Take 3: Tommy Review

For my third year participating in the Rule, Britannia Blogathon, I, at first, considered reviewing an adaptation based on a book I’ve read. This would be similar to when I wrote about the 2002 adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had a perfect opportunity on my hands. That opportunity was the chance to review the 1975 film, Tommy! Years ago, long before I became a movie blogger, I saw a trailer for Tommy on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). On the one hand, the story itself seemed interesting; a man with disabilities living his best life and making his dreams come true. But, on the other hand, the visuals within this trailer appeared “bonkers”, making the movie seem intimidating. After reading some reviews, I came to the conclusion Tommy is a polarizing film. This isn’t the first time I have written about a movie that received mixed reviews. Two years ago, for another blogathon, I reviewed the 2011 Hallmark film, The Cabin. Historically, this is considered one of the most polarizing titles the network has ever created. When I got around to seeing it, I found The Cabin so bad, it was disappointing.

Tommy poster created by Robert Stigwood, Organization Ltd., Hemdale Film Corporation, and Columbia Pictures

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Prior to watching Tommy, I had seen Bye Bye Birdie. In the 1963 film, Ann-Margret gave an expressive portrayal of Kim MacAfee. The 1975 movie shows Ann-Margret in a completely different role, which allowed her to expand her acting abilities. Portraying the titular character’s mother, Nora, Ann-Margret gave a well-rounded performance! Because this story incorporates heavier subjects, her portrayal contains the emotional intensity required for a story of this nature. While watching television, Nora sees her son on TV. As she’s watching, a sense of guilt grows within her. This guilt causes Nora to appear disgusted, a grimace slowly overcoming her face. She attempts to change the channel in order not to see Tommy, only for the TV to magically switch to Tommy’s image. Angry about her plan not working, Nora throws her champagne bottle at the television, which results in a flood of laundry detergent, beans, and chocolate. Relieved to instantly receive the items she just saw in television commercials, Nora suddenly is taken over by pleasure. A smile appears on her face as she rolls around on the floor in the commercial materials.

When discussing a movie heavily revolving around a titular character, it’s important to talk about the actor or actress portraying that character. In the case of Tommy, that role was given to Roger Daltrey. Based on some reviews I’ve read of Tommy, it seems like Roger had little to no acting experience prior to working on this movie. Despite this, his performance was such a strong addition to the story! Roger’s portrayal had the emotionality and versatility to make Tommy a character worth rooting for. These aspects also held my interest in Tommy’s journey. In one scene, Tommy stays over at Cousin Kevin’s house. During his stay, Kevin tries to burn Tommy with a cigarette. As Tommy is sitting tied up in a chair, his face instantly changes from exhaustion and writhing in pain. This change in facial expressions is seamless, Roger never missing an emotional beat.

While I have heard good things about Tina Turner’s acting performances, this was the first time I had seen any of them. Tommy shows Tina portraying The Acid Queen. Even though her performance was limited to one scene, she gave so much energy to her role. While her portrayal was over-the-top, it fit the tone and vibe the movie was going for. With all that said, I honestly wish Tina had received more appearances in this film.

Ann-Margret’s wardrobe: Even though I knew Ann-Margret would be starring in Tommy, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked her wardrobe! Each outfit she wore complimented her so well, while also looking great on-screen! Toward the beginning of the movie, as Nora and her husband, Captain Walker, are running through the war-torn streets of England, she wore an asymmetrical, sky-blue gown. The dress itself was simple, but it was elegant enough to not be plain. Ann-Margret’s strawberry blonde hair paired beautifully with the color of the dress. Later in the movie, Nora wears a silver, mesh pant suit. Accompanied by shiny, silver sandals and a white furry cape, this ensemble boasted a posh look. While the outfit felt very reflective of the 1970s, it was a divine version of that type of outfit. Ann-Margret definitely pulled off this film’s wardrobe in style!

The symbolism: In some reviews I read about Tommy, it was mentioned how there was symbolism found among the over-the-top, flashier imagery. Since I knew before watching the movie there was going to be this type of imagery, it allowed me to focus on what the film’s creative team was trying to say through their story. In a desperate attempt to cure her son, Nora takes Tommy to The Church of Marilyn Monroe. Other patrons with disabilities are also in attendance, from a woman with a guide dog to multiple people utilizing wheelchairs. Marilyn’s likeness can be seen throughout the facility, with the most notable being a giant statue of Marilyn in the iconic flown skirt pose. I interpreted the scene as a piece of commentary on how people who claim to be religious and/or contain the ability to cure everyone with anything can, sometimes, take advantage of those in vulnerable positions. Those people could be considered “false prophets”. So, choosing Marilyn as the film’s church icon is interesting, as Marilyn’s name and image were all a fabricated version of Norma Jean.

The 9th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon banner created by Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts

What I didn’t like about the film:

Some villains not receiving their comeuppance: There were several characters in Tommy’s life that failed him. While a few of these characters did receive their comeuppance, most of them did not. Whenever Tommy went to stay at Cousin Kevin’s house, Kevin would physically abuse and torment Tommy. Kevin only appeared in a sequence of scenes showing Tommy mistreated by him. Because of this, Kevin’s comeuppance was never shown. I’m not sure if this creative decision was made because there wasn’t enough time to show each character’s comeuppance or if it was meant to show how unfair life can be.

Some confusing parts of the story: At one point in Tommy’s story, his parents take him to see The Specialist, in an attempt to figure out why Tommy has several disabilities. During this appointment, Nora and The Specialist continuously flirt with each other. After this scene, this interaction and The Specialist himself are not brought up again. I was unsure if Nora planned on leaving Frank to start a relationship with The Specialist or if she was flirting with The Specialist simply to encourage him to lower her son’s medical bills. Either way, the movie does not provide a clear explanation.

An unclear time-line: This story starts during and shortly after World War II. The script heavily implies Tommy was born sometime in 1945. Most of this story takes place when Tommy is an adult. If Tommy were, say, twenty during the film’s events, that would mean the story takes place in 1965. With that said, why do the wardrobe, set design, and special effects look like they came straight out of the 1970s? I know this film was released in 1975. But because Tommy’s age is not specified, the movie’s time-line is unclear.

