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Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Witches and the Grinnygog ( 1983 )

Those Brits have a knack for knowing how to spin a good yarn...especially when it comes to mystery, horror, and fantasy tales. Author Dorothy Edwards penned a particularly juicy children's mystery story entitled "The Witches and the Grinnygog" in 1981 which was made into an equally engrossing six-part miniseries for ITV in 1983. 
This intriguing tale of magic and witchcraft was aimed towards children of the pre-teen variety. Each 25-minute episode followed the adventures of four youngsters - two being the offspring of the local minister - as they try to piece together clues from an ancient diary belonging to an old vicar which are coinciding with strange events going on in their village. 

These bizarre happenings began to brew when the neighboring village's church of St. Cuthbert was dismantled. The old stone building is being rebuilt in a new location. A small gargoyle-like statue from the church falls off the back of the lorry carrying it en route to the new location. The mother of one of the children picks it up and, seeing that it would make a perfect "little man" for her father's garden, takes it home to Gramps ( John Barrard ). 

It happens to be a Grinnygog and its three guardians aka witches, magically appear in town to keep an eye on the garden statue. Also in town, is the enigmatic African anthropologist Mr. Alabaster ( Olu Jacobs ) who wants to see that the Grinnygog is returned to its rightful place. 

The Witches and the Grinnygog is very entertaining TV fare, but unfortunately, it ends with a number of loose ends not quite tied up. The audience is served bits and pieces of a puzzle in each episode that, at its conclusion, do not make a complete picture. Flashback sequences hint that witches were burned in the village in olden times but we are to suppose that the three guardians, endowed with eternal life, managed to escape with the Grinnygog, one of them losing her daughter as she fled. This girl comes to town later, appearing to not just the children, but the vicar as well, in search of her mother. But why did it take all these years for her to find her mother? Were the witches in limbo while the Grinnygog was safe and only now appear in the flesh again?
Sheila Grant, Anna Wing, and Patricia Hayes star as the three kindly guardians with Eva Griffith - whom some may recall as the blind girl in the BBC adaptation of The Day of the Triffids ( 1981 ) - portraying the missing daughter. The children's roles are played by Giles Harper, Heidi Mayo, Adam Woodyatt, and Zoe Loftin, who all give very natural and pleasing performances. 

Like most British kiddies, the appearance of witches in town does not startle them very much. This reminds me of the scene in Walt Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks when the children observe Mrs. Price taking her first whirl on the broom: "Look! She's flying on her broomstick," one of them says. "That's what witches do," the other calmly replies. Sure, everyone knows that...but it would startle most people to see it actually happen!

The Witches and the Grinnygog has not been released on DVD yet, but it is available for viewing on Youtube. Simply click here if you want to check it out - and I highly recommend that you do. Especially since it makes for great not-too-spooky Halloween viewing. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

From the Archives: Werewolf of London ( 1935 )

Henry Hull hiding behind loads of facial hair in this still from the Universal horror classic Werewolf of London ( 1935 ) which also featured Warner Oland, the beloved actor of the Charlie Chan series. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store :

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir ( 1947 )

" perfectly fascinating!"

Recently widowed Lucy Muir has left her London lodgings - and her in-laws - to come to White Cliff-on-the-sea with her daughter and loyal housemaid. There, situated atop a lovely coastal cliff, she finds her ideal home....Gull Cottage. It is up for rent.

"And priced at only 54 pounds per week. That's very inexpensive for a furnished house."

Strong-minded Lucy will not even let the thought of a ghost scare her away from Gull Cottage. The idea of returning to London and the life she led before is not a choice she wants to consider. Yea, even the gruff and determined Captain Daniel Gregg - the apparition she comes to meet there one dark and stormy night - yields to her wish to remain at his beloved home.

He had been frightening away, with his boyish pranks, all prospective tenants to Gull Cottage for the last several years and the fact that Mrs. Muir chooses to stay in spite of knowing he haunts the house wins her his admiration. 

During their coming year together, a gentle love blossoms between this roguish sea captain and the spirited Victorian widow. She comes to see Captain Gregg not only as a dear friend but as an anchor and a pillar of support. Their relationship deepens when Lucy – forced to earn money for payment of the cottage – pens the captain’s memoirs, “Blood and Swash”. However, when she meets the suave author Miles Fairley ( George Sanders ) while at the publishing house, the Captain realizes that his “Lucia” may be wanting the love, companionship, and reality of a mortal man.

"Real happiness is worth almost any risk…. but be careful me dear, there may be breakers ahead" 

Joseph Mankiewicz's wonderfully whimsical fantasy was released in theatres in 1947 to great commercial success. It was based on the novel, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir “ written two years earlier by author Josephine Leslie, who - like her character Lucy Muir - published her book under a much more masculine pseudonym...R.A. Dick.

