The International Lens: Aguirre, The Wrath of God (dir by Werner Herzog)


Take a moment to picture this: Klaus Kinski, drifting by on a raft with a bunch of monkeys.

There’s a lot of memorable scenes in Werner Herzog’s 1972 film, Aguirre, The Wrath of God.  However, for me, this will always be the film where Klaus Kinski ends up on a raft with a bunch of monkeys.  It feels like an appropriate fate for Aguirre, the Spanish conquistador and proto-fascist who Kinski plays in this film.  After spending 90 minutes listening to Augirre rant and rave about how he’s destined to conquer South America and how he will always be known as “the wrath of God,” it’s easy to look forward to him being reduced to being a somewhat pathetic figure, commanding a raft full of monkeys.

And yet, what’s odd, is that Aguirre never quite become as ludicrous a figure as you’re expecting him too.  Even though he’s obviously been driven mad and the Amazon rain forest is closing in on him, there’s nothing desperate about Aguirre.  He still believes in himself.  He still believes in his destiny.  He still believes that every decision that he’s made has been the right one.  It’ll take more than a bunch of monkeys to defeat Aguirre!

Filmed on location in South America, Aguirre, The Wrath of God claims to be based on a true story.  We’re told that the film was adapted from a journal that was kept by a 16th century priest named Gaspar de Carvajal.  And while it is true that a Dominican missionary named Carvajal did publish several accounts of his journeys to the New World and while the film itself is full of people who share their names with actual historical figures (Pizarro, Pedro de Ursua, and Lope de Aguirre, being just three examples), the film’s story is itself fictional, though plausible.  This is one of those stories that may not have happened but the viewer can’t help but feel that maybe it should have.

The film deals with an expedition of Spanish conquistadors making their way through South America, searching for the fabled country of El Dorado.  The conquistadors, whio are first seen awkwardly climbing down a huge mountain in their full armor while dragging along cannons and treasure chests, are led by Pizarro (Alejandro Repullés).  Pizarro orders 40 members of the expedition to scout ahead by taking a raft down the Amazon River.  Pizarro places Ursua (Ruy Guerra) in charge of the scouting expedition while naming Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) as second-in-command.  The hope is that the scouting expedition will return in one week with news of what’s ahead.  Of course, it doesn’t work out that way.

Aguirre is Klaus Kinski’s signature role.  Herzog, who knew Kinski when the latter was a young actor renting a room in Herzog’s family’s apartment, specifically wrote the role with Kinski in mind.  Aguirre would be the first of several legendary collaborations between Herzog and Kinski.  In Kinski, Herzog found the perfect actor to embody his belief that chaos was the determining factor of the universe.  And, in Herzog, Kinski found one of the few directors who truly knew how to harness his manic acting style.  They were a perfect match and, of course, they often hated each other.  During the filming of Aguirre, Herzog and Kinski reportedly argued so frequently over how Aguirre should be portrayed that Kinski threatened to leave the jungle at one point.  Herzog responded by saying that, if Kinski tried to leave, Herzog would first shoot him and then himself.  It was not the last time that Herzog would threaten to kill Kinski.  In fact, after Kinski’s death, Herzog made My Best Fiend, an entire documentary about their difficult but often worthwhile collaboration.

Kinski reportedly wanted to play Aguirre as a ranting madman while Herzog wanted a subtler interpretation.  Judging from the end results, they agreed to meet somewhere in the middle.  From the first minute we see him, it’s obvious that Aguirre holds everyone and everything around him in contempt.  He hates the other members of the expedition.  He despises the jungle that surrounds them and the river that he’s soon be floating down.  Even when he’s dealing with his own teenage daughter (Cecilia Rivera), he never smiles or shows anything resembling affection.  He glares at the world with distrustful eyes.  And yet, everyone follows him because he seems to be the only member of the expedition who is not intimidated by the river or the jungle.  He promises his followers that they will be kings and that they will be rich and he says it with such authority that it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone to ask how he can be so sure.  Even when it starts to become apparent that Aguirre is losing his sanity, he’s too intimidating a figure for anyone to try to stop.  When one member of the group starts to complain about Aguirre’s leadership, Aguirre chops off his head.  (The head continues to talk for a few seconds before falling silent.)  As the film progresses, Aguirre grows progressively more and more unhinged.  By the end of the film, he’s come to stand-in for fanatics through history.  Every dictator, the film seems to be saying, started out as an Aguirre.