Music and stage image created by Topntp26 at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/music-sign_1179519.htm’>Designed by Topntp26</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/vintage”>Vintage image created by Topntp26 – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

The way I feel about Tommy is similar to how I feel about Queen of the Damned. Is this one of my favorite films? No. Is it one of the best movies I’ve seen this year? Also, no. But, for what it was, I enjoyed it. Yes, the visuals can be “bonkers”. When you look past all of that, though, you will see the film’s creative team had something interesting to say. The story itself was easier to follow. The symbolism and messages associated with it appeared to be given a lot of thought and effort. Therefore, artistic merit can be found in this movie. The story of Tommy is a heartbreaking one. However, it is also a somewhat uplifting story. I won’t spoil the film for those who may be interested in seeing it. I will say when a climatic event happens, the moment itself feels earned.

Overall score: 7.3 out of 10

Have you seen Tommy? Are there any musical films you’d like to see me review? Let me know in the comment section below!

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

Take 3: The Disappearance of Flight 412 Review

Aviation is one of the broadest topics when it comes to the world of cinema. However, I was determined to find a movie to review for Taking Up Room’s Aviation In Film Blogathon. While visiting the Youtube channel, Cult Cinema Classics, I came across a film titled The Disappearance of Flight 412. As this title suggests, there is a plane within the story. But the story itself is what led me to ultimately select the movie for this review! The idea of the military possibly crossing paths with a UFO is fascinating, especially in film. I also don’t receive many opportunities to review tv movies from the 1970s. So, fasten your seatbelts and get ready for takeoff, as we’re about to start this review of The Disappearance of Flight 412!

The Disappearance of Flight 412 poster created by Cine Films Inc., Cinemobile Productions, and NBC

Things I liked about the film:

The use of time-stamps and a voice-over: Throughout the movie, a male voice-over can be heard explaining what was happening on screen. His tone is serious, which complemented the film’s tone. The inclusion of this technique reminded me of The Twilight Zone, where the narrator is presenting the film as a case study. Another technique used in this film was time-stamps. These showed how much time had passed since the mystery started. The time-stamps also shared locations, informing the audience when a scene transition took place. This technique added to the film’s intended delivery; a classified file the audience is given exclusive access to.

A different side of the military: When one thinks of the military’s presence in a film, movies involving war/combat typically come to mind. However, there are films that depict the military in less combative environments. The Disappearance of Flight 412 is one of those films, as members of the Air Force are performing daily operations or testing a plane. The 1974 tv movie also focuses on the leadership within the military. As the story revolves around the military’s approach to unexplained phenomena, various military leaders handle the situation in a way they feel is best. With all that said, The Disappearance of Flight 412 presents a different side of the military, allowing the film to have its own unique identity!

The mystery’s start time: I’ve stated before how I prefer mysteries start sooner rather than later. This is so the audience can get, and stay, invested in the mystery. In The Disappearance of Flight 412, the mystery started six minutes into the movie. Because of this, it allowed the audience to get hooked into the story. It also allowed the story to get straight to the point sooner.

Military plane image created by Brgfx at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by brgfx – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A misleading title: This movie is titled The Disappearance of Flight 412. But throughout the story, the audience follows the members of the titular flight. Therefore, they know exactly where this plane ended up. There were two fighter jets, named Tango 1 and Tango 2, that did disappear. However, the title does not acknowledge those jets. With that said, I found this movie’s title misleading.

Few opportunities to know the characters: According to both IMDB and the title of the Youtube video, The Disappearance of Flight 412 is classified as a mystery. But because the story primarily revolves around this mystery, there aren’t many opportunities to get to know the characters. Sure, the audience learns a little bit of information about them, such as some of their military history. However, this information isn’t enough to truly get to know the characters. If anything, the audience simply becomes familiar with them.

The prolonged mention of UFOs: At the beginning of the movie, the aforementioned voice-over provides explanations and details about possible UFO sightings. This sets the stage for what’s to come in the story. After this introduction, though, the subject of UFOs isn’t brought up until about thirty-seven minutes into the movie. If that introduction hadn’t been included in the film, the first mention of UFOs would have been an unexpected surprise for the audience. But because of the introduction’s inclusion and because the introduction felt more like a news reel, it, in a way, presented false expectations of more serious UFO discussion.

Detective work image created by Photoroyalty at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/investigation-background-design_1041877.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Photoroyalty – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

There are movies where the subject itself is more interesting than the film. Some examples are Over the Edge and The Last Full Measure. In my opinion, The Disappearance of Flight 412 fits in this category. As I mentioned in my review, the story primarily revolves around the mystery of the disappearing fighter jets. Since the movie also covers the subject of the military dealing with unexplained phenomena, I think this topic would serve as an interesting documentary. That way, more time could be given to the subject, while also exploring the debates and perspectives surrounding it. At the end of the movie, a series of text states how the film’s characters and events are fictional. Maybe if The Disappearance of Flight 412 had been based on a real-life story, the project would be more memorable than it was.

Overall score: 6.2 out of 10

Have you seen The Disappearance of Flight 412? Are there any films involving aviation you like? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon is Ready to Set Sail!

All aboard the blogathon train! Spring is a time when vacations are either in the planning stage or just beginning. This is one of the inspirations for my Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon! As was mentioned in the official announcement post, plans can either go hilariously or horrifyingly wrong. So, for this year’s event, entries are classified accordingly. All the participant’s posts will be found on this one communal post, in order to locate them easier. With that said, grab your suitcase and fasten your seatbelts! We’re off on a blogathon adventure!

Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

Sally from 18 Cinema Lane — Travel Lessons I Learned from Movies and TV

Hilariously Wrong

Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews — FILMS… Our Ladies (2019)

Ruth from Silver Screenings — How to Have a Miserable Vacation

Rebecca from Taking Up Room — The Hardys Take Manhattan

J-Dub from Dubsism — Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 131: “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”

Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy — “French Kiss” (1995)

Classic Movie Muse from The Classic Movie Muse — 5 Reasons Why You Should Watch The Great Race (1965)

Horrifyingly Wrong

Debbie from Moon In Gemini — The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon: Train to Busan (2016)

geelw from “DESTROY ALL FANBOYS”! — The Passenger, Or: Boarding? Pass!, The Gift Or: “Where’s Waldo?” Or: “Really Dead Letter Office”

J-Dub from Dubsism — Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 130: “Airport”

Eric from Diary of A Movie Maniac — THE LOST WEEKEND (1945)

Evaschon98 from Classics and Craziness — movie review: flightplan (2005).