20th Century Fox purchased the rights to the story shortly after its publication and selected Philip Dunne to rework it into a fitting screenplay for a feature film. Philip Dunne was a very talented screenwriter who had been nominated for an Academy Award in 1941 for How Green Was My Valley. He retained much of the essence of the book, and much of the plot, too - with the exception of eliminating the character of Mrs. Muir's son. 
What resulted from his penwork was a sweeping romance like none other of the era. The script, the actors, Mankiewicz’s direction, the breathtaking cinematography ( by Charles Lang Jr. ) and Bernard Herrman’s beautifully haunting score all combined to make The Ghost and Mrs. Muir one of the most enchanting, timeless, and delightful films ever made in Hollywood.

Rex Harrison is superb as our beloved sea captain – handsome, brawny, and blazed-eyed….a man in every sense of the word. While Gene Tierney is his perfect mate: beautiful, prim and respectable. And what they both shared was the spirit of adventure in their souls.

"How you’d of loved the North Cape and the fjords and the midnight sun…to sail across the reef at Barbados where the blue waters turn to green….to the Falklands, where a southerly gale rips the whole sea white…..Oh, what we’ve missed Lucia! What we’ve both missed." 

The rest of this excellent cast includes George Sanders ( playing his usual deliciously sly self ), character actress Edna Best as Mrs. Muir’s right hand arm and dear companion Martha, little Natalie Wood as daughter Anna, English stage legend Isobel Elsom as Lucy’s mother-in-law,Robert Coote as the real-estate agent, Anna Lee as “the wife”, and Austrian actress Vanessa Brown as the grown-up Anna. 

While “flesh and blood”, Captain Gregg must have been a magnificent seaman and one can imagine the loyalty he inspired in his men ( and perhaps some fear, too ) while aboard ship. Square shouldered, steadfast and weathered from his voyages, he was wise beyond his years, or as he described himself…

"I did not lead a very wise life but it was a full one and a grown-up one. You come to age very quickly through shipwreck and disaster and at the heart of the whirlpool some men find God."

Lucy Muir is quite an independent woman for the turn-of-the-century. Young, innocent and idealistic, she had married a man who had swept her off her feet, only to discover that he was not the romantic she had thought him to be. After his death, she wants to live a life of her own, free to make decisions without anyone warning her of society’s views on her actions. She finds her true self and her peace at Gull Cottage. And there amongst the splendor of the ocean she does not dream of her husband returning to life, but rather of a Gothic hero, a Flying-Dutchman spirit of adventure. A man who worships her as much as the fairest Lady he ever knew...the mighty Sea herself.

But is Captain Gregg a dream, or is he a man full of life and vigor just as much as Lucy? 

Years later, when Mrs. Muir’s hair is white and the driftwood by the beach battered and worn by the crashing tide, she still reflects upon her “dream” of the captain. In spite of being a very beautiful woman, she had chosen to live her days in the seclusion of Gull Cottage. And we have the notion that men were not something Mrs. Muir ever pursued again. The ideal nature of the captain and the comradery they shared would be a hard one for any mere mortal man to compete against.

Instead, all of Lucy’s real relationships are with other women….her maid being the only lasting friendship she has known. Her daughter later has her own life to lead and as such becomes as remote as the rest of the world that Lucy has turned her back against. But loneliness is something our heroine never knows, for she feels content and secure in her memories and secretly lives in hope of something as real as what she was dreaming of all those years.

In the hands of another director, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir may have been a tragic story...a story of lost love and regret and of a woman living out an empty life of isolation. But instead, under the direction of Joseph Mankiewicz, it becomes a magnificent magical romance. Gentle and warm and humorous, too. A tale of love transcending all boundaries.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman ( 1951 )

"The measure of love is what one is willing to give up for it....

....Who said that?" muses archeologist Geoffrey Fielding. He had been observing American beauty Pandora Reynolds, an enchantress who lures men into loving her and then casts them aside when she discovers their love does not satisfy her longing. What is she longing for? Pandora herself does not know. That is, not until Hendrik van der Zee sails into the sleeping Spanish seaport of Esperanza and into her life. 

This mysterious, peaceful, and well-educated sea captain captures the attention of many, but particularly Pandora. Like the Grecian legend, it is he who is the box of delights that Pandora is curious to open and partake of. 

