Kagemusha (1980) (***1/2, war, drama)
Kalifornia (1993) (***, thriller)
Kansas City Confidential (1952) (***, crime, noir) (12-31-03)
Kansas City (1997) (***, drama)
Keep, The (1983) (***, horror)
Keeper of the Flame (1942) (***, drama, classic) (1-24-00)
Keeping Mum (2005) (***, black comedy) (12-7-09)
Kennel Murder Case, The (1933) (**1/2, mystery)
Kentucky Fried Movie, The (1977) (***1/2, tasteless humor)
Key Largo (1948) (**1/2, crime, noir)
Killer, The (1989) (**1/2, crime, thriller, action)
Kill Baby Kill (1966) (**1/2, classic horror) (12-31-03)
Kill Bill, Vol. 1. (2003) (***, martial arts, drama) (6-7-04)
Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (2004) (****, action) (6-7-04)
Killer is Loose, The (1956) (**1/2, noir) (02-06-04)
Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988) (**1/2, sci fi, horror, comedy) (2-23-05)
Killer's Kiss (1955) (**1/2, crime, noir) (11-8-99)
Killing, The (1956) (***1/2, noir, crime, drama) (12-21-97)
Kill Me Again (1989) (***, crime, drama, noir)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) (***, black comedy)
King of New York (1990) (**, drama)
King Solomon's Mines (1937) (**1/2, action, adventure, classic) (2-28-00)
King Solomon's Mines (1950) (****, adventure)
Kinsey (2004) (***1/2, docudrama) (1-24-05)
Kiss of Death (1947) (***, drama, crime)
Kiss of Death (1995) (**, crime, drama)
Kiss Me Deadly (1955) (****, crime)
Kiss Or Kill (1997) (***, suspense, crime) (4-26-99)
Knack, and How to Get It, The (1965) (****, humor) (5-27-98)
Kongo (1932) (***, drama)
Krippendorf's Tribe (1998) (**, humor) (2-8-99)
Kubrick, Stanley Requiem for (1928- March 7, 1999) (3-22-99)
Kurosawa, Akira and Toshiro Mifune: Requiem for (12-7-98)
Kwaidan (1964) (***1/2, horror, fantasy) (1-15-01)
Kagemusha (1980) (***1/2, war, drama) (D.-Akira Kurosawa; Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomo Yamazaki, Kenichi Hagiwara, Jinpachi Nezu, Shuji Otaki) Another Greek tragedy from Kurosawa, involves the death of a war lord on the eve of his uniting Japan. Everything has been held together by his force of personality, and, to prevent disaster, his generals replace him with a convicted thief who is an exact look alike. The story revolves around the thief successfully replacing the warlord, his evolution as a natural leader and heir to the throne, and his destruction and plunging of his country into a suicidal civil war when he succumbs to the human frailty of wanting close human companionship. Breathtaking, albeit depressing, battle scene- ending. Others consider Kagemusha much better than Ran. Beginning
Kalifornia (1993) (***, thriller) (D.-Dominic Sena; Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, David Dchovny, Michelle Forbes) Not very well received by the critics, and not for the squeamish. However, I found it a fascinating study in deviant behavior and in how civilized humans can err in their reactions to subtle threats. Well educated and sophisticated writer (Dchovny) and photographer girlfriend (Forbes) set off on cross-country odyssey to write about and photograph locations of some of the worst mass murders. Dchovny wants to be able to get into the skin of the killers and understand how they worked. Be careful what you ask for. To help defray expenses they advertise for, and accept, a young couple to share expenses with them. A study in contrasts. Pitt and Lewis are uneducated lower class. Lewis is child like, abused by Pitt, but compared to what she has experienced before, he is heaven. Pitt is crude, brawling, and fascinates Dchovny. Pitt also happens to be a serial killer of the disorganized type. He does what he does because he wants to do it and whenever he feels moved. He acts without remorse and with no concern for consequences beyond the next five minutes. The interplay between the two women and between the two men is both fascinating and appalling. All are attracted and fascinated by the other's dissimilarity. Much of the cinematography, visual situations, and editing are spell binding. Sena has a real talent for juxtaposing both sides of a situationthe initial meeting comes to mind. The final location is surrealistically off the wall, and only adds to the accumulating horror. Pitt is excellent and frightenly believable. Dchovny is believably seduced by the "I don't give a damn about anything" attitude of Pitt. Lewis is depressingly realistic. Forbes makes a fine counterpoint for Lewis. Her fascination and reaction to Lewis is completely believable. Forbes' sense of self preservation is a little more finely developed than everyone else's, and this, coupled with civilized behavior, precipitates the final confrontation. The end is the now mandatory blood bath, but the style in getting there is fascinating, and there is plenty of room to discuss the characters and how, when and if civilized people could have avoided what happened. (10-17-94) Beginning
Kansas City Confidential (1952) (***, crime, noir) (12-31-03) (D.- Phil Karlson; John Payne, Coleen Gray, Preston Foster, Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Dona Drake) In my opinion, marginal noir in spite of the body count, the double crosses, stark beautiful noir cinematography, and an innocent man (Payne) caught up in the not-so-polished gears of a vengeful justice system. But it will do until the real thing comes along. A master criminal with his own personal agenda. A beautifully planned heist using a set of low lifes than can barely stand each other or the boss. A beautiful lawyer. An exotic location. A few very nasty twists. You need to overlook how Payne manages to repeatedly get the better of experienced thugs and the typically unrealistic love interest. However, ignore the problem and you have a taut program that keeps your attention up to the last dead body.