Take 3: Brian’s Song (1971) Review

When MovieRob announced ‘Sports Themed Films’ as April’s Genre Grandeur theme, I knew right away which movie I would review: the 1971 tv movie, Brian’s Song! One reason for this decision was the fact I had this film on my DVR. But when I recently checked my DVR, Brian’s Song was nowhere to be found. This is not the first time this has happened to me, where a recorded program on my DVR has suddenly disappeared. But it did not deter me from reviewing Brian’s Song. On a recent trip to the library, I found a DVD copy of the film. It was perfect timing, as I was soon going to watch and write about the movie! In the world of made-for-tv film productions, there are those that are well-known, for better or worse. Brian’s Song is one of the more respected titles, garnering praise since its 1971 release. But will I join the choir and sing this movie’s praises? Or will I skip a trip on the bandwagon? You won’t know if Brian’s Song scored a touchdown unless you read this review!

Before I begin this review, I would like to point out there will be a few spoilers within this article.

This is a screenshot of the DVD copy of Brian’s Song I mentioned in my review. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I really liked the cast of Brian’s Song! But because this story primarily revolves around Brian and Gale’s friendship, this review will focus on the performances of James Caan and Billy Dee Williams. When I think of Billy Dee Williams, I think of Lando from Star Wars! It has been years since I’ve seen the original trilogy in the Star Wars franchise. But from what I remember, Billy’s on-screen personality was charismatic and larger-than-life. His portrayal of Gale Sayers was very different from his portrayal of Lando, as it was more reserved. However, it was packed with emotion! When Gale first meets Brian, he is taken aback by Brian’s outgoing personality. Gale’s eyes contain the awkwardness of the situation and his body language appeared tenser than Brian’s. Gale also spoke with few words, carefully choosing what to say next. Meanwhile, as I’ve just said, Brian was outgoing and confident. In this first meeting, Brian walks up to Gale, immediately recalling a conversation they had prior to training. At the first team dinner, Brian sings his alma mater’s fight song, not afraid to look silly in front of his team members. This on-screen personality was different from James’ westerns I’ve seen, where his character has typically been rugged and serious.

One of the best scenes in Brian’s Song is when Brian is building exercise equipment for Gale. Before this gesture, Gale injured his leg during a game. Angry about the situation, he is bitter toward Brian. Gale angrily objects to Brian’s plan, with this objection meeting Brian’s reason for the gesture. Brian recalls how, in high school, he was demoted on his football team due to a more talented team member. He also shares how he was demoted again, as Gale is the stronger player among the two of them. Now that Brian has a top position on the Chicago Bears, he would rather help Gale heal from his injury, as Brian claims his recent top position was given to him “for the wrong reasons”. This is one of those scenes where the audience can understand both characters’ reasoning. Through Billy’s expressions, Gale is less reserved, gaining some of Brian’s confidence to angrily explain his objections. James shows a side of gentle humbleness, as Brian recounts moments of self-doubt. It is a good example of how the differences in acting performances can complement both of them!

The football game footage: Brian’s Song featured game footage whenever the Chicago Bears made a game appearance. I’m not sure if this footage was taken from actual games or if it was filmed for the sake of the movie. Either way, its inclusion added a sense of realism to the overall narrative. In one scene, Gale and Brian are talking to each other on the sidelines. This scene was filmed as if it was part of a television broadcast, captured in a grainier image. This cinematography felt consistent to the game footage I talked about. It also presented a different way to include football games in a story, as most football themed movies place, at least, one football game during their story’s climax.

The voice-overs: During the aforementioned game footage, voice-overs of Brian and Gale could be heard. These voice-overs consisted of conversations between the two, with different topics being discussed. I like how the voice-overs were added over the footage. It reminded me of sports commentators, except the game itself was never brought up in these conversations. The voice-overs provided insight into Brian and Gale’s friendship. Their humor and perspectives could be picked up in these voice-overs, allowing the audience to learn more about them.

Image of football essentials created by bamdewanto at freepik.com. American football vector created by bamdewanto – www.freepik.com

What I didn’t like about the film:

Glossed over racism: After football training for the Chicago Bears begins, Gale is told by the team’s head coach that he and Brian will be the first interracial roommates in professional football history. Because of this, Chicago Bears’ staff prepare Gale for the racism he will likely experience. I know there is only so much to cover in a made-for-tv movie, especially one that is about an hour and thirteen minutes. But when it comes to the racism Gale encounters, there was more telling than showing. Besides the staff’s preparations, the only racism present in the story is when Brian reads Gale a mean letter through a voice-over. The glossing over of racism surprised me, since the story takes place in 1965, a year within a decade known for the Civil Rights Movement.

Confusing aspects of the football training process: The story of Brian’s Song starts at the beginning of Chicago Bears’ training. When this process began, I found myself confused by what was happening on screen. I wondered why a professional football team was gathering on a college campus? Why was the coach and his staff talking about cutting team members? Was a draft supposed to take place before training began? I know a certain amount of information about professional football. However, the training process isn’t one of those subjects. It also doesn’t help how the script was written as if expecting the audience to know that kind of information from that specific period in time. I wish explanations were provided in the dialogue.

Omitted grief of the team: Remember when I said there were a few spoilers in this review? Well, this is where I will bring those up. At one point in the story, Brian is diagnosed with cancer. After learning of Brian’s diagnosis, Gale makes an emotional pep talk to the Bears, vowing to dedicate their upcoming game to Brian. At the end of the movie, Gale reveals through a voice-over Brian passed away. In the aforementioned scene featuring Gale’s pep talk, the sadness of the news could be seen on the faces of the team members. While they all carried long, heartbroken faces, some of them even held tears in their eyes. With that said, I would guess Brian’s passing would leave everyone involved with the team devastated. As I said before in this review, there is only so much to cover in a made-for-tv movie. But I think a final scene/epilogue showing how the Bears dealt with Brian’s passing should have been included. Was Brian’s jersey honorably retired? Did he receive a posthumous MVP award? I’m not familiar with Chicago Bears’ history, so I’m not sure how the team responded to Brian’s passing in real life. However, omitting it from the script seems like a disservice to the team members who knew him.

