Raiders of the Lost Ark

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Action/ adventure was given a new lease of life in Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark ; a rollicking, entertaining tribute to old adventure serials with a classic turn by Harrison Ford and all the right ingredients for an energetic blockbuster. Raiders of the Lost Ark is truly one of those iconic films that never gets boring no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Trust me, this movie is simply irresistible.

The year is 1936 and rugged Indiana Jones(Harrison Ford), often refereed to as Dr. Jones or Indy, is an archaeologist/adventurer with a dry sense of humour, skill with a whip, fear of snakes and ability to think quickly on his feet. He works as a college professor when he’s not facing immense danger around the globe. We first meet him in the jungles of South America where he procures an artefact, faces down danger and meets his slimy rival René Belloq( Paul Freeman), who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Back at the university he teaches at, his friend Marcus Brody(Denholm Elliott) a museum creator approaches Jones with two American agents. As Indy has knowledge of ancient relics and cultures the U.S government wants his help in dealing with the growing power of the Nazis. It’s come to their attention that the Nazis are fixed on discovering the burial place of The Ark of Covenant; an ancient and innumerable chest that according to the Bible held the two stone tablets bearing The Ten Commandments. Also housed in it is immeasurable power that the Nazis wish to harness to further advance their cause. Jones worked with Abner Ravenwood, his old mentor and had a relationship with his daughter Marion(Karen Allen). Travelling to Nepal, he meets the tough talking Marion once more and learns her father is dead. She is now in possession of a headpiece that when used properly shows the whereabouts of the Ark. She isn’t too pleased to see Indy as he romanced her and then disappeared, which leaves him with a hell of a punch across the face on their reconnection. The fact that Marion has the key to discovering the Ark puts her in the firing line for trouble. This in turns leads the Nazis to her door, headed by the very creepy and sadistic Gestapo agent Arnold Toht(Ronald Lacey). Escaping and discovering the Nazi’s, along with Belloq are digging in Cairo, Indiana and Marion head there intent on stopping them. With aid from loyal digger Sallah( John Rhys-Davies), it’s up to Indy and Marion to stop the Ark falling into Nazi hands and being wielded as a devastating weapon on the world. 

Steven Spielberg directs this action adventure classic with panache, wit and a rip-roaring sense of entertainment and it ranks as one of his best films. You can clearly see the love and feeling of breathless action he infused Raiders with to make it so rightfully iconic. His infectious enthusiasm to recreate 30’s adventure serials transfers to the audience who are swept along with Indiana Jones in his quest to retrieve the eponymous artefact from the clutches of evil. Raiders of the Lost Ark bristles with excitement right from the celebrated opening and continues on with breathless action that also houses great characters and many instances that have become synonymous with pop culture. You’ve got that opening with Indy retrieving a golden idol from a cave that’s laced with booby traps( including one menacing boulder), a journey into the resting place of the Ark which is littered with snakes, Indy hilariously shooting a show off swordsman in a nonchalant manner, a scintillating truck chase sequence that puts the A in action and the unveiling of the Ark itself. It’s hard to just talk about one moment but I’ll do my best. The cinematography has a warm glow of yesteryear and just adds further to this exciting and escapist adventure that never leaves you. The visual effects still hold up and make the finale a sight to behold in both wonderment and shock. And one of the finest and most fondly remembered parts of this movie has to be the score from the maestro that is John Williams. I’ve long been a fan of his work and his score here is one of the reasons why. I mean you only need to hear a few notes of the now famous theme to feel chills on your neck and know you’re listening to greatness that embodies adventure, danger and just that giddy feeling of something magic at work.

Essaying the role of Indiana Jones is the incomparable Harrison Ford. He’s got the humour down, the intrepid feeling of adventure, plus charm and smarts to burn. Ford is compelling and it’s pretty damn impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part because he makes it his own with star quality, wit and a certain level of old school, heroic cool. It’s hard not to warm to Indiana Jones with Harrison Ford in such fine form and creating one of the most recognisable heroes of the silver screen. Aiding him is the beautiful but strong presence of Karen Allen. She portrays Marion as feisty and not afraid to rough and tumble; thankfully she has more to do that just a be a love interest. Not that her chemistry with Ford isn’t impressive( it’s extremely good), but it’s great to see that she serves a purpose here and can take charge when needed. A slimy turn from Paul Freeman makes Belloq a cultured yet rotten to the core adversary for Indy, while is creepiness personified as the Nazi agent with the most unnerving demeanour. Humour and a certain lovable nature comes courtesy of John Rhys-Davies, making the most out of his supporting role as loyal friend. The refined Denholm Elliott also stands out in a small role with his well spoken air and sense of a gentleman. Watch out for a young Alfred Molina in the opening scene as a treacherous tour guide who meets a grisly end after showing his true, deceitful colours. 

With compelling action, imagination, fine acting and a masterful director at the helm, Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most rip-roaring pieces of adventure entertainment you’re likely to see and trust me, you’ll never tire of it.