The measure of love is what one is willing to give up for it. The men Pandora ( Ava Gardner ) had dated were willing to give up anything for her. Bullfighter Juan Montalvo ( Mario Cabre ) had scorned his mother - an almost unpardonable sin for a Spaniard - to have the opportunity to spill his blood for her in the bullring. Reggie Demarest ( Marius Goring ) had given his life. He committed suicide. "I felt relieved," Pandora calmly exclaims. Her current beau, racing champion Stephen Cameron ( Nigel Patrick ) is willing to push his car, his beloved hand-built racer, over a cliff to prove his love for her. And yet, Pandora still is not happy. 

"Why don't you come down to earth, Pandora? Happiness lies in the simple things," Stephen tells her. 
It is not until she meets Captain van der Zee aboard his yacht one evening that she feels differently. Perhaps it is the first time she truly feels love and not merely selfish pride over the men she conquested. Indeed, she does become a gentler woman after having met the Dutchman. 

"I've changed so since I've known you. I'm not cruel and hateful as I used to be, hurting people because I was so unhappy myself. I know now where destructiveness comes from. It's a lack of love. It's as simple as that."

But what happens when the object of your love is a ghost? A sailor from the 17th-century doomed to an eternal life.....until he can find a woman willing to die for him. When Henrick tells her that the time for him to leave is fast approaching, Pandora's measure of love is put to the test. Will she be willing to make the sacrifice of death for him?

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman is an enticing blend of romance, mystery, fantasy, and tragedy. The story and script, written by the film's director Albert Lewin ( The Moon and Sixpence, The Picture of Dorian Grey ) draws the audience into the dramatic happenings of its characters, all of whom are well-fleshed. The story takes its inspiration primarily from Richard Wagner's 1843 opera "The Flying Dutchman" and the writings of Heinrich Heine, who created the concept of a man who is given a chance to return to earth once every seven years to search for a woman who can redeem him from his bondage of eternal life. 

"I would long for death, but death would deny me!"

James Mason gives a marvelous performance of this enigmatic gentleman and Ava Gardner is stunning, looking radiant in her first Technicolor film. Harold Warrender, who portrays the archeologist Geoffrey Fielding, acts as the narrator to the story and, with his inquisitive nature, becomes one of the few to uncover Hendrik's secret. Also in the cast is the lovely Sheila Sim, who plays a young woman in love with Stephen Cameron. 
Jack Cardiff, who had won an Academy Award in 1948 for his cinematographic work on The Red Shoes, beautifully filmed Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Cardiff used a limited range of colors, emphasizing navy blue filters for the night sequences and muted tones to cleverly make the bold colors, when they were used, literally pop out of the screen. The racing sequence is particularly well-filmed and edited. Most of the picture was shot on location in Catalonia, Spain, where today, a statue of Ava Gardner has been erected on the hill overlooking the beach. 

Pandora and the Flying Dutchman was a British film released through Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who delayed the picture's release until after Show Boat was distributed in order to capitalize on the rising star power of Ava Gardner. It was a great success at the box-office and justly so - the film has a mysterious beauty that makes it timeless entertainment. Some legends never grow old.

This post is our contribution to The James Mason Blogathon being hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. If you like Mason - and who doesn't? - then check out the complete roster of reviews of James Mason's films by clicking here

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Here's a scene from a beautifully filmed classic. Who could the chap in the cart be and where is he going when he passes this young woman on the road? Hmmm.....

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Book Review - Joe De Yong: A Life in the West

In February 2018, author William Reynolds launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish his biography of Joe De Yong, a cowboy and protege of Western artist Charles M. Russell. It was successfully funded and the result was a beautiful hardbound, 320-page book measuring 9" x 11.5". 

Joe De Yong led a fascinating life and the reason I am reviewing his biography here is that much of that life was spent in Hollywood, where he worked in films as an artist and western regalia consultant. Yes, someone had to be consulted about what is and isn't proper cowboy garb. 

His love for the movies began when he was 14 years old and, working on a ranch, had a chance to meet the famous cowboy star Tom Mix. Joe caught the acting bug and wanted to enter the film business as a cowboy himself. Within five years he was making films with Mix, but while shooting a film on location in Arizona he was stricken with meningitis which left him permanently deaf. While recuperating from his illness, he saw an exhibition of paintings by Charles M. Russell and returned to another passion of his: art. 
Joe De Yong spent years with Russell in his studio, working beside him and learning his craft. It was when Russell died in 1926, that Joe returned to Hollywood to work as a designer for costume and gear and sometimes aid in scenic and storyboard art. This began a career that spanned nearly thirty years of his life. It was only for the Cecil B. DeMille films and Shane ( 1953 ) that he received screen credit, but De Yong had a hand in some top westerns of the time: The Plainsman ( 1937 ), Union Pacific ( 1939 ), Susannah of the Mounties ( 1939 ), Northwest Mounted Police ( 1940 ), Tall in the Saddle ( 1944 ), The Virginian ( 1946 ), Ramrod ( 1947 ), Red River ( 1948 ), The Big Sky ( 1952 ), Rio Bravo ( 1959 ), and his last film, El Dorado ( 1967 ). 