The beautiful (if such a word can be used for such a set of plug uglies and slimy scum) set of villains assembled in one place include Kane, Van Cleef, and an almost unrecognizable, except for his eye, very young Jack Elam. Beginning
Kansas City (1997) (***, drama) (D.-Robert Altman; Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, Michael Murphy, Dermot Mulroney, Steve Buscemi, Jane Adams) Made when Altman was 81. Classic Altman. Nonlinear plot, complex overlapping dialogue that probably would take at least three viewings to catch, a fascinating backdrop of social and political upheaval of 1934, and an array of off-beat characters who float in and out of the plot--sometimes with purpose and sometimes with no purpose at all. A live jazz accompaniment that plays point-counterpoint to the unfolding plot. In short, not for all all tastes, but while Kansas City was not totally successful in my book, I was never bored.
The time was 1934. The place Kansas City under boss Tom Pendergast. The end of Prohibition didn't faze things as drugs, booze, women, corrupt politics, and jazz in the Hey Hey Club ruled. Life is as cheap as a shot of whisky or a baseball bat in the face. Altman grew up here and knows his territory.
The plot is simple in outline. Johnny O'Hara (Mulroney) crosses powerful black gang leader Seldom Seen (Belafonte). Johnny's brassy, clenched-jaw girl friend Blondie (Leigh) tries to save him by some imaginative political pressure involving a politician's wife Carolyn Stilton (Richardson). However, as with much of Altman's work, plot is secondary to style, characters, and atmosphere. We watch as Johnny's life is played out as uncertainly (at least to me) as the response of the jazz musicians to their opposition in the musical duels. The film is edgy, unbalancing, and the end is by no means predictable, even though it is logical.
The jazz is delightful, and the cinematography and editing beautiful. The acting is good, although we did find Leigh's performance abrasive. Even after we realized that she was acting out her image of Jean Harlow, her performance still seemed too narrow.
So if you are interested in something more atmospheric, aural, and cerebral than your usual fare, you may want to give Kansas City a look. But don't expect a fast moving flic. (6-15-98) Beginning
Keep, The (1983) (***, horror) (D.-Michael Mann; Scott Glenn, Ian McKellen, Alberta Watson, Jurgen Prochnow, Robert Prosky, Gabriel Byrne) Keep is based on the rather good grade B horror novel by the same name. It is elegant, atmospheric, and beautifully photographed with a throat grabbing sound track seamlessly integrated into stunning imagery. Mann uses slowed (not slow) motion to emphasize points and the music/imagery is frequently breathtaking. There are few movies that use, even unsuccessfully, choral music. Mann does and succeeds. It is about a group of German soldiers sent with Nazi overseers to guard a pass in the Carpathian Alps at the end of WW II. The opening scene with the storm and bits and pieces of the convoy and soldiers coming into perspective is gorgeous. The story revolves around the release and destruction of an ancient evil juxtaposed against a modern one. The monster is the low point of the movie (it should have been kept human looking as in the book). The movie was panned by the critics, so don't go to it for plot. It is a real feast for the eyes, the ears, and the nervous system. Highly recommended for horror fans. Beginning
Keeper of the Flame (1942) (***, drama, classic) (1-24-00) (D.-George Cukor; Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Richard Whorf, Margaret Wycherly, Forrest Tucker, Frank Craven) Dated but still entertaining story of reporter (Tracy) trying to write eulogy of a national hero killed in an accident. Only not everything is as it seems when he finds his digging is thwarted at every turn by the hero's widow (Hepburn) and minions. The film works best in the setup and the creeping uncertainty about how things will unravel. The final resolution is somewhat contrived and not totally satisfactory. Clearly, the film was making a propaganda statement about facism and the inability to trust even those whom we most respected. Beginning
Keeping Mum (2005) (***, black comedy) (12-7-09) (D.-Niall Johnson; W.-Richard Russo, Niall Johnson; Rowan Atkinson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Patrick Swayze, Tamsin Egerton, Toby Parkes, Liz Smith, Emilia Fox) A gentle little English black comedy in the style of How to Murder a Rich Uncle, Kind Hearts and Coronets, and The Lady Killers. If dysfunctional families coupled with murder and mayhem are your cup of tea, then do give Mum a look. This is not a bloody film. The violence is either stylized or off screen. It is character driven and drolly humorous. The film starts in the past showing the pathological nature of sweet little Rosemary "Rosie" Jones (Fox) whose grasp of right and wrong must be considered flexible at best. Flash forward to the present where we have Vicar Walter Goodfellow (Atkinson) in an understated role. His flock is the parish of Little Wallop numbering I believe 57 (shortly to become smaller) where his inability to say "no" to any request from some demanding town folk and a search for the perfect sermon have caused him to lose sight of what is most important in his life, his family. Clueless comes to mind. His daughter Holly (Egerton) might be classed as a slut (her boyfriends are lined up and the family cannot keep up with their names), his son Petey (Parkes) is badgered mercilessly at school, and his neglected wife is toying with an affair with sleaze bag golf instructor Lance (Swayze).
Into this tangled mess, they bring a new dear little old housekeeper 'Grace Hawkins' to hopefully help Walter get things under control. No surprise as to who Grace is, as the delightful Maggie Smith takes control of things. Be careful what you ask for. The family is about to experience a makeover, but this is not your nanny from reality TV and it is not quite the one they had envisioned.
Atkinson avoids his fractured Mr. Bean persona and is a perfect straight man playing against Smith's charming Grace. Scott is perfect as the underappreciated wife, and the children are fine. Swayze does a delightful cameo as a suave, charming rogue for whom the term slimy cannot begin to do justice.
