Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s O Pioneers! Review

When I participated in the Legends of Western Cinema Week last year, I reviewed the Hallmark Hall of Fame film, Durango. Unfortunately, the movie was weaker than I hoped. While thinking about what to write about for 2022’s event, I remembered how I had never seen O Pioneers! Therefore, I thought the Legends of Western Cinema Week was the perfect time to finally see the film! In the 1990s, Hallmark Hall of Fame had a history of adapting stories from the western genre. After the premiere of Sarah, Plain and Tall, the story’s sequels were released; Skylark in 1993 and Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter’s End in 1999. Outside of this trilogy, Hallmark Hall of Fame created O Pioneers! (in 1992), Rose Hill (in 1997), and Durango (in 1999). While looking back on this history, one has to wonder if this was done in an effort to capitalize on Sarah, Plain and Tall’s success? Whatever the reason, these films provide more than one perspective of westerns. Now, with that introduction out of the way, let’s review O Pioneers!

O Pioneers! poster created by Craig Anderson Productions, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Lorimar Television, and Prairie Films

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I’ve seen a small handful of Heather Graham’s projects from her filmography. Based on what I’ve seen, she seems to receive one of two types of roles: a “damsel in distress” or the “ditzy” girl next door. But in O Pioneers!, Heather’s role was different. Portraying Alexandra Bergson in her younger years, she not only displayed a motherly persona, she also showcased a quieter strength. After trying to find more fertile farm land, Alexandra comes up with a plan to purchase the surrounding farm land near her family’s home. When she discusses this plan with her brothers, Alexandra explains it in a sure, yet calm way. Even when her brothers doubted her enthusiasm, she consistently maintained her composure, never letting uncertainty get in her way. Through her performance, Heather does a good job at foreshadowing who her character would become!

The majority of O Pioneers! revolves around Alexandra after her family’s farm is established and successful. Because this part of the story takes place fifteen years later, Alexandra is portrayed by Jessica Lange. Throughout the film, Alexandra experiences a variety of situations. This allowed Jessica to utilize different facial expressions, body languages, and emotions. As she reads a letter from her brother, Emil, a warm smile lights up Alexandra’s face. She appears to be sitting in a comfortable position, a friendly demeanor plain to see. Two scenes later, as Alexandra is sharing bad news with Emil, a sullen look is seen on her face. Her tone of voice is serious, as she’s trying to break this news as honestly, but gently as possible. The strength of Jessica’s acting abilities helped her performance appear believable!

One of the most important people in Alexandra’s life is Emil. Portrayed by Reed Diamond, Emil had a personality that was pleasant. Reed adapts to each situation in Emil’s life as well, similar to Jessica’s performance. In the aforementioned scene where Emil receives bad news, a concerned look is shown on his face. He also listens intently to what Alexandra had to say. Emil’s bottom lip quivers, as shock quickly morphs into sadness. The scene ends with Alexandra consoling her brother as he crumbles into tears.

Historical accuracy: O Pioneers! takes place between the late 1880s and early 1900s. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to note how the production looked and felt like the viewer was transported back to that time! In one scene, a man named Frank is walking around the interior of his house. On the wall in the kitchen, a telephone can be seen. The style of this phone is similar to those featured in programs like When Calls the Heart. Another timely piece of technology was the kerosene lamp hanging from the ceiling. This lamp was found in the dining room of Alexandra’s house. Three more kerosene lamps are located in Alexandra’s posh sitting room. Even though these props are smaller components of the movie, it shows how detail oriented this film’s creative team was!

Reed Diamond and Anne Heche’s on-screen chemistry: Anne Heche portrays Marie, a friend of Emil’s since childhood. Most of Emil and Marie’s interactions take place after they grew up, when they are able to live their own lives. During these encounters, I found their on-screen chemistry very sweet! Marie carried herself with a sense of whimsy, almost like she’s a “child at heart”. Meanwhile, Emil is more headstrong, choosing to ground himself in reality. Instead of clashing, these differences worked in Anne and Reed’s favor. The opposites attracting created a balance between their characters. During Marie and Emil’s interactions, they seemed to share an understanding with each other. Their shared history provided that layer of understanding, as well as Anne’s and Reed’s performance.

Legends of Western Cinema Week banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine, Olivia from Meanwhile, in Rivendell, and Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy.

What I didn’t like about the film:

An episodic story: The story of O Pioneers! revolves around Alexandra’s attempts at creating a successful farm with the land she inherited. But instead of those attempts providing an overarching conflict, the movie is filled with smaller conflicts that are resolved in a shorter amount of time. Ivar is a man Alexandra and her family have known for many years. He claims to have powers from God, which causes him to receive some negative attention. At one point, Ivar is threatened of being sent to an asylum. But in the very next scene, Alexandra simply talks to her brothers about what she’ll do if something happens. After that, the issue is unceremoniously resolved.

Too many characters: O Pioneers! is based on a book I haven’t read yet. Despite this, I could clearly see how large of a cast this production contained. Stories with a larger number of characters can be hit or miss. In the case of O Pioneers!, it didn’t work. Because of how many characters were in this story, some of them didn’t receive the amount of attention I feel they deserved. One of these characters was Amedee, a friend of Emil. A European baseball player, Amedee was such a charismatic character I wanted to learn more about. But with all the other characters trying to compete for attention, he only appeared in two scenes.

Some loose ends: Despite the movie having an hour and thirty-seven-minute run-time, there didn’t seem to be enough time to tie up some loose ends in the story. A good example is when one of the characters gets in trouble with the law. Alexandra visits this character in jail and claims she will help them. However, this issue is never resolved. That’s because this conflict takes place within the last eighteen minutes of the movie. It made me wonder why the creative team would include this part of the script when there was no intention to find a resolution to that conflict?

I know this is a screenshot of Wilma’s house from the Walker, Texas Ranger episode ‘The Lynching’. But Alexandra’s house in O Pioneers! reminded me of Wilma’s house, especially that wrap-around porch! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

There are some movies where the style is executed better than its substance. O Pioneers! is one of those films. As I said in my review, the project looked and felt like the story’s respective time period. The acting as a whole was good as well. But when it comes to the script, it could have been stronger. A major flaw is the movie’s run-time, which was an hour and thirty-seven minutes. This was not enough time to address the story points and characters within the narrative. Personally, I think O Pioneers! should have been adapted into a multi-part mini-series or a television show. With more time, the creative team would have been able to explore more stories and give some underrated characters more attention. Having an episodic narrative for a mini-series or television show would also make sense, as each story would be more condensed than a film’s plot. Like I mentioned in my review, I haven’t read this movie’s source material. Therefore, I don’t know if it’s better or worse than the 1992 Hallmark Hall of Fame production.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen or read O Pioneers!? Is there a book-to-film adaptation you like? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Lost Empire/The Monkey King Review

Last month, I wrote a list of movies I’d love to review someday. One of those films was The Lost Empire/The Monkey King. Originally, I was going to review the 2001 picture for Bai Ling’s birthday, as it is in October. But because July’s theme for Genre Grandeur is ‘Fantasy Movies of the 21st Century’, I found a reason to see this movie three months early! In my aforementioned list, I said the story of The Lost Empire/The Monkey King is based on Chinese folklore. This is very different from the types of films Hallmark creates today, which seem to, mostly, be recycled, predictable material. In fact, the only new Hallmark movies I’ve seen this year, so far, are Cut, Color, Murder, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Haunted by Murder, and Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King was created during a time when Hallmark wasn’t afraid to take creative risks. But did those risks lead to cinematic rewards? Let’s journey through this review as we find that answer together!