Yong's sketch of the Starrett homestead
William Reynolds wrote an excellent account of this cowboy, covering his personal life, his relation with Charles M. Russell, and his years in Hollywood in great detail. Joe De Yong, A Life in the West is packed with original stills and posters, behind-the-scenes photos, costume sketches, numerous correspondence and, of course, De Yong's etchings and paintings. It is just a fascinating book overall. 

Unfortunately, if you did not back the campaign, the book is only available used through Amazon and eBay, but if westerns are your passion, then try to add this title to your bookshelf.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Johnny Guitar ( 1954 )

Joan Crawford in a western? If that sounds incredulous, Ms.Crawford must have thought so, too, because it was not until 1954 that she starred in her first spurs-and-guns picture - Johnny Guitar. Unlike Barbara Stanwyck, Joan seemed out of place in the desert locale sporting jeans - but she gave it a good try. 
Crawford stars as Vienna, a saloon/casino owner who owns a good chunk of territory in a wind-swept Arizona cattle town and wants the railroad to put in a new stop in town thereby carrying tourists to her gambling lair. Emma Small ( Mercedes McCambridge ) has recently brewed a potful of poison in her heart against Vienna because Vienna stole her sweetheart, the Dancin' Kid ( Scott Brady ), away from her and now is dead set against her notions of securing a railroad stop. 

The Dancin' Kid isn't the noblest citizen in town. He and his cronies ( Ernest Borgnine, Ben Cooper, Royal Dano ) are constantly being blamed for robbing stage-coaches. In truth, they are mining ore from a hidden silver vein. But when the vein runs dry, the Dancin' Kid sees no harm in robbing the town bank - owned by none other than Emma Small. Emma is certain that Vienna is behind the robbery, so it is a good thing that Vienna hired her former lover, Johnny Guitar ( Sterling Haydn ), for protection. 

Johnny Guitar grossed more than $2.5 million when it opened in theatres in January 1955, in spite of primarily negative reviews from critics. It is an unusual western from director Nicholas Ray ( They Live by Night, Rebel Without a Cause ), playing out like a western-noir with a lot of tough-talking drama. The film is slow to start with way too much pretentious dialogue taking place within the confines of Vienna's saloon but, once the picture moves out-of-doors, the story begins to unfold and it is pure entertainment from there on. 

Mercedes McCambridge gives a powerful performance of an embittered woman who is sharpening her claws readying herself for the chance to accuse Vienna of "aiding and abetting" criminals, a hanging charge. In two fantastic showdowns, they butt heads in a war of glares, scathing remarks, and guns. 
McCambridge was not the first choice to play Emma Small. Crawford, who owned the film rights to the novel "Johnny Guitar" by Roy Chanslor, had wanted either Bette Davis or Barbara Stanwyck for the role but both actresses were too expensive. McCambridge adds such a bite to the character that neither Davis or Stanwyck could have given. 

Actually, the entire cast is glove-fit for their roles...with the exception of Joan Crawford. It is good to see Scott Brady in a semi-villainous role. Sterling Haydn gives his usual gruff performance as Johnny Guitar. The remainder of the cast is made up of familiar western character actors: Ward Bond has a great part as big man John McIvers, Frank Fergusen plays the town marshall, and John Carradine and Rhys Williams are friends of Vienna's.
Johnny Guitar was filmed in TruColor and the color cinematography is beautiful. Costume designer Sheila O'Brien made excellent use of her fashion color palette bedecking Crawford in bright solid colors that stand out among the muted old western town surroundings. In one scene, Vienna is dressed in a gown of white that seems to symbolize her virtuous innocence among the black-clothed posse that has come to hound her.

This particular scene emphasizes what many modern reviewers consider is what Johnny Guitar is really about - a visual commentary on the House of Un-American Activities communist scare which was taking place at that time. In Hollywood, so many actors - including Sterling Haydn - were pressured into naming fellow thespians whom they believed to be communists. Vienna has no personal grievance against the Dancin' Kid and his men but, when little Turkey, one of his gang, is captured in her house, it seems to prove her allegiance to him. The posse threatens Turkey to admit that Vienna is one of the group. Denial means death. A tough choice for the poor kid to it was for those who testified against their friends during the communist trials. 
Peggy Lee gives a sultry performance of the title song near the end of the film, which, if you had felt like turning off your television mid-way through Johnny Guitar, would have made you regret it. It is one of the best western endings that I have seen in years. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

From the Archives: Big Jim McLain ( 1952 )

Oh, just look how Nancy Olson is being mesmerized by John Wayne's gaze! This still photo is not in very good condition but the image captured is wonderful. 