8 Year Blog Anniversary

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I was just informed that today is my eighth year on my blog. I’m usually prepared for these things but have been occupied with all the upheaval in the world. I can’t believe it’s been 8 years that I’ve been on here, it’s a wonderful feeling. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank every one of you who has been there for me and supported me on this journey. I love you all.

House on Haunted Hill

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The delightful Gill and Barry asked me to take part in a blogathon celebrating the career of Vincent Price. I naturally obliged and decided to write about the devilish horror with a mischief loving edge, House on Haunted Hill.

A campy and creepy horror movie from William Castle that may show its age but is still rightfully entertaining due to some clever sleight of hand trickery and scintillating script, House on Haunted comes highly recommended from me.

Eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren(Vincent Price) invites five people to a haunted house party and promises to pay each $10,000 if they can stay the night there. The doors will be locked from midnight with no discernible way out. The house has been the sight of many a grisly event since it was built centuries before.None of the people invited really know one another, the only thing that links them is a need for money. They are rugged test pilot Lance Schroeder(Richard Long), ageing newspaper columnist with a gambling problem, Ruth Bridges(Julie Mitchum), psychiatrist who specialises in hysteria Dr. David Trent(Alan Marshal), the worried worker at one of Loren’s companies, Nora Manning(Carolyn Craig) and the owner of the property Watson Pritchard(Elisha Cook Jr.), who is scared stiff of the place and drops ominous warnings about ghosts. Loren’s wife, a mysterious and beautiful woman named Annabelle(Carol Ohmart)  is supposed to be the one who wanted the party, but we see that her union with Loren is toxic and constantly involved in a game of oneupmanship that once turned near fatal with a poisoning. With the guests assembled and a little confused as to why they would all be invited, the night starts. Soon enough, creepy things start to happen around the spooky dwelling; there’s a nasty surprise in the cellar , Loren’s seductive wife drops hints that her life is in mortal danger from her jealous husband but could be up to something and  with everyone locked in, deception stats to set in. But just who will make it through to morning and is there really a haunting going on?

William Castle was adept at churning films like this out with great success. He even used a gimmick of a floating skeleton in the cinema screenings for mimic one of the ghosts in skeleton form for novelty value. The effect is pretty neat here( obviously it doesn’t come off the screen), if a little showing it’s age in terms of effects and retains a somewhat kitsch appeal. Still there are genuinely creepy and twisty moments that reveal that House on Haunted Hill is rather clever at fooling us beneath the slightly goofy and campy surface. It’s akin to a dangerous cat and music game of Cluedo, just infused with a good deal of menace. Creepiness and campiness abound here with neither winning out as overruling the other; rather settling for a compromise that’s at times tongue in cheek and others atmospherically fun to watch. There’s a certain sense of impishness and skullduggery to events here that more than compensates for dated areas. The script is the main source of greatness here, playing events out as tongue in cheek and loaded with suspense. Vincent Price sinks his teeth into many a darkly amusing one liner and has a great moment of speaking directly to the audience. The score is pretty impressive, with the repeating sounds of a haunting and distorted voice signifying something very sinister bubbling away.

Now we come to the man of the hour, the one and only Vincent Price. Using his well cultured and spine chilling voice yo great effect as well as darkness and devilish charm , Price is the cherry on top of this film. You can sense he’s having a lot of fun being so devious, naughty and slithering in sinister nature and it shows in a very entertaining performance from the horror icon. Vincent Price is at some of his most charming and yet chilling here. Carol Ohmart makes an impression as the vampy wife of Loren; her deep voice and dazzling eyes suggesting someone passionate and scheming but maybe afraid. Elisha Cook Jr seems born to play the timid owner of the house who is as twitchy as a mouse in a room full of hungry cats. His character is the main introduction to their possibly being ghosts afoot, though its left ambiguous as is his integral character. The rest of the cast are serviceable enough, but the film ultimately belongs to Vincent Price.

So while creaky in places, House on Haunted Hill is still a good old-fashioned horror mystery laced with dark humour and Vincent Price on sinister and urbane form.

Steel Magnolias

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Laughter, tears, joy and tragedy befall a group of Southern women in Steel Magnolias; a satisfyingly involving story of strength of friendship and celebration of women. Sporting a splendid cast of leading ladies and drama that’s peppered with comedy, Steel Magnolias has you laughing one minute and crying the next( and that’s what is so great about it.) Opened up from it’s stage setting, you have one beautiful movie.