The Lost Empire/The Monkey King poster created by Hallmark Entertainment, RTL, Babelsberg International Film Produktion, Milk & Honey Pictures, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and Hallmark Home Entertainment

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When I reviewed Point of Origin last month, I was disappointed by Bai Ling’s limited presence in that film. To me, it seemed like her talents were underutilized. In The Lost Empire/The Monkey King, however, Bai was given more acting material to work with. This allowed her talents to be satisfyingly showcased! I’ve said in the past how Bai Ling has a strong sense of emotionality when it comes to her acting abilities. This was not only incorporated into her portrayal of Kwan Ying, but her on-screen performance was also fluid. A great example is when Kwan and Nicholas “Nick” Orton interact for the first time. While sharing drinks at a local restaurant, Kwan’s demeanor is giggly and somewhat flirty, reflecting her drunken state. She holds hands with Nick as she casually leans across the table. But as soon as Nick asks Kwan why she needed to see him, her mood changes without missing a beat. Kwan becomes very serious, as she sits up in her seat and even looks over her shoulder. This change in Kwan’s demeanor also indicates what’s to follow in the story.

Years ago, I read American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. From what I remember, the Monkey King was portrayed as an older, wiser character who younger characters looked up to. Russell Wong’s portrayal of the Monkey King was much different from what I expected. However, it was enjoyable to watch in The Lost Empire/The Monkey King! The Monkey King in the 2001 film was a humorous character. Russell’s dryer sense of humor and one liners worked in the story’s favor, as it provided a break from the tenser moments in the movie. The humor itself also fit within that movie’s world. When Nick first meets the Monkey King, he is taken aback by his change of scenery. The Monkey King uses that interaction to explain what is happening. Nick asks the Monkey King when the book, The Journey to the West will be destroyed. The Monkey King casually responded by saying, “Midnight. Next Thursday”. What also worked in Russell’s favor was his comedic timing. All of the Monkey King’s humorous moments were delivered at the right place and time. This was not only the result of the screenwriting, but the strength of Russell Wong’s acting abilities as well!

One of the most relatable stories is the “fish out of water” story. In order for this story to work in film, you need an actor or actress who can believably sell this idea to the audience. Thomas Gibson in his portrayal of Nick did just that! The way Thomas expressed emotion appeared more realistic, adding to believability of his performance. Thomas’ ability to adapt to each situation was strong, allowing the audience to witness Nick grow over the course of the movie. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King is not only a “fish out of water” story, but also a “hero’s journey” story. That means the protagonist makes a significant change in his or her life. Throughout the film, Nick makes a personal transformation, gaining confidence as he encounters each obstacle. The way Nick reacts to these changes adds a sense of relatability to the character.

The set design: Immersive and imaginative worlds are a staple within the fantasy genre. The quality of a project’s set design can successfully present that illusion to the audience. I loved the set design in The Lost Empire/The Monkey King because it was able to pull the aforementioned illusion off! Nick is on a business trip to China. Some scenes showcased a typical Chinese city, with smaller details emphasizing the realism of this location. String lights and red lanterns can be seen overhead, which brings a softer glow in the middle of the evening. Vending booths line the streets, elaborating a greater number in population as extras and background characters walk by. Banners and signs in Chinese indicate how that specific part of the city is popular for business.

As the story progresses, more fantastical worlds are shown on-screen. One of these worlds is Jade City. Massive structures boast an ancient Chinese architecture. The ground beneath the characters’ feet displays a pale green hue, subtly reminding the audience of the city’s name. Bright pink flowered trees nicely contrasted the buildings and landscape, bringing a pop of color to the city. Nearby lanterns and window screens are smaller details that show the craftmanship that went into the film’s set design!

The discussion of literature: The main conflict in The Lost Empire/The Monkey King was the fate of the original copy of The Journey to the West. The villains want the book destroyed, while Nick and his friends are trying to save it. This main conflict led to a discussion of censorship versus preservation. The way the discussion is brought up, verbally and visually, was interesting. What was also interesting was the author of The Journey to the West, Wu Ch’eng En, receiving the opportunity to witness the impact of his literary work. I found this part of the story thought-provoking, as it made me think of authors who didn’t really have the chance to see their stories effect the world. The script’s focus on literature brought a sense of depth to a fantastical and whimsical story!

Traditional Chinese dragon image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/design”>Design vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Some of the special effects: When creating a television movie, there’s only so much technological resources at the creative team’s disposal. I’m also aware cinematic technology was not as strong in the early 2000s as it is in the 2020s. Despite these setbacks, the special effects in The Lost Empire/The Monkey King were not a consistent issue. But when they were an issue, it was noticeably rough. While Nick was trying to find a way back to his world, he encounters a tiger in a nearby forest. This tiger appears to have been created through computer technology. Instead of resembling a real-life tiger, it resembled one from a computer game from the time of the movie’s release. The longer the tiger was on screen, the more dated it looked.

Lack of acknowledgment for Pigsy’s mistake: Pigsy is a character that tags along with Nick on his journey. During this journey, Pigsy makes a mistake that negatively impacts his friends and their mission. There were moments where Pigsy appears guilty about his choice. However, the mistake itself was not acknowledged like I hoped it would. Pigsy’s situation does get resolved. But this resolution was glossed over instead of being properly addressed. That was an underutilization of one of the movie’s themes, which was truth.

Mentioning Nick’s ex: On more than one occasion, Nick’s ex-girlfriend is brought up in the story through flashbacks. At a more climatic moment, her inclusion made sense. But, personally, I found it unnecessary for the ex-girlfriend to be brought up more than once. These parts of the story reminded me of a Hallmark movie cliché I’ve talked about in the past: the “protagonist’s ex showing up unannounced” cliché. Nick’s ex-girlfriend is only shown through flashbacks, as I’ve already mentioned. However, I’ve also mentioned how pointless it is to bring up a protagonist’s ex when those characters have no plans to get back together.

Tiger image created by Chevanon at freepik.com.  <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/tiger-looking-straight-ahead_999674.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/pattern”>Pattern image created by Chevanon – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I watched The Lost Empire/The Monkey King, I noticed some parallels between this movie and The Wizard of Oz.  In the Hallmark production, the characters travel to Jade City. Meanwhile, in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends seek out The Emerald City. But comparing The Lost Empire/The Monkey King to The Wizard of Oz does the 2001 film such a disservice. This is because the Hallmark film holds up on its own! I found this production so imaginative, creative, and one of the more unique pictures I’ve seen this year! It was entertaining, engaging, sometimes thought-provoking, and even somewhat educational. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King makes me wish Hallmark would make more movies like this instead of what they’re currently creating. Like I said in the introduction, the 2001 production was made during a time when Hallmark wasn’t afraid to take creative risks. In more recent years, Hallmark has over-relied on one genre to the point where it seems like they don’t want to try anything new. I, honestly, find this to be a shame, as there are so many more stories Hallmark could tell.