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store :

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Across the Wide Missouri ( 1951 )

Bernard de Voto's book "Across the Wide Missouri" became a surprise best-seller in 1947, earning the Pulitzer Prize for History. The brass at MGM quickly purchased the rights to the book in order to use the title and then pondered, 'what are we going to do with this?' For, you see, "Across the Wide Missouri" was a lengthy historical account of the Western fur trade from 1832-1838. It was not a novel. No dialogue. No romance. No cliffhangers. Simply good history. 

Screenwriter Talbot Jennings, with the aid of Frank Cavett, undertook to construct an entirely new story based upon the elements he found in the book - America's vast frontier, the harsh climate, rugged fur traders, and Blackfoot Indians. He wrote a fantastic story, all centering around the star of the film, Clark Gable. 

Gable is Flint Mitchell, a beaver trapper who has been waiting for years to get prime beaver land situated in the heart of Blackfoot Indian territory. When he hears that Brecan ( John Hodiak ) is escorting Kamiah, the granddaughter of Chief Bear Ghost ( Jack Holt ) of the Blackfoot back to her people, he proposes to marry her instead. Kamiah ( Maria Elena Marques ) took a shine to Flint and he found his fire lit. Kamiah helps guide the trappers into the new territory but they are barely settled when young Ironshirt ( Ricardo Montalban ) begins to make trouble for them. 
Across the Wide Missouri is a beautiful western featuring some of the most stunning location scenery to be found in any western of the 1950s. Director William Wellman ( The Public Enemy, The Ox-Bow Incident ) took the cast and crew in tow to Durango, Colorado, to shoot the film on location. Technicolor equipment had to be carried by mule ten thousand feet up in the Rockies. Cinematographer William Mellor captures so much of the mountainous beauty of this area. He frames each scene like a painting, selecting key elements to use as foreground. 

Clark Gable gives an especially touching performance as the new father protecting his infant son in the ravaged territory, and Maria Elena Marques is particularly beautiful as Kamiah. Marques ( Romeo y Julieta, La Perla ) was a famous Mexican film star of the 1940s-1960s and a popular singer as well. In this film, we only hear her once, singing a lullaby to her baby. 

Each of the cast is well suited to their role. Adolphe Menjou, James Whitmore, Alan Napier, and J. Carroll Naish also get prominent parts as trappers and Indians. 

The only disappointing aspect of the film is its runtime - a mere 79 minutes. Across the Wide Missouri ended all too quickly. The film had the makings of a grand epic and such an expansive story deserved a longer runtime. This was not the blame of William Wellman, who was so disgusted with Dore Schary's decision to edit the film that he said, "I've never seen it and never will". Wellman had directed a character-driven picture centering around Flint Mitchell's acceptance of the Native American world, but preview audiences gave a poor response to this. The film was cut and a narration by an uncredited Howard Keel was added to the soundtrack. 

In spite of these edits, Across the Wide Missouri remains an under-rated gem of a film that deftly blends action and drama with a sprinkling of humor. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Front Page News

It seems to be a common thing for a film blog to have its own Facebook page. I never quite understood why considering a blog is a place to share reviews, books of interest and such....and so, for years my sister and I put off starting a Facebook page. But lately, I've come to see the benefits of it. Some folk like to get all of their "news" in one place and hopping on over to a separate website - such as this blog - is too far for their fingers to travel. And so, since I am often on Facebook anyway, I gave in! 

So here is the newly launched Silver Scenes page on Facebook. It is a simple address so it's easy to remember : 

How long it will be active, I can't say. Although, at the moment, I'm excited about having a place to share films, television-related videos, articles and other blogs on a more frequent basis! There's something about the blog page format that makes you feel guilty if your post is not longer than a paragraph. 

I should be running a schnazzy "liking" campaign, offering a fantastic $200 DVD box set to anyone who gives a thumbs up for the page, but it is late in the day and I'm just not up to doing that now. Perhaps in the near future some old movie magazines will be offered in a drawing ( got a basement full of those! ). But for now, if you want to see links to some rare films, great Youtube content, engaging articles from the past and present, movie stills, and behind-the-scenes photos, then please follow the page....the more followers the more content I'll be motivated to post! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Buccaneer ( 1958 )

"There comes a time when a man wants to change...belong to something, or maybe someone."