While the outcome is predictable, the fun is in the ride. Available at Clemons DVD07162. Beginning
Kennel Murder Case, The (1933) (**1/2, mystery) (D.- Michael Curtiz; William Powell, Mary Astor, Eugene Pallette, Ralph Morgan, Helen Vinson, Jack LaRue) Was it really a suicide? Silly question. This is a classic Philo Vance mystery after all. Dated but entertaining story of well heeled Long Island dog show competitors who prove that just because they are rich doesn't mean they are any less venal. Was it over a dog, a woman, money, or something else? A beautiful assortment of dogs including a critical Doberman. (12-11-95) Beginning
Kentucky Fried Movie, The (1977) (***1/2, tasteless humor) (D.-John Landis, Evan Kim, Master Bong Soo Han, Donald Sutherland, Henry Gibson) This is a later and more polished form of The Groove Tube. Savagely satirical sketches of TV, advertisements, the news media, and movies. The pacing, the layout, the feel on the "ads" is so good that Landis must surely have done real ads at one time. In addition, there is a complete movie within the movie, a take off on Enter the Dragon. While quite funny, the original was so tongue in check that it really isn't so much a spoof as a alternative, albeit slightly fractured, view. Classic take offs of "Films at 11", the unaware news reporter, the Willer Beer ad, the ultimate disaster film preview, and the conceit of the newscasters able to look into your living room (imagine the worst scenario). Gags come a mile a minute and if one falls flat, the next one hits you like a brakeless semi in West Virginia. Be forewarned, the humor is broad, bawdy, tasteless (well justified R rating), and very funny. You were warned. (1-17-93) Beginning
Key Largo (1948) (**1/2, crime, noir) (D.- John Huston; Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor, Thomas Gomez, Jay Silverheels, Marc Lawrence, Dan Seymour, Harry Lewis) Dated, overblown gangster flic that still has a certain charm. Robinson, a ruthless gangster, holds a group captive during a hurricane at Key Largo. The captives include hotel owner (Barrymore), his daughter-in-law (Bacall), and a disillusioned war hero (Bogart) who has come to tell her how her husband, one of his men, died. Trevor, who won Best Supporting Actress Oscar, was Robinson's drunken and abused moll. Nicely atmospheric with totally over the top performance from cigar chomping Robinson. He believed that bad weather would be to his benefit. Bogart believes nothing is worth dying for. Both find that they are wrong. (1-8-96) Beginning
Killer, The (1989) (**1/2, crime, thriller, action) (D.-John Woo; Chow Yun-Fat, Sally Yeh, Danny Lee, Kenneth Tsang, Chu Kong, Lam Chung, Shing Fui-On) A triumph of form over substance. If you are into action sequences, go no further. Woo is considered one of the masters of the crime action film. Killer will leave you no doubt as to why. Shoot outs are performed with the elegance and precision of Swan Lake at the Bolshoi. A hit man (Yun-Fat) accidentally blinds a singer (Yeh) in a hit. The plot revolves around his subsequent interactions with her and the cop (Lee) who is out to get him. Forget the plot logic (written by Woo) or the characterizations. In my opinion, Killer is designed for one thing and one thing only--to get as many slam bang action sequences together in the most efficient manner possible. In this regard, it doesn't get any better. As an aside, Maltin enjoyed the plot as great pulp fiction and gave it three and a half stars. (8-8-95) Beginning
Kill Baby Kill (1966) (**1/2, classic horror) (12-31-03) (D.-Mario Bava; Erika Blanc, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Fabienne Dali, Giana Vivaldi, Piero Lulli, Max Lawrence) Old style classic horror film by Italian master Bava. A coroner doctor comes to a small Transylvania village to check up on an alleged suicide. The last thing the villagers want him to do is autopsy the dead. You never know what you might find. Just poverty and ignorance combined with superstition, he remarks in his assessment of the back-water villagers. He should be so lucky. While there is rarely anything really new in horror, Bava manages to create a twisted, entertaining films. While dated, Kill manages to be beautifully atmospheric and delivers a few nasty shocks. Fine use of color. Review based on fine print on Turner Movie Classics. Beginning
Kill Bill, Vol. 1. (2003) (***, martial arts, drama) (6-7-04) (DW.- QuentinTarantino; W.-Uma Thurman; Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Vivica A. Fox, Daryl Hannah, Sonny Chiba, Julkie Dreyfus, Michael Madsen, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks, Samuel L. Jackson, Bo Svenson) The first of the two volume Kill Bill. Vol. 1 opens with the slaughter of the pregnant Bride (Thurman) and the wedding party by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Tarantino is an avid fan of the Kung Fu films, and Bill is his quirky homage to the genre. Nobody else writes dialogue or plots like Tarantino, and Vol. 1 is rich with his offbeat combination of black humor, homage to other films, and drama. For dialogue and plot twists, Vol. 2 wins hands down, but for sheer energy and marvelously crafted martial arts sequences Vol. 1 is tops.
In case you hadnt guessed,
The Bride survives, barely, and when she awakens five years later she begins
her vendetta. In Vol. 1 The Bride shrinks the list of assassins standing
between her and the mastermind of the slaughter, Bill (Carradine). Along the
way she also does her bit for helping the overpopulation problem in
One of my favorite dialogue scenes
was in the
My favorite visual sequence was the battle in the snow-covered garden. However, the battle in the tea house is a gem of choreography.
The DVD has a wealth of background information on the film and characters. In particular, we learn that Hatori Hanzo was the avenging samurai who played in the Japanese samurai series Shadow Warrior. The original actor plays this part in the film. The snow battle was inspired by Lady Snowblood, and apparently even the song Shuran No Hano (The Flower of Carnage) is taken from the original. http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=10667
So if you like Tarantino, Vol. 1 is not to be missed. However, it is profane, bloody, and brutal. You do not need to see it to enjoy Vol. 2, which is less bloody and richer in dialogue. Beginning
Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (2004) (****, action) (6-7-04) (DW.- QuentinTarantino; W.-Uma Thurman; Uma Thurman, David Carradine, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Gordon Liu, Michael Parks, Samuel L. Jackson, Bo Svenson) I didnt see Kill Bill before watching Kill Bill, Vol. 2. Like Pulp Fiction it is not as gory as it seems. However, Bill is not without gore and certainly not without violence. The film gives enough background to follow the story line such as it is. The Bride, her wedding party, and everyone else within machine gun range were massacred in Vol. 1, only the Bride (Thurman), a very able assassin, manages to survive. In Vol. 1 after recovering from her coma, she had cut (literally) a swath through about half the perpetrators and their defending armies of assassins, before part one ran out of time. She is now back to finish the job with Bill as the responsible party as the pinnacle of her efforts. Only the now-gone-to-seed Budd (Madsen) and the hyper-lethal Elle (Hannah) stand in the way. However, things are never as they seem and The Bride is in for a real roller coaster ride.