Overall score: 7.9-8 out of 10

Have you seen The Lost Empire/The Monkey King? Are there any older Hallmark films you wish received more recognition? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Buzzwordathon 2022: Review of ‘The Bookshop on the Corner’ by Jenny Colgan

It’s that time again; another review for this year’s Buzzwordathon! July’s theme is ‘Bookish Words’. Since the word ‘bookshop’ was an obvious choice, I selected The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. At the beginning of my copy of the book, Jenny includes a message to the readers. This message explains the different places a book can be read, sharing tips to help the reader have a good reading experience. Jenny’s message was a nice gesture to her audience, as it felt genuine. In this message, Jenny shares how she purposefully gave her characters different names, in an attempt to avoid confusion. As a reader, I appreciated this creative decision because it was easier to remember who was who. But another creative decision I liked was how Jenny gave each character a distinct personality and characteristics. With a mostly strong use of character development, this allowed the characters to be unique and memorable from one another. The use of descriptive imagery toward settings and scenery was one of the strongest components of The Bookshop on the Corner! Through select word choices, Jenny paints a distinguishable landscape between the city (Birmingham, England) and the country (Kirrinfief, Scotland) that feels realistic. One example is when Jenny describes sunshine in the countryside. She refers to this natural element as “golden”. She also writes about the sunlight’s effect on other pieces of nature, such as how it is “illuminating every crystal raindrop”. Literary details like these help elaborate the story’s surroundings.

Here is a photo of my copy of The Bookshop on the Corner. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

There’s nothing wrong with incorporating romance into a story. In fact, some of my favorite Hallmark films feature at least one romance. But what makes or breaks that romance is the execution of its dynamic. Many types of romances can be found in literature, from stories about “enemies to lovers” to a tale revolving around “college sweethearts”. When an author chooses one of these dynamics early on in their writing process and consistently utilizes that dynamic, that story may have the potential to be a well-told narrative. Unfortunately, this is not what happened in The Bookshop on the Corner. While reading Jenny’s book, it seems like she couldn’t decide which romance dynamic she wanted to adopt. Instead of choosing one and sticking with it, Jenny picked four of them. Because of their inconsistent presence and lack of confidence, none of these dynamics worked. In fact, the fourth romance dynamic (which is found toward the end of the book) was so unexpected, it felt like I was reading a completely different book.

Essentials of Scotland image created by macrovector_official at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by macrovector_official – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

The inconsistent execution of the romance dynamics is just one flaw in The Bookshop on the Corner. The titular bookshop (which was not a brick-and-mortar store or on the corner, as the cover and title suggest) is more of an afterthought. That’s because the majority of the story is a “slice of life” tale chronicling the protagonist’s adjustment to her surroundings. Nina’s, the protagonist’s, literary matchmaking is really moments of convenient coincidence just to push the story forward, instead of problem-solving skills Nina acquired over time. The more I read The Bookshop on the Corner, I more I found myself disliking Nina. What started as an admirable and somewhat relatable protagonist evolved into a selfish and narrow-minded person. When I first read the synopsis for this book, it sounded like a typical Hallmark Channel “rom-com”. But now that I read The Bookshop on the Corner, it is nothing like those productions. If you enjoy Hallmark movies, books about books, or Scottish stories, please seek elsewhere. You aren’t missing anything by not reading this story.

Overall score: 1.7 out of 5 stars

Have fun during Buzzwordathon!

Sally Silverscreen

Disclaimer: As I mentioned in my review, The Bookshop on the Corner is not like a typical Hallmark Channel “rom-com”. The content that prevents it from being like that aforementioned type of story is the following:

  • Several chapters discuss a male and female character having sex
  • Some swearing can be found throughout the story
  • One chapter chronicles a lamb giving birth. A lamb being injured is also mentioned.
  • At one point in the story, Nina talks to her friend about a character from a picture book being presented unfavorably. That friend calls Nina out for sounding “weird”.
  • A Latvian man is described as “exotic”
  • Nina’s friend, Surinder, says, on more than one occasion, Nina has “gone native” after she moved to the country.
  • A teenage character is described as being “puppy fat”
  • A character with MS (Multiple Sclerosis) is briefly discussed

The Gold Sally Award’s Star of the Year Award has finally arrived!

Now that this year’s Gold Sally Awards is coming to a close, it’s finally time to announce the Star of the Year Award! For those who don’t know, this is a recognition award where readers can nominate someone who they think deserves a “standing ovation”. Since I’ve explained the award’s guidelines and past changes, I’ll provide the links below:

As this is the last poll of 2022’s Gold Sally Awards, I’m extending the deadline from now, July 15th, to July 29th.

Have fun nominating!

Sally Silverscreen

Watching ‘Singin in the Rain’ for the First Time

Throughout my years of movie viewing (and blogging), I have received the opportunity to check out films boasting a “classic” status. This status has, in my opinion, been earned on some occasions, as I gained an understanding for why a particular movie was granted its praise. However, there were certain titles I found myself unable to figure out why it is considered a “classic”. Out of all these “classic” films, I have been meaning to see one specific picture. That title is Singin in the Rain. The 1952 production needs no introduction. From the song, “Good Morning”, being featured in an orange juice commercial to a replica of Gene Kelly’s umbrella in Disney MGM/Hollywood Studios, Singin in the Rain has carved out a slice in America’s pop culture pie. But for someone, like me, who hasn’t seen this iconic film before, these references are going to seem like a company, individual, or creative team is, simply, taking advantage of the movie’s 50+ year popularity. That replica is just used for tourists to have their photo taken. That song was just an appropriate selection to promote a beverage primarily found at breakfast-time. With the arrival and fruition of the Singin in the Rain Blogathon, I finally have a wonderful excuse to watch Singin in the Rain. It also gives me an opportunity to gain more context of the film’s respective songs, images, and quotes.

Singin in the Rain poster created by
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Creative Musical Numbers

Singin in the Rain is not just one of the most iconic movies of all time, it’s one of the most iconic musicals of all time! A musical with a “classic” status will bring something unique and creative to the table. The Wizard of Oz took on the power of Technicolor, in a time when that specific technology was more of a luxury. Xanadu showed the world roller skating can be magical. When it comes to Singin in the Rain, the creativity lies in the musical numbers themselves, presenting performances that hadn’t really been seen before 1952. Toward the beginning of the film, Gene and Donald perform a duet, “Fit as a Fiddle (And Ready for Love)”, at a vaudeville show. Throughout this musical number, Donald and Gene not only tap danced, but played the fiddle as well. For the 21t century viewer, dancing and playing an instrument at the same time doesn’t seem like a new concept, as Lindsey Stirling has capitalized on those talents. Within the realm of cinematic musicals, however, a routine like Gene and Donald’s isn’t often included.