The pirate and privateer Jean Lafitte had warehouses of stolen loot, a beautiful house on the private island in Barataria Bay, and freedom to do as he pleased, but he lacked respect from the one woman he loved, Annette Claiborne. This woman instills in him a love for the still infant American nation strong enough to make him surrender his pirating ways and seek to become a citizen. But first, he must prove to Governor Claiborne, Annette's father, that he is not in league with the British who are about to send thousands of troops into Louisana to squash General Andrew Jackson's defense of the territory. 

In 1956, director Cecil B. DeMille had found great success with the remake of his silent film The Ten Commandments, and so he undertook another remake of a favorite film of his, The Buccaneer, first made in 1938 with Fredric March in the lead. During the making of The Ten Commandments, DeMille had suffered a heart attack but he had sufficiently recovered to believe that he was capable of undertaking another epic production. He was wrong. Shortly after the initial planning of The Buccaneer, DeMille realized that his health would not permit him to make the film and so he passed the directorial wand to his son-in-law, Anthony Quinn. 
Quinn had never directed a feature film but was willing to give it a try with his father-in-law helping to guide the production. This was the primary reason DeMille had selected Quinn - in order to have full control of the final production. Both came to regret this decision. DeMille was displeased with the film that Quinn had helmed and made editing changes to it before its release that Quinn did not like. 

Just why Cecil B. DeMille and Anthony Quinn were dissatisfied with the final result is difficult to fathom. While it is true that The Buccaneer lacks the compelling drama of The Ten Commandments, the film is colorful, entertaining, and does pack quite a bit of adventure into its 119-minute runtime. The battle scene at the end of the film is particularly thrilling with the bagpiping British troops appearing from the fog ( a scene that Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks would later echo ). 

Unfortunately, the script to The Buccaneer, based upon the 1938 film, has mere threads of real history in its plot. Instead, the screenwriters ( which included Jesse Lasky Jr. ) fashioned a script that captures merely the flavor of the era and its setting. You can't ask for everything.

Yul Brynner, sporting a rare mop of hair, gives a convincing portrayal of the good-hearted privateer longing for a place to anchor. Lafitte is a likable and sympathetic character, as is his companion General Dominique You, played by Charles Boyer. "Of all the men in the world, I never wanted to fail you," Lafitte tells the General in a poignant scene when Lafitte realizes that his friendship with the General may be the price he has to pay for American citizenship. 

Charlton Heston, who is always a pleasure to watch, gives a powerful performance as General Andrew Jackson, reprising a role that he had played in The President's Lady ( 1953 ). Taking care of "Old Ironface" Jackson, making sure that he drinks his hot milk every night, is Mr. Peavy, played by the great character actor Henry Hull. 

The ladies are equally engaging. Inger Stevens, that icy blonde from Sweden, stars as the beautiful Annette Claiborne. She is in love with the pirate and is willing to surrender her status as a Southern society belle to sail off with him into the open sea. The marvelous Claire Bloom plays Bonnie Brown, a feisty tomboy who wants Lafitte as well. But her love is so deep she would rather see him wed to Ms. Claiborne than be with her. 

"You're a fool! She's everything you ever loved and fought her. You gave up everything you had, everything you are. Jean, even I don't want to see you lose her now."
Also in the cast was E.G. Marshall, Lorne Greene, Ted de Corsia, Douglass Dumbrille, and Fran Jeffries. 

At the box-office, The Buccaneer did poorly, bringing in only $3 million dollars in revenue, not even recuperating its $5 million dollar budget. When discussing the films of Cecil B. DeMille, The Buccaneer is rarely mentioned, even though his handiwork is clearly evident in many of the scenes. DeMille is also credited at the beginning of the film before the titles appear. But perhaps modern critics consider the production too run-of-DeMille to be even mentioned among his works. 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

It's time for another Impossibly Difficult screenshot and this one we think is not so impossibly difficult. Clues abound but don't be too fooled by the surroundings of these characters! 

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Love is Forever ( 1954 ) aka Und Ewig Bleibt die Liebe

Some films have a way of drawing you into the story within the first ten minutes. Perhaps it is a practice that screenwriters learned from newspaper journalists who knew how to "hook" the audience with the first lead line. Hollywood productions had this act down pat. German productions were not so good at this technique, and it usually takes twenty minutes before you find yourself attached to the characters. But there were some exceptions. 

Une Ewig Bleibt die Liebe ( "Love is Forever" ) is one of those exceptions. The plot is rather simple and there is never anything exciting going on in the film and yet it has a lot of drama, and it is presented in such a soapy fashion to make it irresistible. 