In fact, the only things that’s not intimidated by Aguirre is the jungle that is continually threaten to swallow up the expedition.  In typical Herzog fashion, the jungle is both lushly beautiful and also home to all sorts of unseen threats.  As more than a few people learn as they float along the river, stopping to admire the jungle is a good way to get hit by an arrow.  Amazingly, no matter how many times the expedition is attacked by the potent combination of nature and angry natives, Aguirre never seems to get a scratch.  It may be that, in the end, only the insane can survive in a world with no rules beyond random destruction.

Aguirre was Herzog’s first big hit and it remains perhaps his best-known film.  It’s certainly features some of Herzog’s best work as a director and Klaus Kinski’s best performance as an actor.  In the end, you’ll never forget Aguirre and the monkeys.

Film Review: Charge Over You (dir by Regardt Steenekamp)


Charge Over You, an independent Australian film from 2010, tells the story of Sarah Goodall (Danya Cox).

Having spent almost her entire adolescence dreaming of becoming a doctor so that she could find a cure for the illness that was killing her mother, Sarah finds herself struggling after her mother dies.  Whereas she was once an honors student and seemed destined for greatness, she’s now haunted by a feeling that everything is pointless.  Her grades are slipping.  Her mentor is disappointed in her.  Her friends are all turning into bad influences.  Her father wants to marry some bimbo that Sarah doesn’t even know.  Sarah is even starting to wonder if she even wants to become a doctor.

It’s a dark time and, even worse, Sarah makes the mistake of playing with a Ouija board!  Well, technically, it was some of her friends who were playing with the Ouija board but Sarah was in the room at the time.  Sarah may say that she doesn’t believe in the power of the Ouija board but does the board believe in her?  That’s the question.

Suddenly, Sarah has a boyfriend!  She’s not sure how she met Dane (James E. Lee).  All she knows is that he’s suddenly in her life and that he has a habit of showing up whenever she’s feeling at her weakest.  When she steps into her dorm room, he’s there waiting for her.  When she tries to talk to other people, she’ll sometimes see him materialize behind them.  Dane is cold and cruel and doesn’t even pretend to be sympathetic when she tells him about the death of her mother.  Instead, Dane demands that she spend all of her time with him.  Even though Sarah doesn’t even like Dane, she finds it impossible to resist him.

Of course, Dane isn’t the only man who has suddenly materialized into Sarah’s life.  There’s also Mike, who appears to be a nice guy and who obviously likes Sarah.  (He’s visibly hurt when Sarah tells him that she already has a mysterious boyfriend who materialized out of nowhere.)  And then there’s Sam, who seems like he’s kind of dorky but who is constantly warning Sarah about guys like Dane.  Sam even warns Sarah about agreeing to have dinner with her father.  The dinner, of course, turns out to be a disaster and Sarah’s father reveals himself to be a disappointing human being.  Why, it’s almost as if Sam can see the future…..

Charge Over You is a strange film.  It starts out as a typical college horror film and then, suddenly, it swerves into overly religious territory as Sarah learns that she has both demons and angels competing for her soul.  And yet, it’s an undeniably entertaining little film.  Danya Cox gives a strong and sympathetic performance as Sarah and James E. Lee is magnetically evil as Dane.  Director Regardt Steenekamp does an excellent job of creating an ominous atmosphere and some the scenes where Dane materializes out of nowhere are genuinely creepy.  For a low-budget indie film that was reportedly filmed in just 12 days, Charge Over You is a surprisingly well-made and effective film.

It’s on Prime, so check it out during your lockdown and remember …. leave the Ouija boards in the closet!

Lisa’s Week In Review: 3/30/20 — 4/05/20


The lockdown continues.

One good thing: Black Widow has been moved back to November 6th.  That’s three days before my birthday so, assuming that I can actually go outside in November and that the Alamo Drafthouse manages to reopen, Black Widow can be my free birthday movie!  (Never give up hope.)

It’s interesting to think about actually.  All of the summer blockbusters are getting pushed back into what is traditionally Oscar season.  So, it’s easy (or maybe just entertaining) to imagine a situation where the Oscar race comes down to Black Widow vs Wonder Woman 1984 vs Top Gun: Maverick.

