Five Days One Summer (1982, directed by Fred Zinnemann)


In 1932, Dr. Douglas Meredith (Sean Connery) is living in Switzerland with a much younger woman named Kate (Betsy Brantley), whom Meredith introduces as being his wife.  When Meredith and Kate go on a climbing holiday in the Alps, they hire a young guide named Johann (Lambert Wilson).  As they climb the mountains they not only discover a dead body but Meredith becomes suspicious that Kate might be falling for their guide.  Meanwhile, Johann discovers that truth between Meredith and Kate’s forbidden relationship.  Two men may go up the mountain but, in the end, only one man comes down.

Director Fred Zinnemann had a long career behind the camera, starting as an apprentice in Germany before coming to Hollywood in 1929.  (He was one of the many German and Austrian directors to immigrate as things grew steadily worse in post-war Germany.  He would soon be joined by Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, Robert Siodmak, and many others.)  Zinnemann was a master craftsman who made several good film without ever really developing a trademark style.  Among his best-known (and Oscar-nominated) movies are High Noon, From Here To Eternity, The Nun’s Story, A Man For All Seasons, and Julia.  Unlike a lot of his contemporaries, Zinnemann never resorted to changing his filmmaking habits in an effort to keep up with the new wave of the 60s and the 70s.  As a result, he never humiliated himself the way that some of the other Golden Age directors did during the final years of their careers.  Instead, he continued to put together well-constructed but old-fashioned and occasionally stodgy movies.  Five Days One Summer was his final film.  It was one that he had been trying to make for close to 40 years and the combination of the critical drubbing that greeted the film and its failure at the box office inspired Zinnemann to retire from filmmaking.

The love story at the center of Five Days One Summer is a bland one and Brantley doesn’t have much in the way of chemistry with either Connery or Wilson.  But the love story is just a distraction from the true star of the movie, the mountain.  Some of the mountain climbing segments are amazing to watch and knowing that the three stars were actually putting their lives at risk to get some of the shots makes it all the more impressive.  At its worse, the film is a visually impressive but old-fashioned travelogue.  At its best, it puts you right on the mountain.  The film is far from perfect and it’s certainly not one of Zinnemann’s best but, at the same time, it is hardly the disaster that it’s often described as having been.  I think some critics are so wedded to the narrative of the once-great director making a film that proves how out of touch he is with contemporary audiences (think of the final films of Otto Preminger, Richard Brooks, Elia Kazan, and George Stevens) that they overlooked that Zinnemann’s final film is a respectable, middle-of-the-road feature.

Ignore the film’s wan story and instead just concentrate on the amazing scenery and you’ll see that Five Days One Summer was not a terrible film for an old craftsman like Fred Zinnemann to go out on.

The Offence (1972, directed by Sidney Lumet)


After a suspected child molester named Baxter (Ian Bannen) dies while being interrogated in police custody, Detective Superintendent Cartwright (Trevor Howard) head up the internal affairs investigation.  Baxter was beaten to death by Detective Sergeant Johnson (Sean Connery), a 20-year veteran of the force who has seen the worst that humanity has to offer.  Did Johnson allow his anger over Baxter’s crimes to get to him or did something else happen during the interrogation?

When Sean Connery agreed to play James Bond for a final time in Diamonds are Forever, he did it under the condition that United Artists agree to back two of Connery’s non-Bond film projects.  UA agreed, though they did insist that neither film cost more than $2,000,000.  One of those projects was an adaptation of Macbeth, which was canceled in the wake of Roman Polansi’s version of the Scottish play.  The other project was The Offense.

Based on a play by John Hopkins, The Offence is the type of movie that probably would have never been made if not for the interest of a big star, like Connery.  The story is downbeat and grim and audiences are essentially asked to spend nearly two hours in the presence of two very unlikable men.  Baxter is an accused child molester while Johnson is a bully who has been driven so mad by the things that he’s seen that he’s not only violent on the job but also on at home.  Director Sidney Lumet directs with a cold and detached style, refusing to provide any sort of relief from the intensity of the film’s interrogations.  The film is set up as an acting showcase for Connery and Bannen, giving both of them a chance to show what they could do with two unpredictable characters.

Unfortunately, not many people got a chance to see their performances.  Even though Connery kept the budget under a million dollars and despite both the film and his performance being critically acclaimed, United Artists barely released The Offence and it took 9 years for the film to make back it’s meager budget.  It didn’t even get released in France until 2007.  Connery, however, often cited The Offence as being one of his best films and said that his performance in the film was his personal favorite.

