5 responses »

  1. Dracula: Dead And Loving It (1995) – A Dracula spoof directed by Mel Brooks and starring Leslie Nielsen seemed a potentially interesting mix of comedy talents, but this was a critical/commercial flop back in its day

    Watching this film now, the most curious aspect of it is that its main source of parody is Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula film from a few years before. And yet while Coppola’s film was deliberately melodramtic, gaudy and flashy (and great fun), Brooks’ film seems almost staid and restrained by comparison. It almost feels like Coppola’s film should be spoofing Brooks’ ho-hum recreation of the cliches of vampire films that have been seen a zillion times before!

    To be fair, the film is tolerable and has a smattering of funny moments. But its adherence to the Dracula story and treating the narrative almost seriously at times is stifling and largely kills it.

  2. The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969) – WW2 comedy set in Italian village just after the fall of Mussolini where the Germans arrive to occupy and plunder the town’s one significant resource – it’s massive wine collection. But thanks to their blustering and rather buffoonish mayor (perfectly cast Anthony Quinn) the town has other ideas.

    Watching this Stanley Kramer film, it struck me as I did watching his “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” – he may have not been the world’s most brilliant director but he knew how to put a production together (and he started off as a producer). And like IAMMMMW, this film is superbly produced and put together, making particular excellent use of the real Italian village surroundings.

    A good solid entertainment, although it’s lack of success was the beginning of Kramer’s decline as a popular filmmaker.

  3. Billy Budd (1962) – 18th Century British naval drama where a principled and naive seaman (Terence Stamp on debut) is put on trial for the murder of a brutal master-at-arms (Robert Ryan).

    Even though this film made a star of Stamp and got him an Oscar nomination, it’s largely forgotten today. And that’s a shame because it’s a terrific film. Instead of simplifying the issues of how doing one’s duty and following the law will lead to tragic consequences, it embraces its complexities and is all the better for it.

    Excellent performances from a top-notch cast; Ryan is so compellingly loathsome (without descending into caricature) that the fact that he doesn’t attempt to hide his American accent isn’t an issue.

  4. I loved Charles Laughton’s reaction to the murder. It’s very authentic, and unusual for a film. It’s like “I can’t believe this just happened!”

  5. Actually that was Peter Ustinov (the film’s director as well). If made 15-20 years previously Laughton would’ve been a natural to be cast in it.

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