Heartbeat image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/medical-logo_763775.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/logo”>Logo vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Before Billy Dee Williams entered a galaxy far, far away and before James visited the wild, wild west, there was a little made-for-tv film called Brian’s Song. Fifty-one years after this movie debuted, it has still held a favorable reputation, regarded as one of the most beloved television films of all time. Brian’s Song is a fine production with its heart in the right place. But I wasn’t as emotionally affected by it as I expected. Yes, this movie’s story is a sad one. However, I was familiar with Brian and Gale’s story before I saw the film. This knowledge prevented me from being emotionally caught off guard when a sadder, more dramatic moment happened. Like I just said, this movie had its heart in the right place. One way this statement is put into action is how the cast appears to truly care about the respective material. The film also features interesting creative decisions, such as football game footage and voice-overs over that footage. Before I end this review, I would like to point out how accessible Brian’s Song is, as I happened to chance upon a copy of it on DVD. Not every made-for-tv movie is lucky, as some of them are either harder to find or lost to time.

Overall score: 7.1 out of 10

Have you seen Brian’s Song? Which made-for-tv movie would you consider a “classic”? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The New Adventures of Heidi Review

First, it was All Dogs Go to Heaven 2. Then, it was The Cabin, followed by Scarlett. Now, for the fourth So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, I am continuing my saga to find the one movie that can rightfully claim this coveted title! As you can see by the aforementioned films, my track record has been two ‘90s projects that were just ok and one 2011 Hallmark movie that was so bad, it was unenjoyable. This time around, I traveled further back in time to choose my fourth attempt at finding my “so bad it’s good” movie. In my review of The Lion, I mentioned Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies & Video Guide 1989 Edition. This is because that book introduced me to the 1962 title. Through this publication, Leonard introduced me to another movie. That film is 1978’s The New Adventures of Heidi! According to Leonard’s review of this picture, the movie contains the following:

A) A “modern” retelling of a well-known story

B) Musical numbers

C) New York City

D) Christmas

To me, these facts sounded like the ingredients of a “so bad it’s good” project. But has The New Adventures of Heidi finally claimed this sought-after title? Keep reading to see what’s on the other side of the mountain!

The New Adventures of Heidi poster created by Pierre Cossette Enterprises and NBC.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When it comes to acting performances in made-for-tv movies, it can be hit or miss. But in The New Adventures of Heidi, the acting was stronger than initially expected!  Portraying the titular character, Katy Kurtzman gave a performance that appeared genuine, like the character’s goodness was true all along. Whenever Heidi is with her friend, Elizabeth, you can see they truly enjoy spending time together. Elizabeth meets Heidi after running away from school. Despite knowing each other for a short amount of time, they display a strong camaraderie. This camaraderie was displayed through a down-to-earth personality, pleasant facial expressions, and a kind demeanor from Katy. Executed with consistency, Katy also displayed authentic emotion. When Heidi first learns about her grandfather’s plans to send her away, her emotions effortlessly change over the course of the scene. Happiness turns to thoughtful concern, her eyes intently set on her grandfather. As the conversation continues, Heidi’s eyes grow sadder, eventually leading to shed tears. Because of Katy’s acting strength, her overall performance was enjoyable to watch!

Since I mentioned Elizabeth, I’ll talk about Sherrie Wills’ performance! On the surface, Elizabeth seems like a spoiled child who is rough around the edges. But beyond the surface, she doesn’t seem like a stereotype. Because of Sherrie’s acting abilities, Elizabeth is a character that gives the audience a reason to be sympathetic toward her. A great example is when she and Heidi go Christmas shopping. When they arrive to a toy store, they are overcome with happiness and wonder at the sights of the season. But as soon as Elizabeth sees a carousel music box, she immediately bursts into tears. This is because Elizabeth’s mother, who passed away before the film’s events, used to give her father a music box every Christmas. It is scenes like this one that show how there is more than meets the eye.

Back in 2019, I reviewed Summer Magic, a Disney production from 1963. One of the reasons why I wanted to see that particular film was Burl Ives’ involvement in the project. When I discovered he was cast in The New Adventures of Heidi, I was curious to see how his performance differed from Osh Popham of Summer Magic. Like his previous performance, I liked his portrayal of Heidi’s grandfather! While his acting abilities were expressive, there was a lot of heart in his performance. This heart can be seen during the musical number, “Heidi”. In that number, Heidi’s grandfather is singing about how thankful he is to have Heidi in his life. Throughout this scene, he appears genuinely happy, reminiscing over all the joy Heidi brought so far. A warm smile appears on his face and a pleasant demeanor is heard in his voice. Heidi’s grandfather seems approachable, showing him as a friendly man and lovable parental figure. Even though he was in a handful of scenes, Burl Ives did a good job with his role!

The messages and themes: The original Heidi is known for containing messages and themes of family, friendship, and finding a silver lining. Like the original, The New Adventures of Heidi also features themes and messages that are timeless and relatable! Before Christmas, Elizabeth’s father, Dan, tells his secretary how he’ll be too busy to celebrate the holiday with his daughter. His secretary, Mady, tells him “But no two are the same. And you’ll never have this one back again”. This simple statement reminds the audience how unpredictable time is. Therefore, it is wise to spend that time with those you love. When Heidi comes home, she is upset because her grandfather hasn’t returned. Dan shares with Heidi how even though it’s important to hold on to the memory of lost loved ones, time needs to be made to open hearts for those still living. This message is just as meaningful today as it was in 1978. That could also be said about all the messages and themes in The New Adventures of Heidi!

The scenery: This movie was filmed in California and Colorado, according to IMDB. For the scenes taking place in the Alps, my guess is they were filmed in Snowmass, Colorado. Despite this, the setting looked like a pretty convincing Switzerland! In some establishing shots, large mountains and dark green hills are captured in long to medium shots. A color palette of greens, browns, and white illustrated a natural landscape whose justice likely can’t be done through filmography. Red poppies are sprinkled around Heidi and her grandfather’s home. They can also be seen in expansive green fields. The vibrant hue of the flowers provide a striking component to this landscape. When all this is added together and paired with a bright blue sky, a welcoming and picturesque environment is presented to the audience!

