures just like Journey to the Center of the Earth. The primary difference is that this island mainly consists of giant animals like a giant crab, giant chicken, giant bees, and a giant cephalopod.

Since I wasn’t overly familiar with the cast, I mainly focused on the always stunning Ray Harryhausen stop-motion effects. Aside from a lot of the danger centering around water, the strongest connection to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is Captain Nemo himself. He’s alive and the Nautilus is still operational. Though it isn’t a direct sequel to the Disney movie, Herbert Lom does feel like an older version of James Mason’s portrayal. The castaways build a civilization, but have to flee when an active volcano erupts. Mysterious Island is an exciting mystery I’m pleased to have solved.

Mysterious Island

Castaways encounter a giant chicken

B–E–A–G–E–L

A Boy Named Charlie Brown brought Peanuts to the big screen. I have always been a huge fan of the Peanuts franchise. They’re simple, but smart stories for the young and young at heart. I can think of nothing better to review on the 5 year anniversary of my blog. The great Charles M. Schulz first created Charlie Brown for a 1950 comic strip series. The Peanuts popularity soon grew to TV specials like the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

I’d say it was only a matter of time before they made a major motion picture, but Charlie Brown really is so down to Earth. A Boy Named Charlie Brown manages to feel big without losing its simple charm. Everyone knows Charlie Brown as the boy who just can’t seem to win. He can’t fly a kite properly, he can’t play baseball without losing his clothes, and everyone treats him like a blockhead. All the classic characters and moments are there.

Snoopy dreams he’s a World War I flying ace, Lucy doesn’t let Charlie Brown hit the football, Linus obsesses over his blanket, Sally crushes on Linus, and Schroeder plays his piano. A Boy Named Charlie Brown is a musical with many abstract animated sequences accompanying them. The main conflict for Charlie Brown is a spelling bee that finally gives him self-confidence. Of course he blows it on the word beagle (“Good grief”). Like so many great Peanuts stories, A Boy Named Charlie Brown offers an important lesson about believing in yourself.

1. A Boy Named Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown hopes to fly his kite

Followed by: Snoopy Come Home

Love is Blind

A Patch of Blue is the cinematic embodiment of “love is blind.” It’s also the oldest Sidney Poitier movie I’ve seen since his Oscar winning turn in Lilies of the Field. After experiencing so much of his groundbreaking work, my mom recommended A Patch of Blue as the next film. Although Poitier is top-notch as dignified office worker Gordon Ralfe, the movie truly belongs to 22 year old newcomer Elizabeth Hartman. Selina D’Arcey is blind and living a Cinderella type existence with her abusive prostitute mother Rose-Ann and alcoholic grandfather Ole Pa.

Played by the legendary Shelley Winters and Wallace Ford in his fitting final performance. You truly feel for Selina’s struggle, but find hope when she meets her metaphorical Prince Charming in the park. Director Guy Green didn’t need to film the 1965 movie in black & white, but it does fit the racial theme. Gordon is a well spoken black man who teaches the uneducated Selina how to better take care of herself. Their friendship is just as beautiful as the poetic Jerry Goldsmith score that accompanies it.

As their relationship becomes more romantic, reality begins to sink in. Though I am glad they included an early interracial kiss and didn’t lean too heavily on intolerance. Despite the title, I also love that Selina doesn’t see color. A Patch of Blue was nominated for Best Actress, Art Direction, Cinematography, and Music. Winters understandably won Best Supporting Actress since she’s just so unlikeable as the mother. A Patch of Blue is a lovely story that can’t be unseen.

A Patch of Blue

Gordon leads Selina

One More Game

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? changed the very course of Hollywood itself. The film is based on the 1962 play from Edward Albee that caused quite a stir with its lewd and vulgar content. The dialogue being kept intact meant the original Production Code left Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? unrated. Although PG-13 by today’s standards, audiences weren’t used to hearing profanity in pictures. Even I was a little shocked, but I knew to expect 2 hours of non-stop fighting. It feels all the more authentic with the often turbulent Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the leads. Despite its controversy, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is one of only 2 movies nominated in every eligible category.

Best Picture for producer Ernest Lehman’s persistence and first time director Mike Nichols for his ability to translate the stage to the screen. Having only 4 actors meant the entire cast was nominated for acting. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? follows the failing marriage of George and Martha. Burton plays the passive history professor of a university and Taylor plays the aggressive daughter of the university’s president. The title refers to an in-joke that they sing to each other. They unwillingly entertain the young, good looking, and well built biology professor Nick and his hip wife Honey. George Segal and Sandy Dennis fill the remaining roles. Over the course of only one night of heavy drinking, arguments begin to escalate very quickly. It’s a unique character study that’ll make you laugh as well as wince.