Gene Kelly’s famous solo isn’t the first musical number featuring rain. Two decades prior, in Just Around the Corner, Shirley Temple performed “I Love to Walk in the Rain”, her film’s big musical number that represented the spirit of the movie. Looking back on “Singin in the Rain”, I, personally, feel Shirley’s number walked (no pun intended) so Gene’s solo could soar! The solo from the 1952 production takes place after Gene’s character, Don, takes Kathy home. Despite it raining outdoors, Don is head-over-heels in love with Kathy. Gene tap danced in his solo. But unlike “I Love to Walk in the Rain”, “Singin in the Rain” felt more immersive, as it wasn’t just a performative routine. Because the number takes place within the story’s context, it feels grounded in reality, a downtown street replacing a glamourized stage. Watching Gene jumping and splashing in puddles added uniqueness to the routine. Even though “Singin in the Rain” wasn’t the big musical number for its respective movie, it represents the film’s spirit, reminding the audience to see the good in a not-so-good situation.

String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com. 

Strong Camaraderie

In most of my reviews, I talk about the acting. I will choose a few performances to discuss and write about what I liked about them. For this review, I want to talk about a different acting component. While the overall acting in Singin in the Rain was strong, what stood out to me more was the on-screen camaraderie between Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor! One of my favorite scenes is when Don, Kathy, and Cosmo are concocting a plan to save Don’s film. Each character’s personality shines through during this brainstorming session. Cosmo encourages Don to turn the film into a musical, as he spontaneously breaks out into song. Meanwhile, Kathy attempts to keep the group’s good spirits lifted, her kind demeanor certainly helping the situation. After hearing Cosmo’s idea, Don is open-minded about it, joyously realizing he can use his talents to his advantage. This scene, as well as the “Good Morning” musical number, is just one example of Gene, Debbie, and Donald’s on-screen camaraderie. Through their interactions, it felt like Don, Kathy, and Cosmo had been friends all along. This on-screen bond was so pleasant, I looked forward to each time these characters crossed paths!

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Learning about Cinema’s Early Years

Singin in the Rain takes place in the 1920s, during the transitional period between silent films and “talkies” (movies with sound). Even though the 1952 film is a musical that takes time to focus on its numbers, it lifts the figurative curtain enough to educate the audience on how film-making was executed in that time period. Don’s respective studio, Monumental Pictures, adopted sound after Warner Bros. took a chance with their film, The Jazz Singer, a high risk that was met with high rewards. Because of that one creative decision, it forever changed the cinematic landscape. As emphasized in the musical number, “Moses Supposes”, actors had to not only memorize their lines, they also had to remember to annunciate those lines. Singin in the Rain also shows the audience how dialogue is incorporated into a movie. As someone who appreciates the film-making process, it was nice to see this part of movie-making shown in steps. This step-to-step process was a good introduction to some of the work that goes on behind the camera.

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The Context of “Broadway Melody” in Don’s Film

While working to adapt his film, The Dancing Cavalier, into a musical, Don proposes the movie’s new opening scene. This scene is presented as the musical number “Broadway Melody”. As a musical number in Singin in the Rain, I liked this performance! It had colorful set and costume design, as well as strong choreography. But as an opening scene in The Dancing Cavalier, the musical number, in my opinion, doesn’t work. “Broadway Melody” is too long, my guess is ten minutes. The number itself kind of feels like an extension of Don’s past, as his journey to Hollywood came from simpler beginnings. Based on what the characters said about The Dancing Cavalier, Don’s proposed opening scene seems to have little connection to that film’s story. If Don’s movie were a real picture, some audience members might become bored with the film before the story began.

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No Subplot for Cosmo

As I mentioned earlier in this review, I liked the on-screen camaraderie of Gene, Debbie, and Donald. In fact, I liked Donald’s character, Cosmo! Not only was he hilarious and charming, but he was talented as well! The story of Singin in the Rain primarily revolved around the main plot; Monumental Pictures attempting to save their latest film. There is a subplot in the movie, but it mostly focuses on Lina, Don’s co-star. I would have loved to see Cosmo receive his own subplot. Since his contribution to the studio is musical, Cosmo’s part of the story would have pulled back that figurative curtain a little further to show the audience cinematic work behind the camera. I’ve said in previous reviews how important music is in film. Without it, there isn’t an opportunity for viewers to become emotionally affected by a given scene. Because Cosmo is a musician, that aspect of film-making could have been explored.

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A Love Interest That Wasn’t Meant to be

In my point about Cosmo not receiving a subplot, I mentioned how Singin in the Rain’s subplot mostly focused on Don’s co-star, Lina. Personally, I think more of that time should have been given to Cosmo. I know Lina is meant to be the film’s antagonist. I also know her actions and choices are intended to fuel the movie’s conflict. But why would Lina receive so much time when she and Don were never meant to be? Before and after the premiere of The Royal Rascal, people speculate about Lina and Don’s relationship. Even Lina carries the assumption she and Don are romantically involved with one another. But Don makes it pretty clear he is not romantically interested in Lina. This part of the story reminded me of a Hallmark movie cliché I’ve talked about in the past: the “protagonist’s ex showing up unannounced” cliché.

The Singin in the Rain Blogathon banner created by Ari from The Classic Movie Muse

In Conclusion

Before the Singin in the Rain Blogathon, I had never seen the event’s namesake. That means if someone were to tell me one of the movie’s quotes or if I heard one of the film’s songs, I wouldn’t have thought much of it. Now that I have finally seen Singin in the Rain, I have gained an understanding and appreciation for it! When Kathy first meets Don, she claims, when referring to films, that “when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”. However, I’d argue the 1952 musical built a solid identity that affords it a distinction from other musical movies. Even though Singin in the Rain was released within the Breen Code era, I was pleasantly surprised by the good messages and themes in the story. When I talked about the movie’s on-screen camaraderie, I shared one of my favorite scenes; where Kathy, Don, and Cosmo were figuring out how to save Don’s film. Through this interaction, the message of being one’s self is stressed. This message also allowed Don to use his talents in his favor. When I reviewed The Bridge on the River Kwai, I wondered what the criteria was for lists such as AFI’s 100 Greatest  American  Movies of All Time. One of my speculations was titles that brought something new to the cinematic table. It should be noted that Singin in the Rain is on AFI’s list. While I don’t know for certain how it got there, I think I have a pretty good idea why it’s there.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Witness for the Prosecution (1982) Review

In my list of the Top 10 Movies I’d Love to Review, I mentioned finding Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again on Diana Rigg’s IMDB filmography. During that trip on IMDB, I found another film I could review for the Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon. As the title of this review says, that movie is the 1982 Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation, Witness for the Prosecution! I’ve gone on record to state how I’d like to watch as many Hallmark Hall of Fame titles as realistically possible. If I’m going to be honest, I didn’t think I would ever see Witness for the Prosecution. That’s because the film not only didn’t receive a DVD release, but it doesn’t seem to have received a VHS release either. So, imagine my shock when I found the full movie on Youtube! Mysteries are, arguably, the most popular genre on my blog. This is also not the first time I’ve reviewed an Agatha Christie adaptation. Back in April, I wrote about the 2022 film, Death on the Nile. In that review, I said the movie had a weaker execution than its 2017 predecessor, Murder on the Orient Express. How will Witness for the Prosecution fare against these aforementioned adaptations? All rise, as this review is now in session!

