Early Christmas presents: Some of my favourite films

I received these gems from my father this week; some have been out of print for a while:

stalag Triumph

Stalag 17 and Ace in the Hole were made by my favourite director, Billy Wilder.  The commentary track for Stalag 17 says that Charlton Heston was originally slated for the William Holden role; the writer (who was a POW in a German stalag) was very relieved when Heston was offered the role, as he thought he was not suitable (too big and over the top).  I can’t imagine anyone playing the cynical Sefton any better than William Holden.

Ace in the Hole is my favourite Kirk Douglas film:  Its biting criticism of the news media stands the test of time and would be very applicable to our news media today with its sensationalist 24-hour coverage of often very tragic events.

The Killers launched the career of Burt Lancaster (he and Holden are two of my favourite actors).  Lancaster does not play the major role in this film, but he makes his always magnetic presence felt.  The Miklos Rozca score, of course, is marvellous.

It Happened One Night is great fun.  I’m not generally a fan of Frank Capra, as I find some of his films be a little too light for my taste, but this one is a classic.  Clark Gable clearly had a great deal of fun making this film; Claudette Colbert, on the other hand, apparently complained a lot and thought the film was beneath her, even though she won an Oscar for her role.  Gable clearly had a very deft comedic touch; it’s shame that he was rarely given the opportunity to show it.

I first watched Triumph of the Will in one of my undergraduate history classes. I still remember the day I watched it and the impact it had on me.  It’s a fascinating and horrifying look at the carefully-crafted propaganda machine of the Third Reich. Leni Riefenstahl, who was a very talented film maker, never recovered from this film and her personal association with Adolf Hitler.


What influences the films we see

Google has conducted a survey with Millward Brown Digital to learn how people research and choose the films they see.  The page does not provide the full study, so I can’t assess its methodology or the reliability of the results. I don’t fit into the norm of the results, since I do not rely on trailers to determine whether to watch a film; rather, I read the reviews of respected film critics.  Trailers are so often misleading. Below are some of the results expressed via their infographics:







10 cringe-worthy tech moments in movies

I’m a dyed-in-the-wool technophile, and I’m often that annoying person in the room who questions the logical probabilities of any number of events that are portrayed in film.  Yes, I understand that a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is expected in some films, but sometimes, incredulity can be pushed only so far. This post provides an amusing discussion of some notable technology gaffes in films.

Films, Uncategorized

Alien 5. No. Please

In this article, Sigourney Weaver talks about the possibility of Alien 5:

When discussing the character of Ripley, Weaver mentioned that she felt the character’s arc was incomplete, leading on to the possibility of a potential fifth film. “Had we done a fifth one, I don’t doubt that her humanity would have prevailed,” mused Weaver. “I do feel like there is more story to tell.”

I have a great love of Alien and Aliens; the latter, in fact, is in the top five of my favourite films of all time, as I have discussed in an earlier post. The only reason to watch Alien 3 is Charles Dance; I stop watching once his character is killed.  Alien 4 is abominable.  Given the development of this franchise, I have little faith that a fifth edition will be worth watching.



Restored Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

One of my favourite silent films, the 1920 The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, has been restored, to bring out colour and details that have not been seen since its original release.  A video that discusses the process can be seen here. I own this film and have seen it several times.  I hope the restored version will be available for sale.images


Bible films

I was quite disappointed with the dearth of Bible films over this Easter weekend, with the exception of the always reliable Turner Classic Movies (TCM). You are now more likely to see Harry Potter and Star Wars marathons over the Easter holiday weekend, than good Bible films.  I am partial to a number of Bible films; of course, not all of them are necessarily appropriate for Easter, if they do not depict the death of Christ, but they make for enjoyable viewing.  My favourite Bible films are listed below:

The ten commandmentsTen Commandments (1956): Cecil B. DeMille puts the E in Epic. Lavish cinematography, a cast of thousands, the parting of the Red Sea, an incredible cast and, of course, Charlton Heston at his heroic best.



Benben-hur 1025-Hur (1925; 1959): While there have a few film versions of this story, these two are my favourites (TCM, bless them, showed both last week). Both feature beautiful cinematography, strong performances and, of course, the famous chariot races.  I shudder to think about how many horses were injured in the 1925 version before animal welfare protection was introduced to the film industry.


ben-hur 1959






The robeRobe (1953): The main attraction of this film is the performance of Richard Burton, who can elevate any film with his sheer presence.  Jean Simmons imbues her usual elegance and class. It’s an interesting perspective of the effect of guilt on Burton for having participated in the crucifixion. Michael Rennie is perhaps a little too elegant for Peter, but he does bring a great deal of gravitas to the role.



Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954): This film follows The Robe. It’s not the best film in the genre, but I think it’s an earnest rendition of early Christianity, and Jay Robinson’s over the top performance as Caligula is worth the price of admission.  Victor Mature is an actor it’s always a bit difficult to take seriously, but I think he does a good job with the material.


There are some newer Bible films, of course, such as Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, and The Last Temptation of Christ, but I don’t have the same attachment to these films, likely because they were not part of my traditional exposure to Bible films during Easter.



Dame Angela Lansbury

Angela Lansbury has been made Dame by Queen Elizabeth, to honour the former’s lifetime of acting and charity work. I’ve always liked Dame Lansbury, and I am pleased that she has been acknowledged and honoured by her country of birth. Most people, of course, know her as Jessica Fletcher on Murder, she wrote.  I admit to watching this series often, as it’s shown every night on a Canadian network.  The stories are formulaic, of course, and the resolution is rather silly, as people spontaneously admit to crimes based on evidence that would not stand up in court.  The show is enjoyable purely for the fun of watching the smart, kind, and charming Jessica Fletcher.  From what I have seen and heard of Dame Lansbury, she shares many of Jessica’s lovely qualities.

Dame Lansbury has been involved in many film projects as well; the three below are my favourites from her repertoire, and for each of which she was nominated for an Oscar:

gaslightmanchurianThe picture of Dorian Gray