The movies is too stagey and talky to be entirely successful but Connery was right about his performance.  It’s one of his best and it retains its power to disturb to this day.  Connery often chafed at being typecast as James Bond.  With The Offence, Connery plays a character who is nothing like Bond.  Everything about Johnson is brutal and seedy.  While it’s impossible not to initially sympathize with his anger towards the state of the world, Connery reveals that Johnson’s self-righteous anger is actually a shield for his own dark thoughts and desires.  He’s a bully, an angry man who grows more and more insecure as the film progresses and Baxter continues to see through him.  Connery makes Johnson sympathetic, frightening, pathetic, and dangerous all at the same time.  The Offence is a film that proves that Sean Connery was not only a good Bond but also a great actor.

 

Sean Connery Has Died


The greatest James Bond passed away earlier today in The Bahamas.  He was 90 years old.

Actually, it’s unfair to refer to Connery as simply being the greatest James Bond.  He was a great actor, period.  Yes, he will always be best known for playing James Bond but he also appeared in dramas, comedies, adventure films, and even the occasional sci-fi flick.  He was an actor who epitomized an era of filmmaking.  One can only imagine how Sean Connery would react to someone demanding that he apologize for a tweet.

Sean Connery, R.I.P.

Film Review: Murder on the Orient Express (dir by Sidney Lumet)


There’s been a murder on the Orient Express!

In the middle of the night, a shady American businessman (Richard Widmark) was stabbed to death.  Now, with the train momentarily stalled due to a blizzard, its up to the world’s greatest detective, Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney), to solve the crime.  With only hours to go before the snow is cleared off the tracks and the case is handed over to the local authorities, Hercule must work with Bianchi (Martin Balsam) and Dr. Constantine (George Coulouris) to figure out who among the all-star cast is a murderer.

Is it the neurotic missionary played by Ingrid Bergman?  Is it the diplomat played by Michael York or his wife, played by Jacqueline Bisset?  Is it the military man played by Sean Connery?  How about Anthony Perkins or John Gielgud?  Maybe it’s Lauren Bacall or could it be Wendy Hiller or Rachel Roberts or even Vanessa Redgrave?  Who could it be and how are they linked to a previous kidnapping, one that led to the murder of an infant and the subsequent death of everyone else in the household?

Well, the obvious answer, of course, is that it had to be Sean Connery, right?  I mean, we’ve all seen From Russia With Love.  We know what that man is capable of doing on a train.  Or what about Dr. No?  Connery shot a man in cold blood in that one and then he smirked about it.  Now, obviously, Connery was playing James Bond in those films but still, from the minute we see him in Murder on the Orient Express, we know that he’s a potential killer.  At the height of his career, Connery had the look of a killer.  A sexy killer, but a killer nonetheless….

Actually, the solution to the mystery is a bit more complicated but you already knew that.  One of the more challenging things about watching the 1974 version of Murder on the Orient Express is that, in all probability, the viewer will already know how the victim came to be dead.  As convoluted as the plot may be, the solution is also famous enough that even those who haven’t seen the 1974 film, the remake, or read Agatha Christie’s original novel will probably already know what Poirot is going to discover.

That was something that director Sidney Lumet obviously understood.  Hence, instead of focusing on the mystery, he focuses on the performers.  His version of Murder on the Orient Express is full of character actors who, along with being talented, were also theatrical in the best possible way.  The film is essentially a series of monologues, with each actor getting a few minutes to show off before Poirot stepped up to explain what had happened.  None of the performances are exactly subtle but it doesn’t matter because everyone appears to be having a good time.  (Finney, in particular, seems to fall in love with his occasionally indecipherable accent.)  Any film that has Anthony Perkins, John Gielgud, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, and Albert Finney all acting up a storm is going to be entertaining to watch.

Though it’s been a bit overshadowed by the Kenneth Branagh version, the original Murder on the Orient Express holds up well.  I have to admit that Sidney Lumet always seems like he would have been a bit of an odd choice to direct this film.  I mean, just consider that he made this film in-between directing Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon.  However, Lumet pulls it off, largely by staying out of the way of his amazing cast and letting them act up a storm.  It looks like it was a fun movie to shoot.  It’s certainly a fun movie to watch, even if we do already know the solution.

Scenes That We Love: James Bond Meets Honeychile Ryder in Dr. No


Today, the Shattered Lens wishes a happy 84th birthday to Ursula Andress!

Ursula Andress was one of the very first Bond girls, appearing opposite Sean Connery in Dr. No.  Andress played the role of Honeychile Ryder, who was good with a knife and totally willing to trespass on Dr. No.’s beach.  Andress set the standard by which almost all future Bond girls would be judged and the scene where Bond and Ryder first meet remains one of the most famous in the Bond franchise.  It was such a culturally-defining moment in 1962 that it apparently led to rocketing sales of bikinis.  Up until this film came out, bikinis were apparently considered to be too risque to be worn anywhere other than France.