The Fourth So Bad It’s Good Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room

What I didn’t like about the film:

Glaring cases of discontinuity: What makes or breaks any story is its continuity. This component is like a thread, tightly holding each piece of the story together, if strong enough. But when it comes to The New Adventures of Heidi, there were a few aspects that caused this thread to be looser. In the introduction, I mentioned the movie was a “modern” retelling of Heidi. While this statement is true, it looks like Heidi, her grandfather, and Peter didn’t get the memo. That’s because their attire reflects the time period of the original story, which is set in the 1880s. Even Heidi and her grandfather’s home is reflective of an era gone by. During the movie, Heidi’s grandfather begins to lose his eyesight. Because of this, he decides to send Heidi to live with her cousins. But while singing the song, “Let Me Stay/Let Her Stay”, Heidi’s grandfather prays to God to have Heidi stay in the Alps, even going so far as to sacrifice his eyesight just to make his prayer a reality. It seems like he has forgotten that this decision was in his control since the very beginning. This example shows how discontinuity can muddy the waters of character development.

The musical numbers: As I mentioned in the introduction, there are musical numbers in The New Adventures of Heidi. I can tell the film’s creative team wanted to include musical numbers in an effort to give their project its own unique identity. In all honesty, though, I don’t think this movie needed musical numbers. My reason is how weak these numbers were. Some of these musical numbers were performed by Katy and Sherrie. I’m not going to give these actresses too much criticism, as they were children at the time of the movie’s production. But I will say they are better actresses than singers. Sherrie’s voice was flat, unable to reach higher notes. Meanwhile, Katy’s voice was stronger, but she couldn’t reach some higher notes either. This highlighted the actresses’ weaknesses, giving the audience the impression of how Katy and Sherrie were likely not professionally trained singers. Even professional singers couldn’t catch a break either. Burl Ives is a talent who can do no wrong, singing wise. But he was caught up in one major weakness in these numbers: talking throughout the song instead of singing. This happened during the song, “Let Me Stay/Let Her Stay”, where Heidi’s grandfather is speaking his prayer when he’s meant to be singing it. Marlyn Mason also fell into this trap with the song, “That Man”. Because she tried to sing and talk through her lyrics at the same time, she performed the song faster than the music. To me, this felt so jarring, as the music and execution of the lyrics seemed like they belonged to two separate pieces.

A regurgitated story: This film is titled The New Adventures of Heidi. If you take the time to watch it, you’d see how the movie rehashes most of the story points from Johanna Spyri’s original. Take for instance, the character of Elizabeth. In The New Adventures of Heidi, she’s meant to be a Clara representative; a wealthy young girl dealing with her own conflict that Heidi helps to resolve. But instead of dealing with a serious medical situation, Elizabeth wants to spend more time with her workaholic father, especially after the death of her mother. Similar to the original story, there is a medical situation present in The New Adventures of Heidi. But this time, Heidi’s grandfather is losing his eyesight, as I explained in my paragraph about the film’s discontinuity. The longer I watched this movie, the more I questioned what it’s intended point was.

A screenshot of my copy of Leonard Maltin’s TV Movies & Video Guide 1989 Edition. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for! The answer to whether The New Adventures of Heidi will claim the title of “so bad it’s good” is…an unfortunate no. The longer I think about this film, the more I see how spectacularly average it is. As I mentioned throughout my review, there were musical numbers included in this production. I also noted how Christmas makes an appearance in the story. But when you look past all the silver and gold decorations (that Burl Ives reference was definitely intentional), the movie is the same story as the original wrapped in pretty Christmas paper. Despite the title boasting “new adventures” with the world’s favorite Swiss mountain girl, the script spends more time repeating history. At the same time, parts of the movie are treated as if the project were a sequel, the creative team expecting the audience to know exactly what is happening on screen. Reflecting on my fourth attempt at finding my “so bad it’s good” movie, I realize a script’s strength can determine a film’s overall quality. In the case of The New Adventures of Heidi, the acting was strong and the film itself did have other merits. But not even Burl Ives himself could save this picture. Bottom line is if a cinematic project chooses to use bells and whistles, that may mean the creative team is trying to make up for a loss in another department.

Overall score: 5.1 out of 10

Do you have a “so bad it’s good” film in your life? If so, what is it? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Fiddler on the Roof Review

As I write this review, Rebecca, from Taking Up Room, is hosting the John Williams Blogathon! When signing up for this event, I knew John’s high-profile projects were going to be some of the most popular selections among fellow participants. Therefore, I decided to go off the beaten path by choosing a title that wasn’t associated with a franchise. As I scrolled through John’s filmography on IMDB, I discovered he conducted the music in the 1971 musical, Fiddler on the Roof. With this newfound knowledge, I chose that film to review for Rebecca’s blogathon! Prior to this event, I had seen about half of this film. I have also reviewed very few films revolving around Jewish stories. In fact, the only movies including Jewish stories and/or characters I have written about so far is Holiday Date and The Lost Child. But will I enjoy Fiddler on the Roof like I enjoyed the 2019 Hallmark Channel film or will I think it is just fine like the 2000 Hallmark Hall of Fame production? As a composer starts his or her cue for their orchestra, it’s time for this review to begin!

Fiddler on the Roof poster created by
The Mirisch Production Company and United Artists

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Fiddler on the Roof is a film with an ensemble cast. Despite its large size, the film’s cast was, as a whole, solid! But within this ensemble, there were some performances that really stood out to me. The most notable one came from Topol! Throughout the movie, Topol presented a versatile portrayal of his character, Tevye. This versatility allowed Tevye to be seen as a realistic individual who is trying to make sense of the changes taking place in his world. At several points in the story, Tevye speaks with God and contemplates his faith. Tevye’s emotions matched whatever dilemma he faced. When one of his daughters comes to him with serious news, Tevye is angry and frustrated. As he receives the aforementioned news, Tevye questions how far he’s willing to go for his faith, talking through the situation while genuine emotion finds a place in his voice, facial expressions, and body language. Moments like the one I described show a sincerity that gave Tevye the opportunity to be Fiddler on the Roof’s “every man”!