Plot is not the goal here. Bill is pure story telling indulgence. And Tarantino knows how to tell a story with fascinating dialogue, stunning plot twists, and a host of exotic characters that most films would die for just to have one of them. The characters are all bigger than life. Their accomplishments are almost epic. Oh, yes did I mention that Tarantino has an encyclopedic knowledge of films and ebb and flow of scenes that go into creating the great film moments. He also knows how to adapt these elements into his own story telling, in an almost reverential way. But he is never derivative. He pays homage to these films and yet recasts them in his own unique and generally warped view.
We watched Once Upon a Time in the West the night before we saw Bill. My wife and I kept looking at each other throughout Bill as we saw the way in which Tarantino captured images, flow, sounds, and the essences of so many elements. There are apparently entire web sites devoted to pointing out where different elements of Bill came from. Having seen lots of films isnt essential to enjoying Bill, but it will enrich the experience. Even if you dont have an encyclopedic film memory to pin down specifics, you will have countless feelings of déjà vu. I particularly liked the twist on the scene from Laura.
The characters are all rich, entertaining. Budd is a marvelous combination of drunken philosopher and cunning survivalist. Elle is lethally lovely and has one of the best scenes where she has enhanced her knowledge and enriched her speech by using the internet. The lethal martial arts master Pai Mei (Liu) is not one for the weak of heart to train under. And the preacher, the oriental assassin, and Esteban (Parks) all have quirkily lovely scenes. And Bill? Definitely worth the wait. He was not even seen in Vol. 1, just his voice, his feet and his Presences. Well, here he delivers in the flesh. A man as ruthless, as cunning, as lethal as one can imagine. And yet with his soft edge (check out the video he uses).
Bill, Vol. 2. is offbeat, quirky, beautifully choreographed, and rich in detail and atmosphere. Richly black humored. And never dull. But definitely not for the squeamish. Listen closely. This part applies to you. Beginning
The Killer is Loose (1956) (**1/2, noir) (02-06-04) Budd Boetticher; Joseph Cotten, Rhonda Fleming, Wendell Corey, Alan Hale Jr., Michael Pate) Solid, taut little noir. A little twist on the usual story line. A milquetoast (Corey) in a moment of weakness loses everything that he loves. In short, the nominal noir protagonist. This loss causes him to become an avenging angel in the pursuit of others the typical monster of many noirs. The threatened are police detective (Cotton) and his wife (Fleming). The ending is a taut little build as the police, the hunted, and the hunter all try to outwit each other. Corey is the centerpiece of the film as a man haunted by his losses and with a fragile grasp at best of who must die to exact vengeance. One of the killings is as brutal and sudden as most youll see in modern films. Review based on the excellent print shown recently on Turner Classic Movies. Beginning
Killer Klowns from Outer
Space (1988) (**1/2, sci fi, horror, comedy) (2-23-05) (D.-Stephen Chiodo;
W.-Charles Chiodo, Edward Chiodo; Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen)
After years of being hard or impossible to get, Klowns is now available
on DVD. The catch line is In Space No One Can Eat Ice Cream! With
a title and build up like this, you get exactly what you expect: a one-of-a-kind
exercise in the bizarre by the Chiodo brothers. A bunch of teenagers making
out on lovers lane, a meteor comes in near by, a couple goes to
investigate. They find a circus tent populated by clowns bent on harvesting
the world. Virtually everything you know and love about circuses gets turned
into the lethal. Done completely tongue in cheek with a bawdy sense of humor
and total disrespect for one of our most cherished institutions. Done on a shoestring
budget this is a guerilla film makers dream. A gem of set design and improvisation.
The clowns in particular are close to the original, but just twisted enough
to be grotesquely frightening. The young actors in general are bad, but you
have to remember that some of the greatest got their start this way. For example,
Jack Nicolson got his start climbing castle walls in Corman schlock. Equally
bad, but deliberately so, is John Vernon as a teenager hating sheriff who, of
course, refuses to believe the threat as the town is slowly depopulated around
him. You may remember
In summary, this is an experience. Dips, chips, and a crew of rowdy friends wont hurt while you watch and kibitz. The DVD has entertaining making of and voice- over commentaries that are probably essential viewing for budding filmmakers. The theme song is off the wall and featured prominently on the CD The Uninvited, which is a collection of classic and not-so-classic music from sci fi and horror TV shows and movies.
Killer's Kiss (1955) (**1/2, crime, noir) (11-8-99) (D.-Stanley Kubrick; Frank Silvera, Jamie Smith, Irene Kane, Jerry Jarret) Second rate noir about a washed up boxer (Silvera) who falls for a dance hall girl (Kane). Only her oily boss (Smith) wants her for himself and has the muscle to make it stick. The film uses all the noirish conventions of voice over, stark lighting, an atmosphere of decadence and decay, and an interesting cross cutting of the timelines. Unfortunately, the story doesn't hold up. The logic and character development is flawed, and a number of scenes go on for too long just to fill the time.
The fight sequence is well done and reflects Kubrick's intimate knowledge of boxing. He had done a documentary on the topic earlier. If you look closely, you will notice the clever way that he manages to convey the sense of a full arena, although it is certainly empty--Kubrick could not have afforded the extras. The final, taut, brutal battle between the boxer and the boss is one of the most bizarre that you are likely to see. It is done in a mannequin factory where they are surrounded by and use naked mannequins--not the first time that sex and violence are shownn interrelated.