The Swedish beauty, Ulla Jacobssen, who made a name for herself in Arne Mattsson's One Summer of Happiness ( 1951 ), stars as Marieke, a young woman who was adopted by the Vogelreuther family as a baby. She recently discovered that her birth mother is none other than "die Elster" - "the Magpie" - ( Hilde von Stolz ), the village thief and drunkard. She was recently released from prison after serving eight years in jail. This shames Marieke to no end. She loves her adopted parents and sister more than anyone else but feels she ought to publicly acknowledge her birth mother. 
This angst over her mother is ruining her love life, too. Georg ( Karlheinz Böhm ), her cousin, has loved her for years but she never returned his love because she knows he feels bound in gratitude to the Vogelreuther's as well and they want to see him marry Trude, Marieke's little sister. Georg does show affection for Trude ( Ingrid Andree ) and at the beginning of the film we learn they are to be wed in less than a week's time. Georg would still rather marry Marieke but she would never marry him now because she knows how much her sister loves him and her sister's happiness is more important to her than her own. So, as you can see, there is quite a bit of drama going on in the film.... And it is played out really well, especially by the principal leads. 

Paul Dahlke and Magda Schneider ( Romy Schneider's mother ) also star in the film as Marieke's adopted parents. 

Love is Forever was based on the play "Johannisfeuer/Fires of St. John" by Hermann Sudermann. In Germany, where the film takes place, the celebration of the midsummer solstice on St. John's Eve ( June 23/24 ) is extremely popular. People light huge bonfires which they dance around well into the night. The festival is featured in the film and also in Johannisnacht, released in 1956, which features this celebration near the climax.

The story of Und Ewig Bleibt die Liebe is a good example of how gratitude, when taken too far, can ruin people's lives. Instead of being honest with their feelings to those they love, both Marieke and George would rather sacrifice their own happiness for the family that raised them. 

Want to watch Und Ewig Bleibt die Liebe right now? It's available on Youtube...just click here. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N ( 1966 )

Put Dick Van Dyke on a deserted island with a bevy of Polynesian beauties and a space chimp and you'd think you would have a winning comedy. Walt Disney certainly thought so. He liked the idea of remaking Robinson Crusoe as a comedy vehicle for Dick Van Dyke so much that he penned the screenplay himself ....and perhaps that is where he made his mistake. 

Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N, released in 1966, was a failure as a comedy. Dick Van Dyke had the ability to pull this film off successfully, but he lacked a good script with more characters and situations to engage with. 

The film was an updated version of the classic 1719 Daniel Defoe novel about a man who gets shipwrecked on a deserted island and learns the skills necessary to survive. Dick Van Dyke stars as Lt. Robin Crusoe, a Navy fighter pilot, who bails out from his plane when it catches on fire. After days of drifting at sea, he is washed upon a beautiful deserted island where he eventually makes his home, building a hut, a post office system, and even a private golf course. One day, exploring the inner part of the island, he meets Wednesday ( Nancy Kwan ) a girl from the neighboring island who was abandoned there by her father ( Akim Tamiroff ), a vengeful chief, for punishment. Together with a band of native girls - her friends - they fight this chief and his tribe when they invade their island. 
Running at just over 110 minutes, Lt. Robin Crusoe drags on for too long, with its few laughs being scattered primarily in the first half of the film. At the time of its release, the critics were harsh..... Howard Thompson wrote in the New York Times, "Most of the picture has Mr. Van Dyke mugging and tripping over the lush scenery. It's neither very funny nor new and the picture is recommended, with reservations, only for the very, very young and for television fans who think Mr. Van Dyke can do no wrong."

Surprisingly, reviews such as these, did not hinder Dick Van Dyke fans from flocking to the theatres and the film grossed $22 million which is a tidy sum compared to the $28 million grossed by That Darn Cat one year earlier and the meager $1.9 million grossed by The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin - a superior comedy - one year later.

If you want to watch an entertaining version of Robinson Crusoe, you would be better off watching The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, the classic 1964 television miniseries. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

From the Archives - Black Narcissus ( 1947 )

In this scene from Powell & Pressburger's Black Narcissus ( 1947 ), Sister Clodagh ( Deborah Kerr ) works on a lovely needlepoint while in the convent of St. Faith high up in the Himalayan mountains. This is one of her few moments of relaxation before havoc breaks loose at the convent.

From the Archives is our latest series of posts where we share photos from the Silverbanks Pictures collection. Some of these may have been sold in the past, and others may still be available for purchase at our eBay store :

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game

Wowee! Look at this monkey gal! She really knows how to bend. If you saw her move, you wouldn't easily forget her....but perhaps you did forget which film she appeared in. It's time to put your thinking cap on and try to remember which movie this screenshot is taken from. And just why is she looking at a Variety newspaper?

As always, if you are not familiar with the rules to the Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, click here!