We’ll see what happens!  Here’s my report for this week:

Films I Watched:

  1. A Deadly Price For Her Pretty Face (2020)
  2. Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972)
  3. Aileen Wurnos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (1994)
  4. All The Bright Places (2020)
  5. Charge Over You (2010)
  6. Charlie Chan on Broadway (1937)
  7. Dazed and Confused (1993)
  8. Drunken Angel (1948)
  9. Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970)
  10. Fata Morgana (1971)
  11. Mary Magdalene (2019)
  12. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954)
  13. Polytechnique (2009)
  14. Sahara (1983)
  15. Scanners (2001)
  16. Signs of Life (1968)
  17. Stalker (1979)
  18. Twin Murders: The Silence of the White City (2020)
  19. Where is Robert Fisher? (2011)

Television Shows I Watched:

  1. Bar Rescue
  2. The Bob Newhat Show
  3. The Bold and the Beautiful
  4. The Cambridge Rapist
  5. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
  6. Days of Our Lives
  7. Degrassi
  8. General Hospital
  9. Ghost Whisperer
  10. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  11. Newhart
  12. Nowhere to Hide
  13. The Office
  14. Seinfeld
  15. Solemn Mass of Palm Sunday
  16. Sunday Mass
  17. Survivor 40
  18. The Young and the Restless

Books I Read:

  1. Maura’s Dream (2012) by Joel Gross
  2. The Year in Jerusalem (2013) by Joel Gross

Music To Which I Listened:

  1. Blanck Mass
  2. Bloc Party
  3. Britney Spears
  4. Dua Lipa
  5. HANA
  6. Lady Gaga
  7. Melanie C
  8. Moby
  9. OneRepublic
  10. The Prodigy
  11. Purity Ring
  12. Saint Motel
  13. UPSAHL

Links From Last Week:

  1. ‘Top Gun’ Can Help Us Understand Why the WHO Kowtows to China on Taiwan
  2. Indie Authors Read Provides Free Author Readings For Those Sheltering At Home

Links From The Site:

  1. Erin profiled Harry Sheldon and shared: Impatient Virgin, The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat, Cottonwood Creek, Mr. Madam, The Secret of Mary Magdalene, The Ice Cold Nude, and Earth Woman.
  2. Jeff shared music videos from Arrows, AC/DC, Bob Dylan, Fountains of Wayne, The Moody Blues, Bill Withers, and Metallica.  He reviewed Sahara, Coach of the Year, Peeper, Ministry of Vengeance, Stranger By Night, King Solomon’s Mines, and Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold.  He paid tribute to Toshiro Mifune and Adam Schlesinger.
  3. I reviewed Remember Me, Mommy?, Walk East On Beacon, Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Girl With A Bracelet, Polytechnique, Drunken Angel, Stalker, Signs of Life, Even Dwarfs Started Small, Fata Morgana, and Mary Magdalene!  I paid tribute to Ewan McGregor, Lamberto Bava, Albert Broccoli, and Roger Corman!  I shared scenes from Pulp Fiction, Phantom of the Opera, The Godfather, Roman Holiday, and GE commercial starring Bette Davis!  I shared my March Oscar predictions and a special April Fools Day message!
  4. Leonard shared the teaser for Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula!
  5. Ryan reviewed Lost In A Tree Of Thought, Slow Graffiti, Dramatic Paws, and Cat-Tropolis!

More From Us:

  1. Ryan has a patreon!  You should consider subscribing!
  2. For the Reality TV Chat Blog, I reviewed the latest episode of Survivor!
  3. At my music site, I shared songs from Dua Lipa, Melanie C, OneRepublic, HANA, UPSAHL, Purity Ring, and Norah Jones!
  4. At Days Without Incident, Leonard shared: Soul Makossa and A Love Bizarre!
  5. At her photography site, Erin shared: Garage, Buick Parking Only, Time To Dig, AC, Tuesday’s Sky, More of Tuesday’s Sky, and The Back Yard In Black-and-White!
  6. Jeff has been sharing his Lockdown Journal on Pop Politics: 4-1, 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, and 4-5!

Want to see what I did last week?  Click here!

 

The International Lens: Even Dwarfs Started Small and Fata Morgana (dir by Werner Herzog)


After making his feature film directorial debut with the well-made but somewhat predictable Signs of Life in 1968, Werner Herzog followed up with two of his most unconventional films to date, 1970’s Even Dwarfs Started Small and 1971’s Fata Morgana.

Even Dwarfs Started Small

I watched Even Dwarfs Started Small a few days ago and it was …. well, I’m not really sure what it was.  This is one of Herzog’s more enigmatic films.  It’s easy to imagine that the film has some incredibly deep meaning.  It’s also just as easy to imagine that the film was Herzog playing an elaborate practical joke on everyone who thought they were going to see another low-key film like Signs of Life.