George goes from timid to ruthless with his casual insults and “games” that he plays with his guests. Nick goes from non-confrontational to pushed around by almost everybody. Despite the men receiving a bit more attention, it’s the women who both won an Academy Award. Honey wants to leave at first, but Dennis becomes a very convincing silly drunk who can’t hold her liquor. Really most of the attention understandably went to Taylor playing against type. Martha is very overbearing as she puts down her husband, but she can also be flirtatious towards Nick and vulnerable when certain topics are brought up. Just about everything is discussed, but it’s George and Martha’s son that feels the most poignant. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a black & white classic with a modern sense of storytelling.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

George prepares to shoot Martha

Buzz Off

Curse of the Fly has practically nothing to do with The Fly. Despite a 1965 release, its black & white picture is even more primitive. No one returns, so the entire cast are mostly British unknown B movie actors. Maybe that’s why it was so hard to find. Curse of the Fly wasn’t available anywhere until it was part of a Fly box set. I was only able to watch it on YouTube. Not that this supposed third installment was worth watching.

Return of the Fly at least felt like a sequel with another half-human half-fly hybrid. Curse of the Fly has no flies whatsoever. It opens with an attractive woman running around in her underwear. I would’ve thought I was watching the wrong movie if not for the title card. The Delambre name is used, but there’s serious confusion as to the relation. Martin is the grandson of the original fly, but it’s unclear if they mean André or Philippe.

Martin’s father is named Henri, yet the original Inspector has a picture of Philippe as a fly when discussing their cursed family. Teleportation has a lot more focus since the closest thing to animal mutations are people with distorted faces. Even that’s not given as much attention as a plot that feels just like Rebecca. Martin hastily marries the scantily clad Patricia, she becomes the new Mrs. Delambre, and a shady housekeeper doesn’t like it. Wasn’t this supposed to be a Fly movie? Curse of the Fly is lost for good reason.

3. Curse of the Fly

Martin is attacked

Preceded by: Return of the Fly

The Cave Model

One Million Years B.C. made the cretaceous era way hotter than it already was. The 1940 original isn’t remembered nearly as much as this 1966 Hammer Film remake. Despite being primarily known for horror, this was actually my first time seeing one of their British productions. Although One Million Years B.C. has cultural significance, the movie was strangely hard to find. Unlike the original, the campy element is fully embraced with cavegirl Loana front and centerfold. Raquel Welch is easily one of the sexiest women alive, and the biggest reason for the movie’s success.

Loana is practically a prehistoric supermodel with flawless blonde hair, a curvaceous figure, and a stunning fur bikini. The look was so iconic that I completely understand why Andy Dufresne hung it up in The Shawshank Redemption. Welch isn’t the only beautiful cavegirl in the movie. Loana at one point engages in a catfight with another attractive cavegirl played by Bond girl Martine Beswick. The rest of the remake plays out about the same as the original. Narration is the only dialogue before non-stop cave talk.

Tumak is still handsome with John Richardson in the part, but he’s hairy like the rest of the cavemen. The Rock tribe is even more savage with personal feuds that get resolved near the end. The Shell tribe live closer to the beach and are far more civilized. Oversized lizards pay tribute to the original, but most of the dinosaurs were achieved with Ray Harryhausen’s always impressive stop-motion magic. There’s a giant turtle, a T-Rex fighting a triceratops, and a pterodactyl picking up Loana. Now I know the context of those scenes in the Malcolm in the Middle opening. A volcano ends the cave romance on an ambiguous note. One Million Years B.C. marked a new age for modern sex symbols.

One Million Years B.C.

Loana smile on beach

Remake of: One Million B.C.

Flying Football

Son of Flubber is the very first Disney sequel. Which is just as rare as using black & white, because Walt Disney wasn’t a fan of sequels. It’s so forgotten that I actually had to seek out Son of Flubber. I have no idea what the title is supposed to be referring to. Since Professor Brainard and his wife Betsy don’t have a son. It might be referring to the Flubber gas that Brainard invents, but the title still doesn’t make sense.

Son of Flubber wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as The Absent-Minded Professor. I think they took it a little too seriously. The bouncy fun of the first movie is instead replaced by financial problems, marital problems, and legal problems. The Government doesn’t pay Brainard what he deserves, there’s a love rectangle that goes on forever, and a court battle replaces the exciting flight over Washington from the first movie. The only thing I found funny was a commercial for Flubber products.

The entire original cast returns to rehash a lot of what came before. Mr. Hawk is once again after Brainard’s breakthrough invention and Shelby is once again terrorized by it. The Flubber based invention is a practically magic weather gun that creates rain clouds. Hawk’s son Biff is now working with the Professor in a subplot that changes the Medfield College sporting event from basketball to football. The Flubbery inflatable football scene is more goofy than inspired. Son of Flubber retains its mostly impressive special effects, but forgets to have fun with it.

Son of Flubber

Professor Brainard aims his weather gun

Preceded by: The Absent-Minded Professor