The Architecture of Doom (Peter Cohen, 1989)
An intriguing and frequently absorbing documentary that explores Nazism as an aesthetic movement. The film posits that Hitler's interest in art and architecture, especially the classical style, fueled his obsessions with purity, cleanliness, and the medical profession, eventually leading to the Holocaust. While overly long (some of the seemingly endless parades of banal Nazi approved art could have been cut or at least shortened), it offers a fairly original perspective of Nazism as a movement that attempted to impose aesthetic ideals on the world through the use of institutionalized violence.
Privates Come Home (Charles Barton, 1947)
A stunning mix of 2D and 3D animation combines with an extremely underdeveloped story to create a film that's really only of interest to animation fans. A young girl, the last true vampire, teams up with government agents to destroy a trio of blood-sucking demons on a US army base in Japan during the late 60s. The plot details are inadequately explained and the main characters never really developed, but the atmosphere is wonderful, and the violent action sequences are nicely executed. A pleasing diversion.
This frontier gore musical is the first feature from "South Park" creators Matt Stone (who co-stars and produces) and Parker (who besides directing, produced, wrote, starred in, and composed the score). It's loosely based on the true story of Alferd Packer, the only man ever convicted of cannibalism in the US. It's somewhere between a parody of Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals and Peter Jackson's early gore comedies. Although the humour is far from consistent, ranging from some really clever jokes (a tribe of Japanese "Indians") to silly fart jokes, and the film is too long, it has a certain goofy charm that is conspicuously absent from Stone and Parker's later projects. The songs are wonderful, in particular a lavish production number about "hanging the bastard."
Demme draws on his exploitation film background to weave a startling blend of Hollywood craftsmanship and B horror shocks. Anthony Hopkins turns in one of his best performances as the serenely inhuman Hannibal Lector, and Jodie Foster convincingly portrays the vulnerable yet resilient Clarice Starling. Demme yields shocking imagery from seemingly innocuous props like night-vision goggles and a self-storage container. B-movie references abound, from Russ Meyer alumni Charles Napier being disembowelled and hung Christ-like from a cell, to cameos by Roger Corman and George Romero. Most impressively, Demme incorporates the atmosphere and elements from such exploitation horrors as Deranged and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in an A film, and the results were palatable to mainstream critics and fans - and even the Academy.
Thieves rob the Mafia, killing three mobsters and two cops in the process. They are pursued by cops Anthony Quinn and Yaphet Kotto and by mobsters led by Anthony Franciosa. Although the film is gritty, violent and crude, it entertains, due to a good cast and some exciting action sequences, especially the initial robbery and a final shoot-out. The film raises racial issues, but mostly in typical one-dimensional, Blaxploitation fashion. Antonio Vargas appears as one of the robbers, and Burt Young has an early role as one of the mobsters killed in the robbery. The title song by Bobby Womack was recently heard in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown.
Mann's first theatrical feature is extremely stylish. James Caan stars as Frank, a professional thief whose success attracts the attention of local mob boss Leo (Robert Prosky). Leo offers Frank a sponsorship deal that infringes upon Frank's desire to be a loner, but will allow him to achieve his dream retirement plan much sooner. Frank goes along with it, but when the deal sours, he is forced to decide which is more important to him, his independence or his new family life. The film blends gritty dialogue, realistic technical details (actual safe-crackers acted as technical consultants), and Mann's neon-drenched visual style (which seems to have been toned down in his later works) resulting in a near hypnotic film experience. Tangerine Dream's pulsing electronic score adds greatly to the film's effect. Caan turns in his best starring performance to date, and Tuesday Weld, Jim Belushi, and Willie Nelson provide excellent supporting performances.
©2002 Richard Doyle