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Witness for the Prosecution poster created by CBS Entertainment Production, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions, Rosemont Productions, and United Artists Television

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Diana Rigg is one of the eligible Bond Girls for the Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon. Therefore, I will talk about her performance first. In Witness for the Prosecution, Diana portrayed Christine Vole, the wife of the accused party. Throughout the film, she carried her character as a woman from stories in the 1920s. What I mean by this is Christine held her own with confidence, never shaken by the probing of those involved in the legal side of the case. Even when she took the stand, Christine adopted a serious demeanor, as if putting on a “poker face” and refusing to show her deck of cards too early. These acting choices and the consistency of her performance allowed Diana to pull off a captivating and memorable portrayal!

Deborah Kerr is an actress I’ve talked about before on 18 Cinema Lane. While I have seen and reviewed five of her films, none of them were from the mystery genre. Despite this, Deborah held her own, acting wise, among the cast! She portrays Nurse Plimsoll in Witness for the Prosecution. While watching the 1982 production, her performance reminded me a bit of Donna Reed’s portrayal of Mary from It’s a Wonderful Life. Nurse Plimsoll cares about the health and well-being of the film’s protagonist, Sir Wilfred Robarts. Though Wilfred finds her overall nursing approach annoying, Nurse Plimsoll doesn’t give up on her mission. Even though she is stricter on other on-screen nurses, her heart is always in the right place. This can be seen through Deborah’s facial expressions, body language, and emotions.

Even though the cast as a whole was strong, there was one performance that stole the show. This came from Beau Bridges! Witness for the Prosecution shows Beau portraying an American named Leonard. Because his case is presented in a British/U.K. court system, he is a “fish out of water”. The situation itself provides an interesting dynamic for the cast, including Beau, to work with. It also gave Beau an opportunity to utilize a variety of emotions. During the case, one of the witnesses causes Leonard to have an emotional reaction. At the start of the witness’ questioning, Leonard presents a calm “resting face”. But as the questioning continues, he slowly becomes sadder, adopting a growing frown and his eyes filling with tears. This transformation was gradual, allowing Beau to adapt to the on-screen situation.

The set design: The majority of Witness for the Prosecution takes place within a British/U.K. court room. Despite the limited locations, there were some examples of set design that I liked! Inside the court room, the ceiling was domed, with clear glass exposing a view of the sky. Surrounding the dome are etched, white arches. With a green light shown on these arches, they gave the appearance of boasting an antique limestone material, which complimented the dark wood of the court room’s walls and furniture. In the lobby of the court room, painted murals are shown near the ceiling. The lobby’s walls appear to be covered in a two-tone marble material, with the floor revealing a black-and-white tile design. My favorite set in Witness for the Prosecution was Wilfred’s office! The room’s color scheme was brown, beige, and red. When this set was first introduced, a large, dark wood bookcase proudly stood. It was guarded by a dark wood table and two dark brown armchairs. While the walls were beige, the curtains on the window were red, giving the room a pop of color. The more time Wilfred spent in this space, the more the sophisticated, professional, and intelligent appearance of the office complimented his personality.

An in-depth look at the British/U.K. court system: As I mentioned in my point about the film’s set design, the majority of this story takes place in a British/U.K. court room. That part of the movie exposed the audience to the British/U.K. court system. Even though Witness for the Prosecution is not the “end all, be all” when it comes to this specific court system’s portrayal in entertainment media, it gives viewers a chance to compare and contrast it to other court systems in other productions. The layout of the court room itself provides one example. Toward the front of the court room, the witness stand is located at the judge’s right-hand side. This part of the court room is separate from the judge’s stand. Meanwhile, in court room productions taking place in the United States, the witness stand can either be located at the judge’s left or right-hand side. It is also connected to the judge’s stand.  

The Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon banner created by Gabriela from Pale Writer and Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews

What I didn’t like about the film:

The magical monocle: While working on the case, Wilfred wore a monocle when he was questioning the accused party and his wife. As he questioned them, a light shone through the monocle and directly landed on Leonard and Christine. But these were the only two times Wilfred used the magical monocle. The purpose of the monocle or Wilfred’s reason for using it was never explained. Was this monocle truly magical or was the monocle used as foreshadowing? I wish this part of Wilfred’s character was more consistent.

A dialogue heavy story: With any movie or tv show episode featuring a court case, there’s going to be a certain amount of dialogue within the story. But because Witness for the Prosecution mostly revolved around a court case, the 1982 production feels more dialogue heavy compared to Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express. Before watching Witness for the Prosecution, I had expected more showing than telling when it came to the mystery. Instead of watching the characters making discoveries related to the mystery, I heard about it through the questioning in court. Because of this creative decision, I didn’t find the movie’s mystery as engaging as it could have been.

An inactive detective: In a story where a detective, amateur or professional, is the protagonist, the audience expects to see this character actively solve their respective film’s mystery. Sadly, the viewers won’t witness that in Witness for the Prosecution. Wilfred is a lawyer defending Leonard in his case. However, Wilfred places more emphasis in resolving the case than playing detective. Even though this movie’s mystery was solved, it felt like Wilfred was served the answer on a silver platter instead of discovering it himself. Similar to what I said about the dialogue-heavy story, I didn’t find the mystery engaging because of Wilfred’s inactive detective role.

Sketch of London image created by Archjoe at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-houses-of-parliament_1133950.htm’>Designed by Archjoe</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Archjoe – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Witness for the Prosecution shares a similar plot with 1997’s Red Corner: an American man is accused of murder, with his case in a court system outside of the United States. But where Red Corner succeeded and Witness for the Prosecution didn’t is how Shen, Jack’s lawyer in Red Corner, not only played a role in the court case, but also went above and beyond in attempting to solve the mystery surrounding the case. This allowed Red Corner’s story to be intriguing and engaging for the audience. With the 1982 production, Wilfred spends more time on the court case than the mystery wrapped around it. This decreases the audience’s engagement. The dialogue heavy nature of Witness for the Prosecution’s story also affected the mystery’s intrigue. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s presentation is the third Agatha Christie adaptation I’ve seen, which I wasn’t overly thrilled with. I still want to, one day, read her literary work. But based on my reactions to the three adaptations I have watched so far, I’m starting to wonder if I’ll find an Agatha Christie story I like?

Overall score: 6.1-6.2 out of 10

Have you seen any of Agatha Christie’s adaptations? Do you have a favorite Agatha Christie story? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Princess and the Pirate Review + 435 Follower Thank You

Originally, I was going to review The Princess and the Pirate for The Metzinger Sisters’ MGM Blogathon. This is because my DVD copy of the film features the MGM logo on the cover and the film was released in 1944. However, The Metzinger Sisters informed me that the movie was not an MGM picture. Even Wikipedia claimed it was an RKO Radio Pictures production. Confused by this, I chose to review The Princess and the Pirate as my next Blog Follower Dedication Review instead. Bob Hope is a comedian I have heard of over the years. But, up until this point, I had never seen any of his films. Meanwhile, pirate themed movies are no stranger to 18 Cinema Lane. As of late June 2022, I have reviewed Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama and China Seas. While I found China Seas to be just ok, I was disappointed by Captain Sabertooth and the Treasure of Lama Rama. What do I think of The Princess and the Pirate? Get ready to set sail as we start this review!

