The Rare Review

Movies, books, music and TV

Could We Have A Nicer Landing? “The Eagle Has Landed”

Based on a novel by Jack Higgins, The Eagle Has Landed (1976) is quite agreeable at first, but doesn’t stay that way. It revolves around a Himmler-approved German plot to kidnap Winston Churchill during the Very Great War, and it stars Michael Caine as an energetic German officer. Certain things in the film are hard to figure out, but easy to discern is when it finally gets asinine.

The cast is interesting and usually appealing, albeit Larry Hagman overplays a hotheaded American colonel and Donald Sutherland, with his fake Irish accent, has no depth as an IRA agent. It is the fault of the script that Sutherland’s character, Devlin, seems too unserious to be a British-hating terrorist who accompanies Nazis. This was the last film by action director John Sturges. He directed a worthy, bloody sequence in which Hagman’s impulsive colonel and a British female traitor (Jean Marsh) receive their just desserts from powerful gunfire. See the movie for the war footage. It isn’t sleep-inducing. Well, none of the movie is.

“Ride in the Whirlwind”–Maybe You’ll Get Out

Jack Nicholson wrote a not-bad dark Western directed by Monte Hellman—1966’s Ride in the Whirlwind. IMBd describes it thus: “Three cowboys, mistaken for members of an outlaw gang, are relentlessly pursued by a posse.” After the pursuit starts up, things simply get worse. One of the cowboys is shot dead, the other two can’t convince a settler family they are innocents fighting for survival, loss of life is ubiquitous. That the cowboys (one of whom is played by Nicholson) can’t tell the posse they are not outlaws is utterly credible in context. The movie’s ending is fine but imperfectly shot. It is, I repeat, a dark shoot-’em-up—and entertaining.

(Available on Tubi)

Fiances Separated: Italy’s “I Fidanzati”

Cover of "I Fidanzati - Criterion Collect...

Cover of I Fidanzati – Criterion Collection

Giovanni and Liliana, engaged to be married, are capable of bringing joy to each other, but . . . it might not happen for a long while.  Or it will happen only periodically.  The couple must be temporarily separated from each other because they cannot afford to marry and Giovanni, much to Liliana’s sadness, has agreed to a welding job in Sicily.  The film—Italy’s The Fiances (I Fidanzati, 1963)—then zeroes in on Giovanni’s solitary life in a mundane Sicilian town.  I mentioned joy—but the town offers little of it.  It can be quite dreary.

The Fiances was scripted and directed by Ermanno Olmi, and it is tempting to think that while making it he was in love with Loredana Detto, the actress in Olmi’s Il Posto, whom he later married, and that this accounts for the film’s eventual romantic feeling.  Expressed here, in fact, is the need for the certainty of love (romantic feeling or no).  Giovanni and Liliana, we see, are more than the weak and financially poor persons they necessarily know themselves to be.  They are fiancés, and to Olmi—a devout Catholic, in fact—this makes all the difference in the world.

Starring Carlo Cabrini and Anna Canzi, the picture is short and artistic, gentle and tasteful.  It has more vigor than an early ’60s Antonioni film, but is more restrained and indeed smarter than a Fellini film.  Few Italian products nowadays surpass it.

(In Italian with English subtitles)

The Criminal Element In “Portland Expose”

The 1957 Portland Expose is a film noir expose and a very watchable one at that. Edward Binns stars as a family man-tavern owner whom Portland, Oregon mobsters, coveting union control, pressure into a partnership. (The things we can do with your tavern!) But—no surprise—Binns soon has cause to be furious at the mob. The filmmaker is Harold D. Schuster. The screenwriter, Jack DeWitt, requires us to really suspend disbelief near the end of PE. The tavern owner and his teenage daughter (Carolyn Craig) manage to escape the bad guys when they are all together in a section of a warehouse and the bad guys are armed. Before that, however, the movie is sufficiently sophisticated and engaging. It can be seen on YouTube and Tubi.

Merely “The Lady in Red”

The John Sayles-written The Lady in Red (1979) is a tawdry historical fiction about the eventual girlfriend (Pamela Sue Martin) of John Dillinger (Robert Conrad) and how she witnesses his getting shot to death outside a movie theatre and then becomes a one-time bank robber herself. The plot is pathetically bad and no character development for Polly Franklin, the girlfriend, ever obtains. She comes from the sticks but seems utterly suited to the big city. Why?

Sayles inserts a justified, old-style liberalism, or liberal sentiments, into the film, which targets in a big way the aggression of men toward women. Martin is fairly good as Polly but that’s all. (Conrad sleepwalks.) With nice red hair and pretty breasts, she is physically enticing. But, truth to tell, there is too much female nudity in this “feminist” picture. Sayles has nothing to be proud of. The director, Lewis Teague, did better.

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