(Personally, I’m thankful that Andress and Dr. No made bikinis popular.  I look good in a bikini and, even if I don’t swim, I do like lying out by the pool and pretending like I’m capable of tanning as opposed to just burning.)

Of course, in the original novel, Honey Ryder is naked (except for a belt and a knife) when Bond first sees her.  Personally, I think that’s a bit much.  I prefer the scene as it plays out in the movie, where everyone is flirtatious and fashionable.

Though Dr. No is best known for turning Sean Connery into a star, it also did wonders for Ursula Andress’s career.  Whereas she had previously been best-known for briefly dating Jams Dean and being married to John Derek, Andress was now an actress who was able to pick her roles and to become financially independent, a development she would later tell the Daily Independent that she owed to “that white bikini.”  Andress also appeared in Playboy several times, even after becoming a star.  When she was asked why, she replied, “Because I’m beautiful,” and I have to say that I absolutely love that answer.

Anyway, from 1962, here’s a scene that we love:

Happy birthday, Ursula Andress!

Review: The Hunt for Red October (dir. by John McTiernan)


The Hunt for Red October

Fresh off the success of his two previous films, The Predator and Die Hard, John McTiernan was now tasked with adapting one of the 1980’s most popular novels with Tom Clancy’s debut techno-thriller, The Hunt for Red October.

By 1990, the year the film was released, Gorbachev had thawed the Cold War that existed between East and West. The Berlin Wall was months away from being torn down and glasnost became the word of the day for most people who knew nothing but the spectre of nuclear annihilation hanging over their heads since before born.

It was during the final years of the Cold War that an insurance salesman with a penchant for military and spy thrillers tried his hand in writing one. this first attempt became a worldwide sensation and was quickly put up in a bidding war by all the major studios. It would be Paramount Pictures who would win to adapt The Hunt for Red October for the big-screen and John McTiernan would be hired to steer the film.

While Sean Connery would ultimately be cast in the main role of Soviet submarine Marko Ramius, he wasn’t the first choice. German actor Klaus Maria Brandauer was originally cast but ended up leaving production a coupe weeks into production due to prior commitments. So, in comes Connery and the rest, as they would say, is history.

The thing about film adaptations of popular novels has been how much of the novel could the filmmakers, especially the screenwriter, be able to fit into a film that would run around 2 hours or so. Some cutting of scenes that fans loves would have to be done and depending on the scenes in the novel, a backlash could begin against the film even before filming was completed.

Fortunately, this was Hollywood in the late 1980’s and there was no such thing as the internet as we know of it today. There were no blogs dedicated to reporting on every minute detail of a film production. No amateur film newshound bringing up unsubstantiated rumors of the going’s on during a film’s production. This was still a Hollywood who controlled how news of their activities were going to be reported and what they decided to tell and show reporters.

This would be a boon for McTiernan’s The Hunt for Red October since the film had some major help from not just the U.S. Navy, but from the Department of Defense in trying to make sure the film was as realistic as possible in portraying the life of American submariners, Naval personnel and how the intelligence community in the West operated. Again, this was also with the film portraying all these groups in a much more positive light in return for their assistance.

In today’s world, such a compromise from the filmmakers to gain the help from the military-intelligence apparatus would be akin to some as perpetuating warmongering and glorifying the military. I could see blogs shouting for boycotts if such a thing happened nowadays.

But returning to the film The Hunt for Red October, for a straight-by-the-numbers thriller it still brings a certain surprise and inventiveness in the action-thriller genre that other filmmakers decades later would try to emulate (Crimson Tide and the many Jack Ryan-based films). Despite a Russian accent that really was cringe-worthy even when first heard, Sean Connery made for a charismatic and sympathetic Marko Ramius whose reasoning for defecting with the titular submarine Red October went beyond just the politics of the era.

Backing him up was a strong ensemble cast with a very young Alec Baldwin in the role of Jack Ryan, James Earl Jones as his boss CIA director Adm. James Greer and Sam Neill and Scott Glenn as Cmdr. Borodin and Capt. Mancuso. The film goes in heavily into Clancy’s love for technobabble and military jargon, yet the actors involved seemed very game and convincing in acting out the dialogue that would sound ridiculous is just read without context and understanding.

While the film does sacrifice some of the more political maneuverings in the book, which meant less scenes with Richard Jordan as National Security Advisor Dr. Pelt, it does streamline the film to be more action-oriented. It was a shame they went that way in which parts of the novel to cut out since Jordan’s performance as Dr. Pelt was one of the highlights of the film, despite his limited screentime.

In terms of action, The Hunt for Red October proved once again that McTiernan knew how to handle both tension and action in equal measure. He makes the cat-and-mouse battle between the Soviet and American subs seem as thrilling as any fast-paced dogfight scenes that thrilled filmgoers when Top Gun premiered on the bigscreen.