Kiss was Kubrick's second feature film after Fear And Desire (1953). One can attribute many of the shortcomings to its ultralow budget, $75,000. Kubrick borrowed from everyone and had to do much of the final editing himself when he ran out of money. The film did passably in the theaters and allowed him to repay everyone. It also gave him the clout to get the prime The Killing with first class actors and script. The Killing helped to establish Kubrick as a major talent. So in that regard, Killer's Kiss is a seminal film in Kubrick's development and of interest to all Kubrick fans. Beginning
Killing, The (1956) (***1/2, noir, crime, drama) (12-21-97) (D.-Stanley Kubrick, Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Ted De Corsia, Marie Windsor, Joe Sawyer, Elisha Cook, Timothy Carey) Kubrick's second noticed film and considered a classic. Taut, clever homage to noir with its own twists. Basically a caper film similar to The Asphalt Jungle involving an ingenious race track theft put together by Hayden. The voice-over narration was also widely used in noir, but really wasn't necessary here; does further the noir feel. The film employs a clever flashback structure to tie the different individuals together. We have an interesting assortment of individuals, including a femme fatale, who are ultimately doomed by human weakness and errors. The truly sick marriage of Cook to Windsor is pivotal. Cook plays a believable loser plus has the noir credentials of The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. The next to last scene where everything comes crashing down is a gem. A Kubrick script from Lionel White's novel Clean Break. My only complaint is that the consequences of the shoot-out seemed unrealistic. Beginning
Kill Me Again (1989) (***, crime, drama, noir) (D.- John Dahl; Val Kilmer, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer, Michael Madsen, Jonathan Gries, Pat Mulligan, Nick Dimitri, Bibi Besch) After a murderous heist of mob money in Nevada, Vince (Masden) and Fay (Whalley-Kilmer) take the money and run. Only Fay wants instant gratification in Vegas--nobody says criminals are smart--and after a little disagreement with Vince, Fay runs even further with the money. Enter private detective Jack Andrew (Kilmer) who .... But that would spoil the fun. Not inspired film noir, but a stylish tribute to the genre that will keep your engine running until a really good one like The Usual Suspects comes along.. A solid, tightly plotted trip into the dark corners of the human mind where the story even holds together in retrospect. (11-21-95) Beginning
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) (***, black comedy) (D.-Robert Hamer; Dennis Price, Alec Guinness, Valerie Hobson, Joan Greenwood, Miles Malleson, Hugh Griffith, Jeremy Spenser, Arthur Lowe) At the turn of the century, Louis Mazzini (Price) is in the line of accession for a Dukedom. Unfortunately, a bit far down--ninth to be exact. However, for an enterprising young man who feels his upper crust relatives are responsible for his mother's death, this means there are only eight people between him and HIS dukedom. There is a very strong genetic likeness that runs through the family. It should, since Guinness superbly plays all eight relatives who are in line for untimely ends. Louis' life is complicated by too much of a good thing--two beautiful women who each expect to have him. A nasty piece of English black humor that scorches human nature and the English upper class. (4-21-97) Beginning
King of New York (1990) (**, drama) (D.-Abel Ferrara, Christopher Walken, Larry Fishburne, Wesley Snipes, David Caruso, Victor Argo, Janet Julian) A ruthless crime lord (Walken) plays a warped Robin Hood who deals drugs to support his philanthropic largess to the Black community. And nothing and no one stands in his way. When asked why he felt he could be judge, jury, and executioner, his reply was that everyone killed deserved to die or got in his way. While this film is stylishly well done in places, it ultimately fails. The acting, motivation, and plot and character development are all inadequate. What plot there is seems more designed to string together the violence and nudity than for any well conceived cinematic goal. Walken, who is a limited actor with a wooden delivery would be acceptable as a sociopath here if supported by a believable plot and good supporting cast. Regrettably, he gets neither. The film playing in the background in one scene is Nosferatu, the first vampire movie. (8-2-93) Beginning
King Solomon's Mines (1937) (**1/2, action, adventure, classic) (2-28-00) (D:-Robert Stevenson; Paul Robeson, Cedric Hardwicke, Roland Young, John Loder, Anna Lee) Dated, but solid telling of H. Rider Haggards story about search in Africa for fabled King Solomons mines. Lots of action with some fine set pieces. It looks like a fair amount of the footage was actually shot in Africa.
General Hospital fans will be surprised to see that the stunning young woman in the film is none other than Anna Lee, who plays Lila Quartermaine on that soap. Given that Quartermaine is the character in the Haggard story, I wonder if there is any connection?
However, the gold standard of African safari action films is the 1950 remake of King Solomons Mines, which was largely shot in Africa. It is incomparable. This review based on a good print of the 1937 film that recently showed on TMC. Beginning
KingSolomon'sMines (1950) (****, adventure) (D.-Compton Bennett, Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Richard Carlson, Hugo Haas, Lowell Gilmore, Kimursi) Justly deserved Academy Awards in Cinematography and Film Editing. Don't let this being old turn you off. A breath taking film adaptation of H. Rider Haggard's novel. The quintessential safari movie. Indeed, many jungle movies used the cutting room floor throwaways from Mines. A great white hunter takes a wife and her brother in search of her husband who disappeared into the interior searching for a lost diamond mine. The plot is not very complicated or surprising, but everything is first rate: the action, the chemistry between the principles, the absolutely awesome scenery. The stampede on the veldt is one of the most awesome film experiences you will have. It just could not have been staged, but it was certainly exploited. The movie is at times brutal and some of the animal shoots could not be done now, but it was authentic.
The movie does not patronize African culture, but revels in its gorgeous variety. The hunter has the greatest respect for Africans and Africa, and this is reflected in the entire film. As an aside, you will notice the complete absence of that ubiquitous jungle bird that you hear calling in almost all African movies. With good reason. Mines is authentic. The bird is the Kookaburra, which is indigenous to only one place in the world, Australia. They generally don't blow off course and end up in Africa; however they do have a great sounding call that has become the de facto standard background in jungle movies.
