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Monday, Nov 10, 2014
All of the climbers in White Tower allegorize their treks up the mountain to some extent.

“A mountain can be a symbol of the obstacles that you encounter in life. To conquer it is to gain self-confidence and courage. You understand that, don’t you?” speaks a patrician British codger (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), spelling it out for the practical American ex-soldier Ordway (Glenn Ford), who doesn’t quite understand why he’s tramping up a mountain in the Alps known as The White Tower.


Sometimes a mountain is only a mountain, perhaps, but Ordway’s doing it to impress a woman: the lovely and aloof Carla (Alida Valli). The mountain symbolizes her lost father, and she won’t let go of it until she finds somebody to replace him in her emotions. This is also spelled out bluntly in Paul Jarrico’s script from James Ramsey Ullman’s 1945 novel.


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Friday, Nov 7, 2014

While fans of the possible franchise might feel cheated, Big Hero 6 proves that Disney did the right thing by bringing Marvel into its multi-billion dollar, multinational film fold. While concepts like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy will continue to hold weight up and until the moment superheroes fall out of favor, the kid-friendly refashioning of this comic book property argues that the House of Mouse’s current creative approach has some incredible legs. Fiercely entertaining and unafraid to dabble in adult ideals, the end result rockets to the top of 2014’s array of age-appropriate titles.


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Thursday, Nov 6, 2014
Eugenio Martin's 1966 spaghetti western is a thrill ride all the way to the close, which features one of the most dramatic death scenes in the genre.

Samuel Fuller, the great American director of twenty-nine powerful, provocative, pulpy pictures including Pickup on South Street (1953), Shock Corridor (1963), and White Dog (1982) said that “If a screenplay doesn’t give you a hard-on in the first five pages, throw it in the goddamn garbage.” With The Bounty Killer (1966), the first Spaghetti western in which the always brilliant Tomas Milian blesses us with his presence, director Eugenio Martin adapts a screenplay that not only gives you a hard-on in the first five minutes, but gives you one that will last until the film closes with one of the most dramatic death-scenes in the genre.


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Thursday, Nov 6, 2014
Nasty Habits tries too hard to be a Nixonian allegory set in a pseudo-convent, forcing its plot parallels onto places they don't belong.

Nasty Habits transfers the details of the Watergate scandal into a Philadelphia convent, with Glenda Jackson playing the Nixon role of an icy abbess who secretly tapes everyone. As a satire of Watergate, it feels pointless and cumbersome; it might work better as a satire of the Church by implying that all hierarchies of power can use similar methods. The movie at first feels like such a takedown; it opens by showing the nuns drinking, smoking, swearing, and fornicating with Jesuits. Then, however, the screenplay throws in some exposition between a monsignor in Rome (Eli Wallach) and his “PR priest” (Jerry Stiller) in which they explain that this convent isn’t really an official part of the Catholic Church but some bizarre fabricated reactionary order that doesn’t recognize the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, and they may end up having to correct it or disown it. So there goes that interpretation.


They even explain that this Philadelphia order is an off-shoot from one in Crewe, England, because the film is based on Muriel Spark’s novel The Abbess of Crewe, but why bother? So much of the film induces this sense of “why bother”. Why bother to have two seminarians “break in” to the abbey to steal one troublesome nun’s love letters, which she keeps in an unlocked box in a public place, and have them come back the next day to be caught? Couldn’t any senior nun have taken the letters? Ah, but it’s all necessary to parallel Watergate. When your allegory takes precedence over common sense in your main story, you’re in trouble.


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Wednesday, Nov 5, 2014
These two Arsène Lupin pictures give viewers a glamorous look at the lives of jewel thieves, with sparkling dialogue and double-crosses abound.

Arsène Lupin, the dashing French jewel thief, was created by Maurice Leblanc soon after E.W. Hornung created the similar English thief Raffles. Warner Archive recently issued two Raffles movies as a double-feature on demand, and they’ve also obliged us with this terrific two-fer of MGM films about Lupin. While the Raffles movies are sophisticated entertainments, the Lupin films cross into real brilliance, and these prints are as sparkling as the dialogue.


In both films, the debonair Lupin plays cat and mouse with a clever and relentless detective. In Arsène Lupin, brothers John and Lionel Barrymore play these mighty opponents, with John constantly displaying his profile as the handsome Lupin while his limping brother fumes and frets as the crafty policeman.


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