Congratulations to The Tactful Typist for correctly guessing "Give a Girl a Break" ( 1953 ) starring Gower and Marge Champion and Debbie Reynolds. This flexible lady appears within the first ten minutes of the film, eager to try out for the new stage role being offered. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Turn the Key Softly ( 1953 )

"London, the biggest city in the world... and it's all yours"

Three women are being released from Holloway Prison on the same morning. They come from vastly different backgrounds and each has plans for what they want to do on their first day of freedom, but they have all agreed to meet for dinner that evening. This simple story, told with warmth and empathy, follows the lives of these women during the span of that one day and the touching and tragic events that take place before and after this dinner.

Turn the Key Softly, based on the novel by John Burphy, is an underrated British gem set within post-war 1950s London, a London that is no more. It plays out like a film noir with small but key scenes slowly unfolding events that all lead up to the nail-biting finale. Director Jack Lee, being the master that he is, manages to put so much character into these scenes, filling each with details that make it enjoyable to watch multiple times over. Five minutes after the credits roll, we understand the nature of each of these three inmates and are curious to see how they will fare once they step foot in the great city of London again. All wish to make a change, to live a better life on the right side of the law, but will they be pressured to slip back to their old ways?
First, there is Stella, portrayed by a young Joan Collins. She's a West-End girl, "a tart with a heart" who has a weakness for the good things in dangling earrings and fishnet gloves. She has an honest bus driver waiting to marry her. Then there is Monica ( Yvonne Mitchell ), an elegant beauty, quite sophisticated, who clearly doesn't belong behind bars. She loved unwisely and took the wrap for her criminal boyfriend. Lastly, there is Mrs. Quilliam ( Kathleen Harrison ), a soft-spoken old-timer who was jugged for 15 counts of petty theft. She lost her daughter's affection but has the love of her beloved Johnny to keep her going.

"I wish you had a nice young man waiting for you" - Mrs. Quilliam
"I don't know any nice young men" - Monica
Jack Lee directed this opening sequence in such a way that the audience sympathizes immediately with the old lady and Monica, who have become a pair, and are merely amused by Stella, who it seems obvious will be visiting prison shortly again. Within hours each of them is tempted to criminal behavior, and it is then revealed that these first impressions may have been off the mark. The film is an excellent character study of humans and the desires that lead them to crime. None of these gals are intent on doing wrong, rather they seem to merely attract misfortune. 

Turn the Key Softly is beautifully photographed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth ( Scott of the Antarctic, 2001: A Space Odyssey ). He often utilizes close-ups to convey the thoughts and emotions of the characters when dialogue is not spoken. The editing, by Lito Carruthers, is also taut. Within its 80-minute runtime, no scene is wasted. The finale on the top of the building at night is especially well filmed and edited. It is during the finale that the meaning behind the title "Turn the Key Softly" is also revealed. 
"For a whole year, day and night, all I could think of was warmth, food, and love"

While all of the production values were excellent, what makes Turn the Key Softly truly stand out is the cast. Yvonne Mitchell, a popular British stage and screen actress, is perfect as Monica. This woman was capable of speaking volumes in stillness, utilizing her eyes alone. Four years later she would be cast in a role completely the opposite of Monica, that of the frumpy housewife Amy in The Woman in a Dressing Gown, for which she won the Best Actress award at the Berlin International Film Festival. 

Joan Collins was only twenty years old at the time and was showing signs of the saucy siren she was to become. Her West End accent was over the top but she did a capable job portraying an easy gal who wants a little more in life than she knows she deserves. 

Kathleen Harrison was a legendary character actress having a career dating back to 1915. She was best known for playing Alice Thursday in the 1966 television series Mrs. Thursday and for playing Mother in the Huggett film series of the 1940s, but she made appearances in countless comedies and dramas as well. Mrs. Quilliam is one of her best roles. She is a gentle old gal and, in spite of her criminal record, is someone you would want to Monica did. 

The handsome Terence Morgan plays David, the dishonest lover. Morgan was very much like Richard Greene and could play villains as well as heroes with equal skill. Also in the cast is Geoffrey Keen as a generous employer, Thora Hird as a landlady, Russell Waters as a respectable drunk, and Glyn Houston as Bob the bus driver. 
The city of London itself is a starring attraction, too. The location filming offers a snapshot in time of places such as Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the West End, the London Underground, and Shepard's Bush, one of the city's suburbs. London was rebuilding itself after the beating it got during the war and it was growing larger every year. In Turn the Key Softly the city is encased in fog, but it was looking grand nonetheless. 

This post is our contribution to the 5th Annual Rule Britannia Blogathon being hosted by Terence over at A Shroud of Thoughts. Be sure to head on over to the master page to read more reviews of famous and obscure British films of the 20th century.