Check it out. Do be careful about hacked commercial versions. The original runs a glorious 102 minutes.
At the end while they are trying to escape through the cave, they are suddenly confronted by a ghastly visage of a deformed stalagmite. This formation is in New Cave (now I believe called Slaughter Cave), near Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico. It is called the Klansman because of it striking resemblance to a ghastly partially hooded Klansman. New Cave is run by the Park Service and is completely undeveloped. It has no lights, you must use flashlights and lanterns. Anyone can go on a guided tour, although you have to make prior reservation with the Park Service. It is a crisp half mile or so up a steep trail, but is absolutely fascinating. The ranger lore is that Deborah Kerr would not make the hike up to see it and sat in a car at the base of the mountain during the filming. This may be true, but apparently she was superb under the absolutely brutal, primitive filming conditions in Africa. At one time, the cave was mined for 20,000-year-old bat guano, and the remains of the mining operation are still evident. For the nervous, there are no bats there because of the steep narrow exit. The prevalent Mexican brown bat is not powerful enough to fly out. If you have ever watched the bats exiting Carlsbad Caverns, they must spiral slowly upwards to gain the necessary altitude to exit. The original New Cave denizens, a much larger bat, are long extinct. As an aside, did you know that the red bat guano such as mined in New Cave is used in cosmetics and lip stick? The third tallest column (where a stalagmite and stalagtite have grown together) in the world is in New Cave. The largest is in Russia and the second is across the valley in a professional spelunkers' cave where you have to drop 700 feet just to get to the cave; the waiting list for rated spelunkers is 6 months to get in this one, so the average person is never going to see it. Indeed, this is the cave where several years ago a professional woman spelunker broke her leg and it took about a week to rescue her. Settle for a very impressive third place. If you are ever in New Mexico, I strongly recommend a side trip to Carlsbad Caverns and New Cave. (11-8-93) Beginning
Kinsey (2004) (***1/2, docudrama) (1-24-05) (D.-Bill Condon; Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chris O'Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Oliver Platt, Dylan Baker) In America sex is an obsession, in other parts of the world it is a fact. So says Marlene Dietrich. Still a lot of truth in that statement, but Alfred Kinsey did his bit to change that view.
For some segments of our society, Kinsey is the poster child of the sexual revolution that put the country on a rollercoaster to hell. Many count his 1948 book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male as the downfall of modern civilization. Kinsey is a docudrama on the life and impact of the man. The film is bawdy, funny, provocative, shocking, and fascinating, and I was amazed that it had an R rating. The director was prepared to go to the mat over one set of images, but didnt have to. It turns out the truly offending slides were actually the ones used by Kinsey for his mixed college classes on sexuality in the 30s and 40s. I guess if they were OK then, they could be R rated today. But I still marvel.
Who would have guessed that a man who made a career and a passion out of cataloguing gall wasps (over a million of them) would become one of the most recognized names in the world? However, once he became interested in human sexuality, he took his same single mindedness of purpose, dedication, and energy to that task.
I am not a prude, but I found myself being taken aback by the up front, in-your- face, sexuality of the film. Perhaps, I expected Winnie the Pooh? But then maybe that is what the country felt when his work was published; after all at that time it was still widely believed or at least claimed that masturbation caused blindness.
Kinsey was one of the opening films at this years Virginia Film Festival. It had not yet been released in the theaters, and they had incredible security. Prominent NO PHOTOGRAPHY signs and verbal statements. Bag searches and wanding of everyone, pat downs on some, no cell phones or cameras allowed, and night vision goggles to check the audience for illicit photography. Apparently this relaxed level of security was only after a vigorous fight with the festival organizers. The statement was that they wanted no one to make illegal copies. I have never seen this level of security before at the Festival with pre-release films, and I suspect the reason was more directed. They didnt want photos of some of the more explicit shots from the film to show up on the web before the film hit the streets.
In summary, a fascinating character study. Beautifully filmed. The acting is stellar especially by Neeson and Linney who portrays his wife, confidant, and helpmate. I found much of what was portrayed in the university still relevant. Many tend to forget that those in universities are every bit as human and diverse as the rest of the population.
I make no claims about the accuracy of the film, but there are two highly divergent views. One portrayed by the film and the other by his vocal opponents.
Kiss of Death (1947) (***, drama, crime) (D.- Henry Hathaway; Brian Donlevy, Victor Mature, Richard Widmark, Coleen Gray, Karl Malden, Taylor Holmes, Mildred Dunnock) A film noir classic. With the exception of Widmark, the plot and characters are a bit stilted, but the fabulous set ups, lighting, and ambience more that makes up for it. Mature is a convicted thief who bargains to doublecross his colleagues. The reasons are certainly believable. This gets him on the bad side of Eddie (Widmark) which gives him the life expectancy of a cat at a Doberman dog show.
This is Widmark's film debut as the laughing psychopathic killer. He received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor. His smiling countenance and giggle completely belie his actual thoughts. While his characterization is over the top, Widmark succeeds in making it believable and achieves one the most chilling, intrinsically evil characters to ever grace the screen. His encounter with the crippled mother (Dunnock) of one of his associates is likely to remain with you for a long time. Suffice it to say that there is disagreement over whether the actor or a stunt double was actually in the wheel chair.