Here is a picture of my DVD copy of The Princess and the Pirate. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, Bob Hope is a comedian I have heard of before. But because I had never seen his movies, I didn’t know what to expect. While watching The Princess and the Pirate, I found Bob’s portrayal of Sylvester pleasant to watch! His expressions, emotions, and body language were fluid, allowing Bob to adapt to any on-screen situation. Bob’s impersonations were also a memorable component to his performance. Among the silliness and humor, Bob also showed a romantic side. In a scene where Sylvester and Margaret are sailing in a boat, he learns more about Margaret’s identity. During their conversation, Sylvester’s demeanor is softer, lowering his guard. This sweetness in Bob’s character was nice to see, as it showed how multi-layered Sylvester was!

Virginia Mayo portrayed Princess Margaret. As I watched this movie, her performance reminded me of Elizabeth Swann from the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. This is because she wasn’t afraid to stand her ground and help save the day. Margaret encouraging Sylvester to be brave during an on-deck battle is one example. What made Margaret different from Elizabeth is how, like Bob, Virginia showed a romantic side. Her performance of ‘Kiss Me in the Moonlight’ showcases this well. Even though the singing was performed by Louanne Hogan, Margaret’s facial expressions and body movements embodied the feminine songstress that appeared in musicals of the time of the movie’s release. Virginia’s portrayal prevented her character from becoming one dimensional!

One aspect of The Princess and the Pirate I liked was how the film made fun of status quos in the world of pirate films. The character of Featherhead is one example of this. Portrayed by Walter Brennan, this pirate is seen by his peers as being “dumb”. However, Featherhead’s interactions with Sylvester goes against that aforementioned claim. Walter’s performance was consistent and went toe-to-toe with Bob’s talents. While Featherhead is a more comedic character, he was more than being the film’s “comic relief”. Walter’s talents allowed his character to be memorable. Featherhead also helped progress the plot forward.

The humor: At the beginning of the movie, on-screen text explains who a pirate named The Hook is and what his mission will be. During this collection of text, Bob Hope breaks the fourth wall by explaining how he’s not portraying the character of The Hook. I found this part of the movie hilarious because of its unexpected nature! At one point in the story, Sylvester swims in a bathing pool with a character named La Roche. During this scene, Sylvester is hiding a secret he doesn’t want La Roche to discover. So, while in the pool, Sylvester quickly pops in and out of the water so La Roche doesn’t see him. Because of the scene’s consistency and because of the scene’s length, it was, in my opinion, funny!

The costume design: In the pirate films I’ve seen, costume design seems to have been a top priority. The combination of historical accuracy and design detail have created costumes that were exquisite and aesthetically pleasing. Throughout The Princess and the Pirate, I loved Virginia’s wardrobe! Each dress boasted a pastel palette, from a coral and teal gown Margaret wore on the Mary Ann to a pink and purple dress she was seen wearing toward the end of the film. This pastel palette also complimented Virginia’s hair color and skin tone. While at La Roche’s house, Sylvester wore a fancy suit. The suit jacket’s primary colors were white and fuchsia, a costume piece boasting a bright, fun palette. Embroidered flowers covered the jacket, which added beauty to the piece. Like the other pirate films I’ve watched, it looks like the costume design in The Princess and the Pirate was a top priority as well!

Princess tiara image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/ornamental-princess-crowns_1109199.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/gold”>Gold vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The island of Casarouge: In The Princess and the Pirate, Sylvester and Margaret go to the island of Casarouge, which is inhabited by pirates. Personally, this location didn’t sit well with me. Throughout Margaret and Sylvester’s time on Casarouge, the pirates’ actions and behavior are unsavory. Acts like murder, thief, and even drunkenness are on full display. I know not every fictional pirate is as friendly as Captain Jack Sparrow. I’m also aware The Princess and the Pirate was released during the Breen Code era, a time where the inhabitants’ choices would not be celebrated or glorified on film. In fact, while on Casarouge, Sylvester questions everything taking place around him. But The Princess and the Pirate has a, mostly, light-hearted tone, with some situations being played up for laughs. Because of these factors, the actions and behaviors of Casarouge should have been toned down.

The Hook’s buried treasure: When The Hook is first introduced in The Princess and the Pirate, he and his crew were seen burying a chest full of treasure. Throughout the film, a subplot involved searching for a treasure map. Without spoiling the movie, I will say the aforementioned treasure was never physically brought up again in the story. More emphasis was placed on finding the map than reclaiming the treasure chest. This made me wonder why the film’s creative team would include this in their story if they had no intention to follow through on it?

A confusing time period: While watching The Princess and the Pirate, the costume and set designs felt reminiscent of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. This led me to believe the story was taking place in the 1700s. Yet Bob Hope’s dialog mentioned things that came to be after the presented time period. When crossing paths with The Hook, Sylvester claims the pirate’s hook would make a great beer can opener. However, I know beer cans did not exist until the 18th century had concluded. I’m not sure if these references were the result of Bob Hope’s comedy or the screenwriters wanting the dialog to be more reflective of the time of the movie’s release. No matter the reason, I found it confusing.

Paper Boats in the Sea image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/background-of-paper-boats-with-hand-drawn-waves_1189898.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

The Princess and the Pirate is a movie I’ve been meaning to review. Ever since I acquired my DVD copy of the film, I have been trying to find the perfect opportunity to write about it. Thanks to you, my followers, that time has come! Thank you for taking the time to read what I have to say and for paying 18 Cinema Lane a visit! Your interest in my blog means a lot to me. Now, on to my overall impression of The Princess and the Pirate. There are pirate stories that are stronger than this one. But, for it was, I enjoyed the 1944 movie! While I won’t give anything away, I want to mention there is a “bait and switch” ending. But because The Princess and the Pirate made fun of status quos in pirate films, this type of ending worked. What also worked was the acting and the humor. Since this was my first time watching any of Bob Hope’s films, I found this to be a good introduction to his filmography. In the future, I’d like to check out more of his movies.

Overall score: 7.6 out of 10

Have you seen any of Bob Hope’s movies? If so, which ones would you recommend? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Top 10 Movies I’d Love to Review

Last year, when I reviewed Let Him Go, it became my 275th movie review! But that wasn’t the only movie review that achieved a milestone. My recent review, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, was my 650th post! With these achievements, I decided to write a top ten list, as I haven’t published one yet. Whenever I wanted to review a particular title, I have, for the most part, been able to seek that title out. While most of them have been accessible, some of those films were harder to find. The idea of film accessibility caused me to reflect on which movies I would love to review someday. Therefore, my list of the Top 10 Movies I’d Love to Review was born! The films featured in this list are underrated/lesser known. They were also released over ten years ago. This was a conscious choice, as it keeps each entry on an equal playing field. The entries are listed based on how accessible they are. In this case, “accessibility” means whether I can legally and realistically rent, purchase, or view a film.