In the Louisiana town of Chinquapin Parish; a group of women go through life’s ups and downs together, often in the local beauty salon. The women are no-nonsense mother M’Lynn Eatenton( Sally Field) , her spirited, type one diabetic daughter Shelby(Julia Roberts), beauty salon owner Truvy Jones( Dolly Parton), elegant widow Clairee Belcher(Olympia Dukakis), embittered and acidic grouch Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacLaine) and new in town wallflower Annelle Dupuy( Daryl Hannah) . The film begins on the wedding of Shelby to lawyer Jackson( Dylan McDermott). Despite Shelby experiencing a hyperglycaemic shock in the morning, she is helped by her mother and friends and the wedding goes wonderfully. Meanwhile, Clairee and Ouiser spar constantly even though deep down they are close friends. Annelle goes through numerous changes, first from shy, woman child to more confident and sassy then overly zealous. Truvy has to contend with her husband Spud(Sam Shepard) being out of work and not showing her much in the way of affection. The big news is that Shelby decides to have a baby, despite the difficulties it could have on her body. M’Lynn is worried about her daughter’s health and isn’t exactly thrilled when Shelby announces her pregnancy. Shelby’s father Drum(Tom Skerritt) is happy for her and to an extend M’Lynn is, though the maternal terror she feels is still nagging at her as she comes around to the idea of it. Shelby gives birth to a baby boy, but tragedy may lie ahead for this wilful young lady. Through the tribulations of life, the Southern Belles band together with support, wisdom and a shoulder to cry on as they live up to the title of being as beautiful as flowers but tough and resilient when the occasion calls for it. 

Herbert Ross is on hand for sensitive direction and a feeling of genuine care for the source material, that opens out the original play setting effectively. He shows great affinity for fleshing out these fascinating women and all that they go through. These are the kinds of characters it’s easy to warm to as you can more often than not, see something of yourself in each of them. Yes you can argue that the film knows to manipulate emotions and does have sentiment, but since when is that actually a bad thing? Steel Magnolias earns the laughs and tears because of its excellence in terms of characters and feelings. I don’t mind things being weepy or sentimental, as long as they do it with style and are well executed( which this movie definitely is.) I think it’s unfair to just refer to it as a chick flick, as it has a lot more going for it than just that label. For one, it’s a celebration of women’s strength and unity in times of crisis that truly knows how to move the audience. And the humour, which is plentiful, goes alongside the more serious stuff nicely. Both compliment the other and know how to really impress the audience in this drama about how friendship can get you through the tough times and sometimes laughter and tears do mix. It’s pretty impossible not to get swept into the dramas and events of Steel Magnolias; it’s an emotional but rewarding ride that is peppered with nice humour and it’s heart being firmly in the right place. Seriously, if you don’t shed not one tear during this movie, your tear ducts have clearly been removed or you’ve got a swinging brick where your heart and compassion should be. A gentle yet well suited score really benefits Steel Magnolias and goes along efficiently with the big occasions the film covers, from wedding to Christmas and then Easter. 


One of the finest assets in Steel Magnolia’s arsenal is the sublime cast of mainly women. Here’s a group of actresses clearly relishing these relatable and well drawn characters that they breathe great life into. Heading things is the ever impressive Sally  Field who truly shines in her dependable way and gets to display the full gamut of feelings. She’s got the varying emotions of her character just right from deep love for her daughter to grave seriousness, immense strength and tenderness in the face of tragedy. Field has always been great at playing motherly characters and she doesn’t disappoint here with a performance that ranks up there as one of her finest, particularly in a late devastating scene that will move even the hardest of hearts. Seriously, Field truly gives it her all as an opinionated yet caring mother terrified of what might happen to her frail daughter. Julia Roberts, who was a year away from super stardom and following memorable work in Mystic Pizza, is beautifully vibrant, genuine and vulnerable as the frail Shelby, who doesn’t want to let her medical condition rule her life and takes drastic action despite warnings of what it could do. The character could have been too much of a martyr, but Roberts wonderfully avoids that with a wilful, delicate and passionate performance that showcases her undeniable star charisma and ability. A lot of the humour is derived from an on form Shirley MacLaine, who spits out bitchy one liners with relish and feeling. You’ll definitely have fun watching her as the town’s meanie who is actually a lot more caring than she cares to let on. Backing her up in sassy fashion is Olympia Dukakis, who is a hoot as the classy but not above fun Clairee. MacLaine and Dukakis obviously enjoy working together as their characters clash often but then make up in often humorous ways. Dolly Parton adds pearls of wisdom and an infectious exuberance and optimism that only she can provide. It’s a treat seeing the multi talented Parton here. Daryl Hannah, decked out in gawky glasses and coltish demeanour, provides laughs and a certain homespun set of foibles. Her character is always changing but her heart is always there and Hannah plays that splendidly. As the women are so indomitable and cover most of the film with their stories, the men are relegated to the sidelines. Though saying that, Tom Skerritt gets quite a number of fine moments to shine in naughty fashion, while Sam Shepard has a fine scene opposite Dolly that’s truly touching. Dylan McDermott is unfortunately saddled with a part that really doesn’t ask for much except being a handsome suitor to Shelby. 

Heartfelt, bittersweet and brilliantly acted and scripted, Steel Magnolias is a sensational production that makes you feel so many different things. I wish you all a great time with this gem of a movie that truly touches you, makes you laugh and is enjoyable. 

Who’s a Fan of The Twilight Zone?

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I’ve recently begun watching the iconic series The Twilight Zone and now can most definitely say I’m a fan. It shall be reviewed on this blog shortly once I finish Season 1. I can’t wait to review it as I’m only a few episodes in, but completely hooked. So who else is a fan of the Rod Serling series that took us to the fantastical but also held deep messages and themes?