The film takes place in an institution of some sort.  It’s implied that it’s a prison but it could just as easily be a mental hospital.  Everyone in the film is a little person.  The inmates are apparently rebelling against the warden.  While the warden sits in his office and waits for some sort of help to arrive, the inmates run around the grounds of the asylum and break things.  A van ends up driving in circles with no one at the wheel.  Chickens get into fights.  Piglets suckle on their dead mother.  (We don’t actually see the inmates kill any animals but there’s still a lot of very uncomfortable references to animal cruelty.)  Two blind inmates are taunted by the others.  We’re never really sure who anyone is or why they’re in the institution.  All we know is that their society appears to be crumbling and there’s no help on the way.

Even Dwarfs Started Small

It’s not a very pleasant movie to watch, though I do understand that it has its devoted fans.  (Director Harmony Korine has called it the greatest movie ever made because of course he would.)  You probably already guessed that my feelings about the film are mixed.  On the one hand, it was a very unpleasant viewing experience.  On the other hand, I do respect any artist who sticks to his vision, regardless of the risk of alienating his audience.  Herzog presents a portrait of Hell in Even Dwarfs Started Small and he doesn’t waver from it so I have to give him credit for that.

Incidentally, the smallest inmate is named Hombre.  He laughs nonstop through the entire film.  I have never more wanted to see a random asteroid just fall from the sky and crush one character.

Even Dwarfs Started Small was such an unpleasant experience that, after I watched it, I nearly gave up on watching any more films that night.  But, the fact of the matter is that I love movies and I like Werner Herzog so I decided to follow-up Dwarfs by watching Herzog’s third film, Fata Morgana.  And I’m glad I did!

Fata Morgana

Admittedly, Fata Morgana has even less of a plot than Even Dwarfs Started Small.  For the most part, Fata Morgana is made up of long tracking shots of the Sahara Desert.  Herzog reportedly spent 13 months, off-and-on, shooting footage in Africa.  At the time, he didn’t have any plans for what he was going to do with the footage, beyond perhaps using it to tell a science fiction story about a dying planet.

Fata Morgana

Instead, Herzog edited the footage together in such a way that the viewers feel as if they’re being taken on a trip across the Sahara.  Though the early part of the film features a voice narrating the creation myth of the Mayan people, little context is provided for the starkly beautiful images that Herzog captured in Africa.  Instead, it’s left to the viewer to determine what it all means.

Fata Morgana

The end result is a fascinating film, one that leads you pondering life’s mysteries.  The combination of Herzog’s footage and the atmospheric musical score leaves you feeling less like a viewer and more like an explorer.  Fata Morgana is a film that makes you want to get out and explore every corner of the world for yourself.  It’s also a film that reminds us that, after we’re gone, all of our possessions and works will just be mysterious artifacts for future explorers, like an overturned car sitting in the middle of the desert.  It’s one of Herzog’s best.

Fata Morgana

After these two films, Herzog would direct one of the films for which he is best know, Aguirre, The Wrath of God, a masterpiece that was predicted by both the ominous beauty of Fata Morgana and the disturbing insanity of Even Dwarfs Started Small.  

Film Review: Mary Magdalene (dir by Garth Davis)


“Dress more like the Virgin and less like the Magdalene.”

That’s something my grandmother always used to tell me and my sisters.  That’s because, Mary Magdalene — who is described in the Gospels as being a woman who traveled with and supported Jesus — is often mistaken for being the “sinful woman” who scandalized Simon the Leper by anointing Jesus’s feet.  As such, there’s a tradition that Mary Magdalene was either a former prostitute or, at the very least, a formerly promiscuous woman who repented and followed Jesus.  That said, there’s nothing in the canonical gospels that supports that tradition and, in all probability, the sinful woman was another Mary, Mary of Bethany.  In 1969, Pope Paul VI officially removed all reference to Mary Magdalene being the sinful woman but it’s still fairly common for Mary Magdalene to be portrayed as being a former prostitute.

Mary Magdalene, which was released briefly in theaters last year, attempts to set the record straight by imagining a different backstory for Mary Magdalene.  In fact, the whole theme of this movie seems to be, “See?  She wasn’t a prostitute!”  And that’s fine except, while watching the movie, I really had to wonder if it was somehow an improvement to instead portray her as being the most boring person in Judea.  Watching the film, one gets the feeling that the filmmakers were so proud of themselves for making Mary Magdalene a feminist that it didn’t occur to them that they might also want to make her an interesting character as well.