Motel is a tailor from Tevye’s village. Portrayed by Leonard Frey, Motel wants to marry Tevye’s oldest daughter, but lacks the confidence to approach Tevye with this proposal. Through a consistent performance, the audience can watch Motel grow from a timid tailor to a man who genuinely believes in himself and his abilities. Having Tzeitel as Motel’s inspiration certainly helped his case. Tzeitel is Tevye’s oldest daughter, who is portrayed by Rosalind Harris. She worries about who she will end up marrying in the near future. Despite this, Rosalind gave a performance that was well-rounded and enjoyable to watch! When Motel tells Tevye about his marriage plans, the confidence he once lacked steadily grows within his voice. His facial expressions become stronger with each statement toward Tevye, finding the words Motel had suppressed for too long. Meanwhile, Tzeitel appropriately reacts to this discussion, expressions of worry and joy being displayed on her face. This scene shows how the acting abilities of both Leonard and Rosalind work well together!

The musical numbers: When thinking about music composed by John Williams, pieces of music that make any scene feel grand and larger-than-life come to mind. The music in Fiddler on the Roof certainly accomplished this, as John’s contributions to the film elaborate on a scene’s large scale! One of these songs is “Tradition”, which can be heard at the beginning of the movie. This song highlights how the traditions of the Jewish community of Anatevka affected every member, with each role and its significance explained through the song’s lyrics. Bold, orchestral melodies accompany these lyrics, as an excited greeting to the film’s incoming audience. Looking beyond the music, the musical numbers themselves were well-choreographed and fit within the context of the story! A musical number I really enjoyed seeing was “Tevye’s Dream”! In this scene, Tevye is recounting a dream he had regarding Tzeitel’s marriage prospects. Tevye and his wife, Golde, find themselves in a graveyard that boasts a gray hue. Headstones of decreased villagers surround the graveyard, with these decreased villagers appearing as the scene progresses. Though the musical number itself is very fantastical compared to the film’s other numbers, its uniqueness in presentation allows “Tevye’s Dream” to stand out and be memorable!

The incorporation of Jewish faith/culture: As I previously mentioned, Anatevka is a small village that hosts a Jewish community. Throughout Fiddler on the Roof, aspects of the Jewish faith/culture are incorporated not only into the film’s story, but into the songs and musical numbers as well. When talking about these musical numbers in the previous paragraph, I brought up the song, “Tradition”, and how it highlights some of the traditions among the villagers in Anatevka. At the beginning of the film, Tevye explains directly to the audience how he and other members of the community wear a special garment related to prayer. During a wedding ceremony, the bride and groom are lifted on chairs by wedding guests. This action is part of a dance called the Horah, which is typically performed at Jewish special occasions, such as weddings. The Horah was seamlessly woven into a larger musical number called “Wedding Celebration”, which also featured a group of bottle dancers. The incorporation of Jewish faith/culture gave the movie its own unique identity. It also provides an introduction to Jewish customs and traditions.

The John Williams Blogathon banner created by Rebecca, from Taking Up Room

What I didn’t like about the film:

No answers about The Fiddler: I have mentioned before how a film’s title can serve as a promise to its respective audience. The title can also let the audience know what to expect. This 1971 film is called Fiddler on the Roof. Yet the audience never learns more about the titular character, as he only appears in a handful of scenes. While watching this movie, I noticed how the Fiddler wore bright clothes compared to the villagers and even those from imperial Russia. Because of this, it caused me to speculate what role the Fiddler had within the overall story. Was he a spirit meant to guide Tevye through life or simply a peculiar individual? These are just two of the questions I’ll probably never get answers to.

An inconsistent conflict: When I learned this movie took place during imperial Russia, I expected the overarching conflict to revolve around the fall of the Romanov family. However, the overarching conflict was about how the government wanted the villagers to evacuate from Anatevka, for reasons the script never shared. This conflict complimented the film’s theme of change. But the story focused on this conflict in the film’s second half, with the conflict having a limited presence in its first half. I know this creative decision was meant to emphasize the tonal change within the story. I just wish it had a more consistent presence in the movie.

A limited inclusion of a broken fourth wall: At the beginning of Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye talks directly to the audience about his village, the people who live there, and the titular Fiddler. Because broken fourth walls are not common in musicals, I was looking forward to seeing the story told from Tevye’s perspective and watching the movie presented in a creative way. But for the rest of the film, Tevye didn’t break the fourth wall. I found this as such a missed opportunity, because, as I already said, broken fourth walls are not often found in musicals. While Fiddler on the Roof is a unique musical, Tevye consistently breaking the fourth wall could have added more uniqueness.

Hanukkah mehorah image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/mehorah-with-flaming-candles_3299423.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:

Fiddler on the Roof is a little over three hours. Therefore, you need to set aside time if you’re interested in watching this film. Despite the longer run-time, Fiddler on the Roof is a good movie! Almost every year, I come across that one musical that pleasantly stood out and captivated me. While it’s way too early to say whether this 1971 title will end up as one of the best movies I saw this year, it definitely captivated me, as I found it enjoyable! John Williams’ musical contributions provided some of the fabric of the story’s cinematic quilt, accompanied by well-choreographed and entertaining numbers. The ensemble cast binds these pieces of fabric with a strong thread, holding each scene together with solid acting performances. Incorporations of the Jewish faith/culture help the overall production gain a unique identity, asking questions and discussing topics that wouldn’t typically be found in a musical. Combining all these elements together, Fiddler on the Roof is a special project not just in the world of cinema, but also among musicals! With that, I’d say John Williams is a special composer. To those who don’t pay attention to the musical aspect of a given film, one might wonder how John is different from any other composer. But when you look at his body of cinematic work and the scores associated with those works, maybe that is more than enough to set him apart.

Overall score: 7.9 out of 10

Have you seen Fiddler on the Roof? Which John Williams composed film do you enjoy watching? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Sherlock Holmes in New York Review

As of late 2021, there have been six actors who have portrayed one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history. Despite the fact I’m reviewing a Sherlock Holmes movie, the role I’m referring to is James Bond. Now, you’re probably wondering, “what does James Bond have to do with Sherlock Holmes”? Besides being British, both characters were portrayed by Roger Moore. When I was invited by Gill, from Realweegiemidget Reviews, to join the You Knew My Name: The Bond Not Bond Blogathon, I had to think about what film I wanted to write about. When I discovered Roger Moore starred in a Sherlock Holmes movie back in 1976, I thought it’d be an interesting title to cover. While I have reviewed my fair share of mystery films, including those that were made for television, I haven’t seen a lot of Sherlock Holmes related movies. Therefore, talking about Sherlock Holmes in New York will certainly make up for that!