Wish list image created by Vectorjuice at freepik.com. Task list vector created by vectorjuice – www.freepik.com

10. A Little Romance

I first saw the trailer for A Little Romance years ago on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The movie looked so sweet and charming based on what my television screen presented. Looking back on the trailer, the story seems like a light-hearted version of Rich Kids; where two young characters go off on an adventure. This is ironic, as both Rich Kids and A Little Romance were released in 1979. I have not only found several DVD copies of A Little Romance, but I am able to rent the film. So, a review of this movie will have to be in order in the foreseeable future!

9. The Lost Empire/The Monkey King

Some of Bai Ling’s projects have been reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane. In fact, one of my most recent movie reviews was of her 2002 HBO film, Point of Origin. So, when I discovered Bai starred in a Hallmark movie, I knew I had to, eventually, check it out. Based on what I know about the 2001 project, the story is based on Chinese folklore. This is a very different and unique film concept from the types of movies Hallmark creates today. Similar to A Little Romance, I have found several DVD copies of The Lost Empire/The Monkey King. The full movie is available on Youtube as well.

8. Alex: The Life of a Child

Long before 18 Cinema Lane came along, I had learned of Alexandra Deford’s story. After reading Alex: The Life of a Child, I wanted to see its respective adaptation. For the longest time, a twelve-dollar donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was the only way to receive a VHS copy of the movie. But if you visit the non-profit’s website, there is no mention of the film or how to acquire a copy of it. Fortunately, the full movie has been posted on Youtube. So, expect a review of Alex: The Life of a Child in the near future!

7. A Circle of Children and Lovey: A Circle of Children Part II

One of Judy Garland’s movies I like is A Child Is Waiting. For those who aren’t familiar with the 1963 title, Judy portrays a music teacher who works at a school for students with special needs. A decade after the release of A Child Is Waiting, two made-for-tv films, A Circle of Children and Lovey: A Circle of Children Part II, aired. Unlike Judy’s movie, the aforementioned productions are based on the true story of a teacher named Mary MacCracken. Her books were not only the source material for these movies, Mary was also one of the screenwriters for both films. While I haven’t found a physical copy of either movie, A Circle of Children and Lovey: A Circle of Children Part II have been uploaded on Youtube. With everything said, these titles could serve a future double feature!

6. Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Redwood Curtain and The Flamingo Rising

I’ve said before on 18 Cinema Lane how some Hallmark Hall of Fame titles were only sold on VHS. This exclusivity has encouraged me to seek them out. Even though I’d like to see as many of those films as realistically possible, Redwood Curtain and The Flamingo Rising are at the top of my wish list! Each synopsis sounds interesting and Asian/Asian American stories are far and few between in the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection. As of late June 2022, both Redwood Curtain and The Flamingo Rising are available on Hallmark’s streaming service, Hallmark Movies Now. I have also found some copies on VHS.

On-line movie purchase image created by Makyzz at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/on-line-order-cinema-movie-tickets_1577652.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/technology”>Technology vector created by Makyzz – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

5. An Old Fashioned Christmas

I have gone on record to state An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving as one of my favorite Hallmark films. Two years after that movie’s release, Hallmark aired a sequel titled An Old Fashioned Christmas. This is one of Hallmark’s unique Christmas offerings, as it is a period drama. The story also takes place in and was filmed in Ireland. I have come across a few DVD copies of An Old Fashioned Christmas. However, these copies were included in Christmas movie box sets, which have been, more often than not, expensive. The 2010 film has an official page on Hallmark Drama’s website. But the movie isn’t scheduled for any upcoming presentations. Hopefully, when Christmas time rolls around, An Old Fashioned Christmas will appear among the network’s selection of seasonal titles.

4. She Couldn’t Say No

This 1953 comedy starring Jean Simmons and Robert Mitchum was originally recommended to me by one of my readers. Since then, I have been trying to find a way to, legally and realistically, watch the movie. No VHS tapes or DVDs of this title have been attainable, as of late June 2022. She Couldn’t Say No has also not been posted on Youtube. Similar to An Old Fashioned Christmas, the 1953 movie does have an official page on Turner Classic Movies’ website. But it doesn’t look like the movie will air on the channel anytime soon. The only option I have left is to wait for the Youtube channel, Cult Cinema Classics, to upload the movie.

3. Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again

While looking for a title to review for the upcoming Other Than A Bond Girl Blogathon, I came across this project on Diana Rigg’s IMDB filmography. As soon as I read the title, it gave off Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo vibes. Because of that, I thought I had finally found my “so bad, it’s good” movie. But I discovered Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again is a “Dickens spoof broadcast as part of the BBC’s 1995 “Comic Relief” telethon”. As someone who enjoyed the 1968 musical, Oliver!, I am curious to see what an Oliver Twist sequel would look like. But as of the publication of this list, there have been no uploads on Youtube of Oliver 2: Let’s Twist Again. For now, it would be considered “lost media”.

2. The Tim Pope Cut of The Crow: City of Angels

I won’t talk about this entry too much, as I’ve already talked about it in depth in my editorial, Why Now is the Perfect Time to Release the Tim Pope Cut of ‘The Crow: City of Angels’. Personally, I’d consider the Tim Pope Cut a “partial lost film”. The film itself isn’t lost, but this version of it is. Since publishing my aforementioned editorial, it has garnered over a thousand views and counting! This tells me there’s a desire to find and restore the Tim Pope Cut. But, as of late June 2022, this version of the movie hasn’t been restored. For now, all there is to do is wait and “trust the timing”.

1. Four Devils

For those not familiar with this title, Four Devils is a 1928 project that is considered one of the most infamous lost films. The movie revolves around four siblings who form a circus act called the “four devils”. I don’t always receive an opportunity to review films from the 1920s. Therefore, writing about Four Devils would provide unique and intriguing content for my readers. Like I said about the Tim Pope Cut of The Crow: City of Angels, there has been no recent development in the retrieval of Four Devils. In the meantime, I guess I’ll find the book this movie is based on and read that.

People working on films image created by Katemangostar at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business”>Business vector created by katemangostar – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Dr. Phibes Rises Again Review + 420, 425, and 430 Follower Thank You

While looking for a movie to review for my next Blog Follower Dedication Review, I realized it’s been a month since I wrote about a “spooky” title. It’s also been two months since I reviewed a sequel. Because of those factors, I choose to review the 1972 movie, Dr. Phibes Rises Again! Last year, I saw the predecessor, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, after one of my readers recommended it to me. In my opinion, the film was just fine, as I found the horror in the horror-comedy classification heavily emphasized. The fact The Abominable Dr. Phibes received a sequel was surprising to me. That’s because I had no idea the 1971 title received a second chapter until I recently stumbled across it. What other surprises are in store? Let’s take a trip through this review of Dr. Phibes Rises Again in order to find out!