Even the film’s orchestral score from the late and great composer Basil Poledouris would lend the film a certain level of martial prowess that Poledouris’ compositions were known for. Even after many viewings it’s still difficult not to hum the film’s Soviet national hymn-inspired theme.

While The Hunt for Red October was one of the last films of the Cold War-era that still showed the tug-of-war between the East and West, it was a fitting end to a part of Hollywood’s cinematic history that portrayed Communism, especially that of the Soviet Union, as the big go-to Enemy that made action movies of the 80’s so popular with the Reaganite crowd.

The success of this film would begin a cottage industry of sequels featuring the character of Jack Ryan who would be portrayed in subsequent films by none other than Everyman himself Harrison Ford then in a miscasting in a later sequel by Ben Affleck.

Scenes That I Love: James Bond Meets Sylvia Trench in Dr. No (In memory of Eunice Grayson)


Earlier today, I read the sad news that British actress Eunice Grayson passed away at the age of 90.  Grayson may not have been a household name but true fans of James Bond (as opposed to those who think that the franchise started with Daniel Craig) know Grayson from her role as Sylvia Trench in both Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

Eunice Grayson was the first Bond girl.  When we first meet Bond in Dr. No, he’s sitting down across from her at the Baccarat table.  When Bond asks her name, she replies, “Trench. Sylvia Trench.”  When she asks his name, he playfully replies, “Bond.  James Bond.” and history is made.

Grayson originally auditioned for the role of Miss Moneypenny but, when the producers decided to give that role to Lois Maxwell, Grayson was instead cast as Sylvia Trench.  At first, Sylvia was envisioned as being Bond’s permanent “off-duty” girlfriend.  That’s certainly the role that she’s plays when she briefly reappears in From Russia With Love.  The original plan was for Sylvia (and Grayson) to appear in at least six Bond films and to be the principal Bond girl in the sixth one.  However, those plans were abandoned with Goldfinger.

(Check out this 2012 interview that Grayson gave to the BBC for more details about her experiences as a part of the Bond franchise.)

Today’s scene that I love is in memory of both Eunice Grayson and the role she played in the history of one of my favorite film franchises.  From 1962’s Dr. No, James Bond meets Sylvia Trench for the first time…

Bond Goes Deep!: THUNDERBALL (United Artists 1965)


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THUNDERBALL, the fourth 007 adventure, will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the first James Bond movie I saw at the theater, released at the height of the Secret Agent/Spy craze, and I was totally hooked! I even had all the toys that went with the movie, including Emilio Largo’s two-part boat the Disco Volante, with which I engaged in mighty battles in the bathtub against VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA’s Seaview (hey, I was only seven!).

SPECTRE is at it again, this time hijacking a NATO jet loaded with two nuclear bombs, and holding the world hostage. Bond, sent to recuperate at a health spa, stumbles on to trouble related to the crisis, and is sent by MI6 to investigate Domino Derval, sister of the NATO pilot. This leads 007 to Domino’s “guardian” Emilio Largo, a rich and powerful man who’s Number Two…

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The Secret Batman-James Bond Connection – Revealed!


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FLASH! This breaking news story is brought to you by Cracked Rear Viewer, serving the film community since 2015!

It’s the story America (and the world) has been waiting for – the hitherto secret link between The Caped Crusader and Secret Agent 007. Proving once again this blog will go to any lengths to create some content  bring you the truth behind the Hollywood scenes! Our trail begins in the year 1943. WWII was raging across both oceans, and America needed heroes to defend the homefront. Columbia Pictures secured the rights to the popular comic book BATMAN, and presented a 15-chapter serial starring one Lewis Wilson (1920-2000) as Bruce Wayne/Batman, battling the evil Japanese saboteur Dr. Daka, played by the villainous J. Carrol Naish:

Wilson was married to the former Dana Natol (1922-2004), and in 1942 they had a son named Michael. Though the Wilson’s film career went nowhere, they…

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Bond Is Back!: FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (United Artists 1963)


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The Cold War got really hot when James Bond returned to the screen in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, second in the film series starring Sean Connery as Ian Fleming’s Secret Agent 007. Picking up where DR. NO left off, the film is popular with Bond fans for its more realistic depiction of the spy game, though there’s still plenty of action, romance, and quick quips, along with the introduction of several elements soon to be integral to the series.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE has Bond falling for Soviet defector Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi), who’s willing to help steal a Russian Lektor decoding machine for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. But both she and Bond are just pawns in a larger game, with the international crime cartel SPECTRE making all the moves. Their goal is to not only posses the decoder and ransom it back to the Russians, but to eliminate 007…

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