Sherlock Holmes in New York created by 20th Century Fox Televison, NBC, and Ascot Elite Home Entertainment

Things I liked about the film:

Roger’s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes: While I haven’t seen any of Roger Moore’s films from the James Bond franchise, I have seen his performance in the 2011 Hallmark Channel movie, A Princess for Christmas. From what I remember, Roger carried his character, Edward Duke of Castlebury, with class and dignity. These same qualities were present in his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. During Sherlock Holmes in New York, I could see some James Bond-esque qualities in the titular character. Roger’s ability to be suave as well as calm under pressure are just two examples. At certain moments in the story, Sherlock interacts with a woman named Irene Adler. Because there is history between these characters, Sherlock and Irene’s interactions contain a romantic flair. This is where the suaveness comes in, as Roger uses this to emphasize his on-screen chemistry with Charlotte Rampling. At the very beginning of the film, Sherlock faces off against Professor Moriarty. In this scene, Moriarty tries to hurt Sherlock at every chance he gets. But Sherlock never cracks under pressure. Instead, he consistently keeps his composure.

The historical accuracy: Recently, I reviewed the movie, Let Him Go. In that review, I talked about how the set design appeared to come from the ‘50s, despite the story taking place in the ‘60s. This caused the film’s time period to be unclear. Sherlock Holmes in New York takes place in March of 1901. Unlike Let Him Go, everything in the 1976 movie looked and felt like the 1900s! The costume design appeared historically accurate, with Sherlock Holmes’ outdoor wear serving as one example. Toward the beginning and end of the film, Sherlock sported the iconic plaid short cape and cap. But in New York, he wore a longer black cape and top hat. The historical accuracy was so on point, even the posters in The Empire State looked like it came from 1901. The font and basic design of these posters were just one detail that helped this movie’s creative team achieve the aesthetic they wanted for their project!

The presentation of New York City: When a movie or television show takes place in a beloved location, that place can be presented in two ways: an over-glamourized empire or a disgusting landscape covered by a glittering mask. With Sherlock Holmes in New York, the titular city was given to the audience “as is”. Even though the more polished areas of this destination could be seen, that was not the “end all, be all” in the story. In a handful of scenes, Sherlock Holmes explores the performance community of New York. He even goes undercover as a stage performer. The Big Apple is known for being one of the world’s entertainment hot-spots. While that part of this location was not emphasized, it did show some of the different components of one of America’s largest cities.

The You Knew My Name: The Bond Not Bond Blogathon banner created by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews

What I didn’t like about the film:

A pointless change of scenery: When a movie or television series chooses to change the location of their story, there needs to be a strong reason for that change. These reasons can range from expanding upon the overarching story to giving the protagonist(s) something interesting to do. With Sherlock Holmes in New York, though, none of these things happened. As a matter of fact, having Sherlock Holmes go to New York at all seemed unnecessary. If the mysteries in this film took place in England, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. That’s because none of the mysteries have any exclusive connection to New York itself. Having Sherlock solve the disappearances of immigrants from Ellis Island would have given him a stronger reason to be in New York, as Ellis Island is a part of New York and United States history. A child being kidnapped or a bank robbery can take place anytime and anywhere.

Not interactive enough: An appealing aspect of the mystery genre is the opportunity to solve the mystery alongside the protagonist. This allows the story to be interactive and engaging. I know one of Sherlock Holmes’ traits is his ability to figure out clues and possible scenarios in a short amount of time. But in Sherlock Holmes in New York, Sherlock figures things out so quickly, the audience doesn’t get a chance to engage with the mystery themselves. Instead, they’re forced to sit on the sidelines and watch the protagonist do everything, giving the audience a weak reason to stay invested in the story. Because of this, I found myself zoning out of the movie on a few occasions.

Lack of urgency: When a mystery takes place in current time, it gives that story a sense of urgency. The audience watches as the protagonist(s) races against the clock to solve a given mystery. While I won’t spoil Sherlock Holmes in New York, I will say a kidnapping takes place in the story. However, shortly after this crime takes place, Sherlock plays his violin in his hotel room. He then smokes his pipe all night. As I mentioned earlier, Sherlock Holmes is known for figuring out clues and scenarios in a short amount of time. That doesn’t give the story an excuse not to have urgency.

New York City skyline with letters image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/new-york-skyline-typographic-silhouette_719554.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:

There was a time when having a movie take place in New York was the film’s selling point. From Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan to A Troll in Central Park, movie studios wanted to take a bite out of The Big Apple for one reason or another. While I don’t know where or why this trend started, Sherlock Holmes in New York may have been one of the movies that caused this interesting ripple effect. Too bad the titular character didn’t have a stronger reason to visit The Empire State. The idea of Sherlock Holmes solving a mystery outside of England is not a bad one. But with the 1976 movie, the idea was better in theory than in practice. Add weak interactivity and a lack of urgency, this movie is not as strong as The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire, a Sherlock Holmes film I reviewed back in 2018. However, I did like Roger Moore’s portrayal of the famous detective. In fact, it’s a shame he didn’t receive more opportunities to appear in Sherlock Holmes stories. With this review completed, I need to make the time to see Roger’s films from the James Bond franchise. I just have to find the perfect opportunity to talk about them.

Overall score: 6-6.1 out of 10

Have you seen any Sherlock Holmes or James Bond films? If so, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section below!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Vampire Circus Review

Blogathons are a great opportunity to be introduced to new genres, films, and talents. For me, that has certainly been the case for The Third Hammer-Amicus Blogathon. Because this was my first time watching any Hammer-Amicus production, I had to research which title I would write about for the event. On Wikipedia, I stumbled across the 1972 film, Vampire Circus. The film’s title immediately caught my attention, as I’ve never seen a vampire led circus before. Movies revolving around vampires are no stranger to 18 Cinema Lane. As of October 2021, I have reviewed five vampire films, with Vampire Circus now being the sixth title. These projects have received favorable reviews, with each one being enjoyable to varying degrees. How will Vampire Circus fare among the other vampire films I’ve seen? Keep reading, as the show is about to begin!