Dr. Phibes Rises Again poster created by
American International Pictures and Anglo-EMI Film Distributors Ltd./MGM-EMI

Things I liked about the film:

A mystery-adventure: In my review of The Abominable Dr. Phibes, I stated how the story was more of a horror-mystery due to the limited incorporation of comedy. Like its predecessor, the sequel also features a mystery. But this time, an adventure story is included in the script, as the characters travel to Egypt. The change in scenery allowed something new to be brought to the overall story. It also added an exciting component, with the audience receiving an opportunity to witness new sights and join the ride with the characters. A new setting made the film’s twists and turns interesting, as Dr. Phibes came up with different ways to attempt to reach his goal. A distinct identity was given to Dr. Phibes Rises Again because of these creative decisions!

Toned down character demises: One of The Abominable Dr. Phibes’ flaws was how over-the-top demises of characters were, as they came across more gross than scary. These demises also overshadowed Vincent Price’s performance, which led to his talents being underutilized. While Dr. Phibes continued to go after anyone who stood in his way in Dr. Phibes Rises Again, the execution of his plan was toned down. Not only were there less demises, but there was also less on-screen gore compared to the first film. Vincent’s acting abilities received more emphasis because of this creative decision. That creative decision also allowed me, as a viewer, to focus on Vincent’s body language, facial expressions, and vocal inflections. Vincent’s role in Dr. Phibes Rises Again felt more like lead actor material compared to The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Robert Quarry’s portrayal of Darius Biederbeck: When I talked about Queen of the Damned in my article, Twentieth Century vs. Queen of the Damned at the Against the Crowd Blogathon, I said the movie presented Lestat as a more likable protagonist. Stuart Townsend’s portrayal of Lestat helps make this statement accurate, as his consistent suave, confidence added to Lestat’s likability. Robert Quarry’s portrayal of Darius Biederbeck in Dr. Phibes Rises Again reminded me of Stuart Townsend’s portrayal of Lestat. This is because Darius’ suave, confidence was similar to Lestat’s. Darius was a goal-driven man, believing in himself and his mission. Even when those around him had their doubts, his confidence was unwavering, presented consistently by Robert. What also helped was how strong Robert’s acting abilities were, giving him an opportunity to present a stand-out performance. These aspects of Robert’s portrayal of Darius made it enjoyable for me to watch!

Egyptian hieroglyphic image created by wirestock at freepik.com. Luxor photo created by wirestock – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

A somewhat rehashed story: Dr. Phibes’ story in The Abominable Dr. Phibes revolved around trying to find a solution for his deceased wife, Victoria. This quest for a solution drove Dr. Phibes to go after those he felt wronged him and his wife. In Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Dr. Phibe travels to Egypt. But his mission is similar to the first film: find a solution for Victoria. I won’t claim this story is a carbon copy of The Abominable Dr. Phibes. However, I wish it had less similarities to the predecessor.

Confusing parts of the story: A confusing part of Dr. Phibes Rises Again is the return of Vulnavia. Dr. Phibes’ assistant, Vulnavia, was one of the key characters in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Without spoiling the first movie, I will say something happens that prevents Vulnavia from appearing in the sequel. Yet, she does appear in Dr. Phibes Rises Again, with no clear explanation provided. This is just one example of confusing parts of the story that should have received more context.

An unresolved mystery: While in Egypt, Dr. Phibes discovers a sarcophagus. When he opens the sarcophagus, it appears a mummy had been removed. Dr. Phibes even questions what happened to the aforementioned mummy. But after this scene took place, the mystery is never resolved. In fact, it was never brought up after Dr. Phibes’ initial discovery. This made me wonder why the film’s creative team would include that mystery in their script if they had no intentions to solve it on screen?

Scary movie screening image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/small-skeleton-with-popcorn-and-tv_1323292.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before I share my overall impression of Dr. Phibes Rises Again, I’d like to thank all my followers! I appreciate your support of 18 Cinema Lane! Now, on to my thoughts on Dr. Phibes Rises Again. On the one hand, the sequel tries to go in a different direction from the first movie. It even fixes some of the predecessor’s flaws. On the other hand, though, Dr. Phibes’ story was similar to his story in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. It also doesn’t help how parts of the story were confusing and a mystery was unresolved. Therefore, I will say this: as a movie, Dr. Phibes Rises Again is fine. As a sequel, it is slightly better than the first film.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen The Abominable Dr. Phibes or its sequel? Are there any sequels you think are better than their predecessor? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Buzzwordathon 2022 – Review of ‘A Horse Called Holiday’ by Frances Wilbur

June’s theme of Buzzwordathon is ‘All’. This means the word ‘all’ has to appear somewhere in the title. Originally, I was going to read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. But I figured reading a five hundred and thirty plus page book after a three hundred- and forty-three-page book (The Light Between Oceans) put me in a “reading slump” was not a wise decision. Therefore, I decided to read A Horse Called Holiday by Frances Wilbur instead. This is because a) the book is two hundred and three pages and b) the word ‘all’ is found within the word ‘called’.

Here is a photo of my copy of A Horse Called Holiday. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Despite this change of plans, there were aspects of the book I liked! Frances took the time to showcase the world of equine sports, specifically show jumping. She goes into detail on how much time, effort, and money it takes to find success in this particular hobby/extracurricular. When it comes to horse-related stories in entertainment media, specifically those for a younger audience, some of them might end up glamorizing the idea of horse ownership. With that said, I appreciate Frances’ realistic approach to equine related activities. I also liked the protagonist, Meredith “Middie” Scott! Even though she has her flaws, Middie has admirable qualities as well. One of them is how hard she works toward her dream of being a successful horse rider. Throughout the story, Middie takes care of other people’s horses. She does this to gain riding experience and earn money to afford a horse of her own. Since A Horse Called Holiday would be classified as a middle grade story, Middie is a good character for younger readers to look up to. At various points in the book, the text is written in italized letters. These passages are from the titular horse’s perspective.  Through these passages, the reader learns more about Holiday’s past, such as why he is so good at jumping fences. Insight into why Holiday reacts the way he does is provided, giving a unique component to this story!

Horse with saddle photo created by Topntp26 at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/stallion-black-equine-race-sky_1104246.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Topntp26 – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

In the book’s synopsis, it states “Middie’s always taken the easy way out”. Some characters remind Middie how she rushes through certain tasks. But throughout the story, these claims didn’t feel consistent. That’s because, over the course of the book, the reader also sees Middie working hard toward her dream. Since there was more evidence for the latter than the former, it felt like the text was giving mixed messages. An overarching issue within Middie’s life was how she felt unappreciated due to her birth being “unexpected”. Because most of the story focuses on Holiday’s training, Frances ends up telling instead of showing the Scott family’s struggles. This emphasis on Holiday’s training also caused the overall conflict to be weaker. While it does provide interesting insight into show jumping, some readers might find A Horse Called Holiday boring due to the limited amount of intrigue.

In my opinion, A Horse Called Holiday is a fine, harmless, horse-related story. In fact, it would be a good introduction to horse-related literature. Without spoiling the book, I will say the resolutions were nice, but expected. However, the story is straight-forward and easier to follow.

Overall score: 3.6 out of 5 stars

Have fun during Buzzwordathon!

Sally Silverscreen

Disclaimer: There is one chapter in A Horse Called Holiday featuring horses getting hurt. One rider is described as “plump” and Holiday’s deafness is described as a “handicap”.