Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rope of Sand, The Gold Rush, Two-Way Stretch, When Eight Bells Toll

Rope of Sand, by William Dieterle,1949
So, here's the problem with being as far behind as I am in reviewing the movies I watch.  Most of the time, I watch good movies and I remember them and still have stuff to say a couple weeks later when I get around to writing about them.  Occasionally, I don't like a movie, and I can usually remember my gripes pretty well. too.  But then there's the occasion where I watch a movie that's just kind of OK.  Forgettable, even.

I guess I should have taken notes while I was watching William Dieterle's adventure film Rope of Sand, because I can remember very little at this point.  It didn't wow me.  Burt Lancaster stars as a guy in Africa who is hiding some diamonds he found from an evil diamond company.  They hire a lady to seduce it out of him and ummmm, I can't remember.  Peter Lorre is in it, and I always like him.  Claude Rains, too.  The movie is fine in the moment as a diversion, I don't recall NOT liking it, but if I'm any indication, it doesn't really stay with you.  Dieterle also directed The Devil and Daniel Webster, so he's still alright in my book.

The Gold Rush, by Charles Chaplin, 1924
Well, OK, I blew it on that last one.  Let's see if I can't do a little better this time.

As forgettable as Rope of Sand was (I even just now blanked on the title, no kidding), Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush is that much more memorable.  It's quite simply Chaplin's Little Tramp character in the gold rush.  Not the gold rush in California in the 1840's, the one in the Yukon at the turn of the century.  The Tramp finds himself trapped in a cabin with a couple of nasty guys, then finds himself in a town, in love with a local girl.  Lots of great physical comedy bits ensue.

My favorite bit was while Chaplin was stuck in the cabin during a blizzard with the two guys.  The two guys are fighting each other over a rifle while The Tramp hides.  No matter where he goes, though, the fighting men always turn so that the gun is pointing directly at him.  It's really funny stuff, in that great, timeless kind of way.  There are also some excellent practical effects involving the cabin being suspended on an icy cliff.

I usually lean toward Buster Keaton when it comes to silent comedies, but I'm not opposed to Chaplin.  He was an immensely talented comic and director.  I haven't actually seen a lot of Chaplin's films, and none of them since, I don't know, Intro to Film in college?  I should look into him a bit more.

Two-Way Stretch, by Robert Day, 1960
Two-Way Stretch is not a great comedy by any means, but it has a great premise and is worth watching if you're a fan of Peter Sellers.  That premise?  It's about a group of crooks living comfortably in prison, who hatch a scheme to break out, pull a heist, and break back into jail before anyone notices they're gone.  Unfortunately, a new warden arrives and tightens things up in the prison, so now they have to sneak around him.

It's a pretty clever premise, no?  The movie is just decent.  I do remember it better than Rope of Sand, which is apparently my new reference point now.  I liked Sellers, and my favorite jokes were early in the movie, when they show just how comfortable life for these prisoners is.  You know, I don't say this about many movies, but Two-Way Stretch would actually be a pretty good candidate for a remake.

When Eight Bells Toll, by Etienne Perier, 1971

Hey now, this is pretty awesome.  When Eight Bells Toll was initially intended to be a competitor with the highly successful James Bond series.  Of course, it didn't stand a chance, but you know what?  It's actually closer to a true 007 story than the Bond movies were at that point.

A young Anthony Hopkins, not long after his debut in A Lion in Winter, plays secret agent Phillip Calvert, on a mission to investigate a hijacked ship carrying a bunch of gold.  It's a fairly standard spy movie, but Hopkins is awesome in it.  He's suave and charming, and badass when necessary.  He even snaps a guy's neck in a pretty awesome way.  He has great dialogue, too.

In 1971, Diamonds are Forever came out, easily the lamest Bond movie yet (at the time, I mean, it may have been surpassed since).  Things had gotten campy and over-the-top ridiculous.  Of course, it was highly successful.  When Eight Bells Toll came out, it didn't do nearly as well, despite the fact that it was far superior.  It feels like a cool, low-tech spy movie (I prefer 'em low-tech), along the lines of the first 007 film, Dr. No.  It's totally worth watching.  In fact, of these four movies, it's the one I recommend the most.  I know The Gold Rush is a masterpiece, but When Eight Bells Toll is one of those little hidden gems.

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