Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: Ivanhoe (dir by Richard Thorpe)


Welcome to England in the 12th century!

That’s the setting of the 1952 best picture nominee, Ivanhoe.  It’s a green and healthy land, full of chivalrous knights and corrupt royalty and outlaws who steal from the rich and give to the poor.  King Richard the Lion Heart (Norman Wooland) left on a crusade and he hasn’t been seen for a while.  Richard’s evil brother, the cowardly King John (Guy Rolfe), rules the country and has little interest in making sure that Richard returns.  Even when Wilfred of Ivanhoe (Robert Taylor) discovers that Richard is being held for ransom, John declines to do anything about it.

Ivanhoe is determined to raise the money to pay the ransom and restore Richard to the throne of England, even if he has to secretly compete in a tournament to do it.  Of course, before he can do that, he’ll have to buy a horse and some armor.  Fortunately, he comes across Isaac (Felix Aylmer) and his daughter, Rebecca (Elizabeth Taylor).  Isaac and Rebecca give Ivanhoe the money necessary to purchase a good horse and equipment.  Rebecca falls in love with Ivanoe, despite the fact that Ivanhoe is in love with Rowena (Joan Fontaine, who spends most of the movie looking rather bored).

Speaking of love, the king’s favorite knight — the hot-headed but honorable Sir Brian De Bois-Guilbert (George Sanders) — has fallen in love with Rebecca.  That, of course, complicates matters when the anti-Semitic King John attempts to have the Jewish Rebecca burned at the stake for witchcraft.  When Ivanhoe invokes the “wager of challenge,” in an effort to save Rebecca’s life, Sir Brian is chosen as the court’s champion.  Needless to say, this leads to some awkward moments….

Listen, I would be lying if I said that it was easy for me to follow the plot of Ivanhoe.  It seemed like every few minutes, someone else was plotting against either Ivanoe or King John and it got a bit difficult to keep track of what exactly everyone was trying to accomplish.  By the time Robin Hood (Harold Warrender) showed up, I have given up trying to make sense of the plot.

Instead of worrying about the exact details of the plot, I decided to just enjoy the film as a spectacle.  If nothing else, Ivanhoe is gorgeous to look at.  The colors are lush and full and the costumes and the sets are all wonderfully ornate.  Apparently, 12 Century England was a very colorful place.  There’s a lot of battles and jousts and sword fights.  I couldn’t always keep track of who was fighting who but at least the film moved at a steady pace.

Robert Taylor and Joan Fontaine make for a dull leading couple but a young Elizabeth Taylor is stunning in the role of Rebecca and George Sanders transforms Sir Brian into a truly tragic figure.  Guy Rolfe is memorably evil as King John, though he’s perhaps not as much fun as Oscar Isaac was in Robin Hood.  Everyone in the movie looks good in their period costuming.  Really, that’s the most important thing.

Ivanhoe was nominated for Best Picture but lost to The Greatest Show On Earth.

Celebrate Patriots’ Day with JOHNNY TREMAIN (Walt Disney 1957)


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Here in Massachusetts, every third Monday in April is designated Patriots’ Day, a state holiday commemorating the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord which gave birth to the American Revolutionary War. The annual Boston Marathon is run on this day, as well as an 11:00AM Boston Red Sox game, so it’s a pretty big deal in this neck of the woods. Those of you in other parts of the country can celebrate by watching JOHNNY TREMAIN, Walt Disney’s film about a young boy living in those Colonial times that led up to the birth of “a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”.

Based on the 1943 Newbery Award-winning YA novel by Esther Forbes, the film tells the story of the Revolution through the eyes of young Johnny Tremain (Hal Stalmaster), a teen apprenticed to silversmith Mr. Lapham (crusty Will Wright

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Halloween TV Havoc!: GHOST STORY “Elegy for a Vampire” (1972)


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NBC-TV tried to bring a horror anthology series back to prime time during the 1972-73 season with GHOST STORY, executive produced by the one-and-only William Castle . Sebastian Cabot played Winston Essex, introducing the tales from haunted Mansfield House hotel. GHOST STORY had great writers, including Richard Matheson (who helped develop the concept), Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, Henry Slesar, and Hammer vet Jimmy Sangster, some good directors (Richard Doner, John Llewelyn Moxey, Robert Day), and a plethora of Hollywood talent: Karen Black, Kim Darby, Angie Dickinson, Melvyn Douglas, Patty Duke, Jodie Foster, Helen Hayes, Tab Hunter, John Ireland, Janet Leigh, Patricia Neal, Jason Robards, Gena Rowlands, Martin Sheen, and William Windom.

Despite all this, the show got clobbered in the ratings by the CBS FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE and ABC’s comedy duo of ROOM 222 and THE ODD COUPLE. A mid-season title change to CIRCLE OF FEAR (dropping the Cabot segments in the process) didn’t help, and…

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Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 1.28 “A Nice Place To Visit”


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In this episode of The Twilight Zone, a thief is shot by the police and finds himself in the afterlife. After a life of struggle and crime, the thief finally finds himself with the opportunity to have everything that he’s ever wanted. Even if you’ve never seen this episode before, you’ll probably be able to guess the twist after a minute or two. But it’s still a pretty good episode, featuring good performances from Larry Blyden and Sebastian Cabot and an typically fun script from Charles Beaumont.


A Nice Place To Visit originally aired on April 15th, 1960.