In this movie, Mary Magdalene (played by a dependably dull Rooney Mara) is a young Jewish woman who rebels against the wishes of her family and refuses to enter into an arranged marriage with Ephraim (Tzachi Halevy) and who instead decides to follow a preacher named Jesus (Joaquin Phoenix).  As portrayed in this movie, Jesus is charismatic but often moody, preaching a good message (though the film seems to interpret that message as mostly being vague Gnostic liberalism) while getting annoyed with almost everyone around him.  Jesus often seems to be exhausted by his followers, especially Judas (Tahar Rahim) who is way too eager for Jesus to lead an armed uprising against the forces of the Roman Empire.  Meanwhile, Jesus’s main disciple, Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor), often finds himself growing jealous of Mary Magdalene and the trust that builds between her and Jesus.  While this film does not go the Jesus Christ Superstar route of portraying them as being a couple, it also leaves little doubt that Mary Magdalene, who is defying not just Rome but also the entire patriarchy, understands Jesus and his teachings in a way that the male disciples never will.

As a film, Mary Magalene takes itself and its story very seriously and it generally eshews the type of grandeur that one might expect from a biblical epic.  That low-key approach may be historically accurate but it’s not much fun to watch and, with a running time of 120 minutes, the action just kind of plods along.  Rooney Mara can give a good performance when she has the right material but here, she’s often just reduced to just wanly staring off into the distance.

As for Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus …. well, the casting actually works better than you might think.  Phoenix plays Jesus as being a passionate leader who is haunted by his destiny.  With his long hair and his scruffy beard, Phoenix is not a glamorous Jesus but he’s very much a credible one.  The film is probably at its best in the scene where Jesus witnesses the money changers in the temple.  Rather than playing Jesus as being simply enraged, Phoenix plays him as being deeply disappointed.  One gets the feeling that he’s looking at what is happening in his father’s house and he’s thinking, “These are the people I’m supposed to sacrifice my life to save?”

Mary Magdalene is one of those films that took forever to actually show up in theaters.  The Weinstein Company was originally set to release the film in early 2017 but the release was pushed back to 2018, for reasons that have never been particularly clear.  Eventually the Weinstein Company pulled out of distributing the film and, for that, I’m thankful.  The idea of any film about Jesus carrying the Harvey Weinstein name is just too terrible to think about.  The film was then picked up by IFC, who gave it a perfunctory release in 2019.

It’s a flawed film, even though it’s heart may be in the right place.  The approach that it takes is just too low-key to be consistently interesting.  Sometimes, bigger is better.

Allan Quatermain and The Lost City Of Gold (1987, directed by Gary Nelson)


Having previously discovered and escaped King Solomon’s mines, Allan Quatermain (Richard Chamberlain) and Jesse Huston (Sharon Stone) are now living in a domestic bliss in Africa.  They’re planning on eventually returning to America so that they can get married but it turns out that Allan has one more quest that he has to complete before he can truly settle down.

When Allan receives information that his long last brother is not only still alive but has also discovered a fabled Lost City of Gold, Allan sets out to discover the city for himself.  Traveling with Jesse and an old friend named Umslopogaas (James Earl Jones!), Allan makes his way across the Sahara, survives a battle with a group of native, and manages to find both the city and his brother!

However, all is not well in the City of Gold.  Queen Nyelptha (Aileen Marson) is on the verge of going to war with Queen Sorais (Cassandra Peterson, a.k.a Elvira, Mistress of the Dark!!).  Manipulating both of the queens is the evil high priest, Agon (Henry Silva!!!!).  To save the City of Gold and his future marriage, Allan will first have to figure out a way to defeat Agon.

Allan Quatermain and the Lost City Of Gold was filmed back-to-back with King Solomon’s Mines.  The two films were released within a year of each other and, while King Solomon’s Mines was a minor box office success, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold was not.  I wasn’t expecting much when I watched the film but, believe it or not, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold is not that bad.  It’s a definite improvement on King Solomon’s Mines.  Richard Chamberlain is more believable as Quatermain in the sequel and he and Sharon Stone share the minimum amount of chemistry to be somewhat believable as a couple in love.  If that sounds like I’m damning with faint praise, it’s still an improvement over King Solomon’s Mines, where the two of them often seemed as if they couldn’t stand to be anywhere near each other.  Best of all, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold has Henry Silva in a ridiculous costume and that automatically makes the film worth watching.

Henry Silva, everyone.

Like King Solomon’s Mines, Allan Quatermain and The Lost City of Gold adds a large dose of intentional humor to its adventure story.  Fortunately, the comedy here is better executed than in the previous film.  There’s less mugging on Chamberlain’s part and some of the dialogue is genuinely amusing.