Besides being a fine film noir, Kiss is the first film to use the then new zoom lens technology. We take zooms for granted now, but in 1947 their introduction allowed an apparent range of camera motion that was stunning. Prior to that cameras actually had to move to sweep in or draw back. While the cinematographers proved incredibly skillful at doing this, it still limited their artistic flexibility. The fact that you have to really study Kiss to notice the use of the zoom is a tribute to how quickly the cinematographer Norbert Brodine adapted to the new technology and used it in a way that is transparent to us now. The gritty authentic feel comes from the fact that everyone moved to New York City where filming was done on authentic locations including a Harlem nightclub, a house in Queens, the Criminal Courts Building, and the Tombs in Sing Sing rather than the traditional sound stages. Kiss also abounds in nice little touches such as where the cashier can be seen watching what is going on from the restaurant and the behavior of the patrons. (8-21-95) Beginning
Kiss of Death (1995) (**, crime, drama) (D.-Barbet Schroeder; David Caruso, Nicolas Cage, Helen Hunt, Kathryn Erbe, Samuel L. Jackson, Stanley Tucci, Micahel Rapaport, Ving Rhames) Disappointing remake of the classic film noir Kiss of Death. The one thing the director did right was to not directly reproduce Widmark's Eddie, whose chilling laugh and smile were a high point of the first film. Nicolas Cage (Little Junior Brown) replaces Eddie with a set of hang ups and neuroses that would cripple Hercules. Unfortunately, Junior does not work on either a believable or a camp level, although Cage gives it his best. Caruso is a convicted thief trying to go straight when his cousin (no one should have a relative like this) ropes him into a deal that goes bad. Caruso ends up in jail again, gets royally shafted by the cousin, loses everything he cherishes, and then the feds put the press on him to betray the mob. The feds really want Junior and his father and will stoop to any low to turn Caruso. Up to here I though the film worked fairly well, but then the pivotal interactions between Caruso and Cage never worked. And the ending(s) were disasterous. Finally, for the film to work Caruso had to possess a maniacal energy and the ability to make you believe that he was willing to destroy himself to protect those things that he loved. Caruso is too laid back and lacks the dynamic range and intensity to pull this off. (11-28-95) Beginning
Kiss Me Deadly (1955) (****, crime) (D.-Robert Aldrich; Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Cloris Leachman, Maxine Cooper, Gaby Rodgers, Jack Elam, Strother Martin, Jack Lambert) Violent, efficient film noir thriller based loosely on Mike Spillane's Kiss Me Deadly. I won't give any of the plot away, and if you read the book there are enough changes to keep you off balance. Starts a little uncertainly but, once it hits its stride, relentlessly gut wrenching. When it was over, I just sat in the chair wired and drained. Brutal realism shot in superbly disturbing cinematography by Ernest Laszlo. Maltin claims it was a very influential film for the French New Wave and years ahead of its time. The latter I can certainly confirm. So modern in style it could show today. The item of the search is almost a standard Hitchcock "McGuffin"--it really doesn't matter what it was, it just provides the catalyst for the action. Almost. Aldrick ends up using it in a climax of such power that it alone is worth seeing. So powerful in fact that it was highlighted in PBS's film special on film noir. Don't worry about the science. Not correct. But, as with many good thriller, it doesn't matter.
Maltin felt that Meeker was a great Mike Hammer. I thought he was the weak link in an otherwise superb cast down to the bit players. He was too glacially distant and uninvolved. However, he was perfect for the ending. In keeping with Aldrich's consistently cynical view of human nature, his Hammer is less idealistic than Spillane's. One of the little touches that grabs me was our last look at the face of one of the hoods; no more than a few seconds, but you see a whole series of complex reactions and thoughts racing through his mind--and he doesn't like any of them. Those with a keen eye or ear (I am better with voices and mannerisms) will recognize Cloris Leachman, the perkily obnoxious neighbor from the original Mary Tyler Moore Show and recently Granny in the latest Beverly Hillbillies movie. Also, I think most people will find themselves snapped up short by one of the items in Hammer's apartment. (5-1-95) Beginning
Kiss Or Kill (1997) (***, suspense, crime) (4-26-99) (D.-Bill Bennett; Frances O'Connor, Matt Day, Chris Haywood, Barry Otto, Andrew S. Gilbert, Barry Langrishe, Max Cullen) Written by Bennett. Two larcenous young lovers Nikki (O'Connor) and Al (Day), a simple con gone wrong, a dead body, an incriminating video tape, and a run for their lives in the barren outback. You might expect that you know this cut and dried formula, but this is an Australian film. It is not linear in plot, characterization, or ultimately in resolution. My wife and I are still trying to decide what actually happened.
As the body count rises, the pursuers (note plural) close in, the number of strange locales increases, and the lovers become increasingly paranoid and suspicious, the film acquires an almost surrealistic feel. I won't give any more plot away other than to say that the film does hold together and details do count. I must admit that my wife and I stopped it more than once to try to figure out what was going on. Do remember, Australian steering wheels are on the right, not left--we could not understand one point until we reminded ourselves of this.
The outback is an integral part of the plot. Its stark isolation is illuminated both in film and by the simple explanation of a motel owner as to why his rate is what it is. The lovers are true criminals. Instant gratification with no thought of consequences. Just how criminal is for the plot to establish.
You can argue that the plot was contrived and there were too many coincidences. And I didn't like the director's jump cutting. It was supposed to disorient you, but I just found it distracting. Nevertheless, an intriguing evening. Beginning
Knack, and How to Get It, The (1965) (****, humor) (5-27-98) (D.-Richard Lester; Rita Tushingham, Ray Brooks, Michael Crawford, Donal Donnelly) A unique British import that can be found aperiodically on the cable. Surrealistic, unpredictable and, at least for me, nearly lethally funny. The plot defies description. Young Brooks is a woman magnet and his landlord, timid Crawford, desperately wants this knack. A warped painter Donnelly moves in without being asked and sets up shop. A country girl, Tushingham, wanders into this maelstrom while looking for the YWCA. We then get the interplay between these very disparate characters and the comments of the older generation as they watch the insanity race by. Incidentally, when Knack came out, the comments of the passersby in the film made me realize that many British do not actually speak English (something they say about us anyway) and film subtitles would be welcome. Warning, Knack does hit on what are now two very hot button issues--date rape and false accusations of such so the presentation of the last few minutes may be uncomfortable. Beginning
Kongo (1932) (***, drama) (D.-William Cowan; Walter Huston, Lupe Velez, Conrad Nagel, Virginia Bruce, C. Henry Gordon) Intriguing, taut, brutal drama of crippled Huston ruling African outpost and seeking revenge against the man who crippled him by enslaving daughter. First-class performance by Huston whose crazed behavior is compellingly believable and a fine supporting cast. Some of the story elements are dated, especially the ending, but nevertheless a stark view of human nature. Surprisingly explicit and brutal for 1932, so do heed Maltin's warning "Not for the squeamish". (9-29-97) Beginning
Krippendorf's Tribe (1998) (**, humor) (2-8-99) (D.-Todd Holland; Richard Dreyfuss, Jenna Elfman,Natasha Lyonne , Gregory Smith, Carl Michael Lindner, Lily Tomlin, David Ogden Stiers) Bear with me on this one. I have to tickle my low funny bone sometimes. I rented Krippendorf for $3.00. Three of us watched it. Yes, we all got more than $1.00 worth of belly laughs out of it. James Krippendorf (Dreyfuss), his wife, and three kids went to New Guinea looking for a lost tribe. The wife died, and Krippendorf drowned his sorrows with the grant money. Payback time comes when a new professor, Veronica (Elfman), who admires his work immensely, sets him up to speak on the Lost Tribe that he has discovered. One lie begets another until we have a full blown conspiracy and cover up complete with documentary films--cleverly and not badly done actually.
The campus politics and infighting certainly have their roots in reality at some institutions. There are certainly those who will sacrifice their integrity and lie and cheat to avoid shame and jail or to get fame and money. Overall the film was not very good; however, during several scenes as they create the Lost Tribe and try to cover up as the conspiracy unravels, food should not be in your mouth. So if you go into it in the right mood, you will get your money's worth. Beginning
Requiem for Stanley Kubrick (1928- March 7, 1999) (3-22-99) The film world mourns the death of Stanley Kubrick. Dead at 70. One of the great geniuses of film. He completed only 13 films, which were generally given lukewarm to moderate openings and none were blockbusters. Yet his films only grow in stature with time. His filmatic visions have astounded, fascinated, puzzled, enraged, and delighted viewers and will do so until film art ceases to exist. He made great films in such diverse areas as film noir, science fiction, war, horror, historical and costume dramas, and obsession. He barely graduated from school and then worked as a still photographer for the magazine Look before entering the film industry. A consummate artist, Kubrick was never afraid to challenge his viewers and force them to interpret his films. A genius at melding visual and aural images, innumerable scenes from his films are so seared into my mind that I can still replay them with strong visceral impact 10 or more years after seeing the films. Indeed, classical music that he used in a film frequently triggers my visual replays when I hear the pieces.
Intensely private and idiosyncratic, he was a driven artist who was always pushing the edge in interpretation and technology. In particular, 2001 was opaque and subject to numerous interpretations. This in spite of the fact that it is based on Arthur C. Clarke's short story The Sentinel. Clarke is a hardcore scientist, which the story reflects in its very direct unambiguous interpretation. Kubrick was not about to be constrained as the following quote reveals:
"How could we possibly appreciate the Mona Lisa if Leonardo had written at the bottom of the canvas: 'The lady is smiling because she is hiding a secret from her lover.' This would shackle the viewer to reality, and I don't want this to happen to 2001." [The Making of Kubrick's 2001 edited by Jerome Agel, 1970, Signet]
I think that the quote from his interview with Playboy magazine summarizes his goals in that he "tried to create a visual experience, one that bypasses verbalized pigeonholing and directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophical content...just as music does." His integral use of music also fits into this philosophy. It also summarized his goals and his legacy. We will miss his contributions.
If you have a free week or so, you could probably use it by just following the web links found by searching "Stanley Kubrick" on Yahoo. I list below a few that I found especially interesting:
http://126.96.36.199/ Nice collection of articles
http://www-personal.umich.edu/%7Ejbmorgan/look.html Photos from Kubrick's Look days with commentary. Includes a series of candid infrared shots showing his early interest in the technological edge of film.
http://www.underview.com/2001/how.html#pen Underman's 2001 HOW WAS IT DONE?
http://www.underview.com/2001/2001.html An intriguing collection of items and links.
http://www.underview.com/2001/extras.html#inspires1 Dr. Who fans will especially enjoying learning how 2001 was influenced by Dr. Who--and later vice versa.
See The Killing, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, Clockwork Orange. Beginning
Kwaidan (1964) (***1/2, horror, fantasy) (1-15-01) (D.-Masaki Kobayashi; Rentaro Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama, Keiko Kishi, Tatsuya Nakadai, Takashi Shimura) Four supernatural tales at the fairy tale, folk lore level set in feudal Japan and based on work by Lafcadio Hearn. Cerebral, atmospheric. As with many ghost stories, these are cautionary tales about how one should live and interact with the spirits. The first two have direct Western counterparts. "The Black Hair" is about an ambitious young man who dumps his wife to improve his position only to regret his decision. "The Woman in the Snow" is about a young woodcutters fateful encounter with a snow nymph. "Hoichi, the Earless" defies description but falls into the ghost story category. "In a Cup of Tea" involves a samurai who crosses a spirit. The sets are stunning with "Woman" and "Hoichi" being the most awesome and surrealistic. Much of the acting is reminiscent of a kabuki play where stillness, posture, and facial expressions are more important than action. Review based on the superb 164 minute widescreen transfer DVD available at Sneak Reviews. Apparently when originally released in the US it was cut to 124 minutes by eliminating Woman so other copies may not have the full film. Fans of Kurosawa may recognize the etched face of Shimura who played in numerous films including The Seven Samurai, Rashomon, and Yojimbo. Beginning