Of course, Allan Quatermain and The Lost City of Gold is not without its flaws.  This is a low-budget Cannon film that often tries too hard to duplicate the success of the Indiana Jones films without ever showing much understanding of what made those films successful in the first place.  Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold can’t hold a candle to the classic adventure films of the past.  But, for a low-budget Cannon film starring Richard Chamberlain as a rugged, jungle explorer, it’s actually a lot of fun.

Plus, did I mention Henry Silva?

The International Lens: Signs of Life (dir by Werner Herzog)


The 1968 German film, Signs of Life, is a deceptively simple film.

In fact, the story that it tells is so simple and so seemingly straight-forward that I’m sure some people would be surprised to discover that this was Werner Herzog’s first film.  When most people think of Herzog, they think of Klaus Kinski ranting against the Amazon and maybe Herzog himself talking about how he feels that chaos is the only governing principle of the universe.  Signs of Life, on the other hand, is a rather low-key and almost gentle film.  That said, the film does contain several of the themes that would show up in Herzog’s later film.  Even with his first feature film, Herzog already had a fairly good grasp on what he wanted to use cinema to express.

The film takes place in World War II and it deals with three German soldiers who have suffered from minor injuries in the war.  Deemed unfit for combat, they’ve been assigned to guard the munitions that are being stored at an ancient fortress on the Greek island of Kos.  It’s not demanding work.  The villagers are largely passive and, for the most part, seem to be just waiting out the war.  The leader of the soldiers, Stroszek (Peter Brogle), has recently married a Greek woman named Nora (Athina Zacharopoulou) and she is living with him at the fortress.

The film celebrates the beauty of Kos.  Herzog’s camera finds poetry in the simple sight of white linens hanging out to dry.  One of the soldiers explores the local cemetery and Herzog encourages us to ponder the long history of both the island and the people who live there.  In perhaps the film’s best known scene, Stroszek and Nora look down on a valley full of windmills and the beauty of it is a bit overwhelming.

As would often happen in later Herzog films, the soldiers never quite appreciate the beauty of the world around them.  While the audience is taking in scenes of breath-taking beauty, the soldiers are going a bit stir crazy.  Could it be that, as men of war, they’re incapable of appreciating the peaceful surrounding?  Perhaps but, then again, it could just be the fact that there’s not much to do on Kos other than ponder the mysteries of life and, in Herzog’s films, that often leads to insanity.  Stroszek ends up threatening to blow up the munitions dump but it must be said that, as far as Herzog lunatics are concerned, he’s no Klaus Kinski.

The plot of Signs of Life is largely secondary to the images that Herzog captures.  Watching Signs of Life, you get the feeling that Herzog simply fell in love with the island and that the film’s storyline is just something that he came up with so he’d have an excuse to share that love with the rest of the world.  Signs of Life is an exercise in pure cinema.  It’s not a perfect debut film but, at its best, it shows tantalizing hints of the great filmmaker that Werner Herzog would soon become.

Scenes That I Love: Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn at The Mouth of Truth in Roman Holiday


Given how much I love the 1953 film, Roman Holiday, I’ve probably shared this scene before but that’s okay.  It’s an incredibly charming scene and hey, it’s Gregory Peck’s birthday!

A Blast From The Past: Bette Davis Sells General Electric


Today is not only Roger Corman’s birthday!

And it’s not just Albert Broccoli’s birthday!

It’s also Bette Davis’s birthday and there’s absolutely no way that we here at the Shattered Lens, as lovers of both classic and modern films, could let the day pass without acknowledging it.

Here’s Bette Davis in a General Election commercial from 1933.  This commercial would have been shown in theaters, in between a double feature.

Song of the Day: The James Bond Theme, performed by The BBC Concert Orchestra under Keith Lockhart


One hundred and eleven years ago today, Albert R. Broccoli was born in New Your City.

Broccoli would eventually enter the film business, going from working as an assistant director with Howard Hughes to eventually become a very successful and highly respected film producer.  Today, Broccoli is best-known for producing the James Bond films.  Though Broccoli passed away in 1996, his daughter, Barbara, has continued to co-produce the films in the years since his death.  In short, if not for Albert Broccoli, James Bond probably never would have become a film icon and that would have been a tragedy.

In honor of his birthday, we present to you a song of the day!  In the clip below, The BBC Concert Orchestra performs Monty Norman’s iconic James Bond theme music.

Enjoy!