Vampire Circus poster created by Rank Film Distributors and 20th Century Fox.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, this was my first time watching any Hammer-Amicus production. But during my experience viewing Vampire Circus, I could tell the actors and actresses involved were invested in their roles! Whenever a circus is incorporated into a story, the ringleader is usually a man. So, it was interesting to see a woman leading a circus in Vampire Circus. Confidence and a no-nonsense attitude are the traits I associate with a circus ringleader. While portraying the Gypsy Woman, Adrienne Corri effectively brought those traits to her character! Adrienne also had the ability to command attention from the audience. This is due to the strong on-screen personality she presented.

While watching Vampire Circus, I was impressed by the performances of the younger actors and actresses. Two of these stand-out performances came from John Moulder-Brown and Lynne Frederick! Portraying Anton Kersh and Dora Müller, these actors had surprisingly good on-screen chemistry. They also performed well together and individually. John and Lynne’s interactions felt believable, like their characters truly cared about each other. It made me wish they had starred in a production of Romeo and Juliet!

The historical accuracy: Vampire Circus takes place in the 19th century, which contains the years 1801 to 1900. As soon as the movie started, I noticed the creative team’s focus on making their production look historically accurate! Two of the characters, Anna Müller and Jenny Schilt, wear dresses that appear like they came directly from that time period, reminding me of stories like Pride and Prejudice and American Girl’s Caroline series. The costumes for the male characters are also reminiscent of these stories. The props and set designs were historically accurate as well! A good example were the circus wagons. Their structural build reflected the classic circus images seen on antique posters and art work. The signs for “Circus of Night” and the “Hall of Mirrors” presented an art style that was present during that time. With all these elements coming together, I felt transported to the 19th century!

Introducing the “photogenic vampire”: I have heard people give Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series credit to creating the concept of “photogenic vampires”. But personally, I think Vampire Circus deserves that credit, as the movie was released before Interview with the Vampire was published. The vampires in Vampire Circus appeared beautiful, looking like potential supermodels. A perfect example is Emil, who was also a circus performer. One of the young women in the town of Stetl, Rosa, develops a crush on Emil after the circus’ first performance. When you take one look at Emil, it is easy to see why Rosa would be interested in him. This simple creative decision allowed Vampire Circus to make a significant contribution to the world of vampire stories!

The Third Hammer-Amicus Blogathon banner created by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews and Barry from Cinematic Catharsis

What I didn’t like about the film:

Confusing parts of the story: The Bürgermeister’s daughter, Rosa, is attracted to Emil, one of the circus performers. In one scene, she is telling her mother how Emil is not like other guys, as he has traveled the world and is more cultured because of it. But in earlier scenes, we don’t get to see these characters converse with one another. All that is provided to the audience is Emil and Rosa meeting at the circus for the first time and seeing them have intercourse shortly after they met. How would Rosa know all that information about Emil if she barely spoke with him? Did she and Emil talk with each other off-screen? This is just one part of the story that I feel needed context.

The underutilization of animals: When the circus comes to the town of Stetl, they bring three animals: a panther, a tiger, and a chimpanzee. Throughout the film, the chimpanzee and tiger stayed in their cages. Meanwhile, the panther was seen out of its cage about two or three times. In the world of film, animals are a part of a production to either be showcased as naturally as possible or to be shown doing something cool. In Vampire Circus, when there was an opportunity to prominently feature the tiger, a dancing woman painted as a tiger took its place. With all that said, it makes me wonder why there were animals in the movie at all?

Inconsistent traits among the vampires: In fiction, there are many different vampires who carry a variety of skills and traits. Within Vampire Circus, however, the traits of the vampires felt inconsistent. Two of the vampires in the story, Heinrich and Helga, are sensitive toward crucifixes. But when a crucifix is presented to the Strongman, he ends up crushing it with no sensitivities. Does this mean the Strongman wasn’t a vampire or was he simply not bothered by crucifixes? Over the course of the story, Emil is revealed to be a shapeshifter. At various moments in the film, he transforms into a panther, the same panther the circus brings to town. Meanwhile, as I mentioned before, the tiger and chimpanzee stayed in their cages. Was Emil the only shapeshifter in the circus? Were the animals simply animals?

Happy vampire image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/several-vampires-ready-for-halloween_1317599.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/party”>Party vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Vampire Circus introduced the concept of “photogenic vampires”. For this, I will give the film credit where it is due. But when I think about this 1972 production, I’m confused of what its intention was. On the one hand, all the actors and actresses seemed invested in the roles they were given. But, on the other hand, a stuffed animal could be plainly seen during a scene where a group of characters were attacked in a forest. Was this movie supposed to be “so bad it’s good” or a horror movie with a pinch of humor? There were also parts of the story that I found confusing. However, the film was interesting enough to keep me invested in what was happening on screen. Therefore, I found Vampire Circus to be just ok.

Overall score: 6 out of 10

Have you seen any Hammer-Amicus films? Are there any vampire films you enjoy watching? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Abominable Dr. Phibes Review

The Abominable Dr. Phibes was recommended by one of my readers named Michael. When I found out the movie was considered a horror-comedy, I thought it’d be a perfect entry for MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur, as horror-comedies are the theme for February. Then I discovered the film was released in 1971. Because Kim and Drew, from Tranquil Dreams and Drew’s Movie Reviews, are hosting the 6th Annual Ultimate Decades Blogathon, where the subject is movies premiering in years ending in 1, I decided to review The Abominable Dr. Phibes for both blogathons! As of early 2021, this is the fifth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen and written about. Most of these movies have either belonged in the horror genre or have been mysterious in nature. With The Abominable Dr. Phibes, this will be a little different, as part of the story is a comedy. Out of the movies of Vincent’s I have seen, none of them have featured a large amount of humor. So, by choosing this film for the aforementioned blogathons, I am given an opportunity to see Vincent work with slightly different material!

The Abominable Dr. Phibes poster created by American International Pictures.

Things I liked about the film:

The mystery: In horror movies, there is usually a mysterious element that can come in a variety of forms. One of these forms is a mystery. Throughout The Abominable Dr. Phibes, the detectives at Scotland Yard are attempting to figure out why several doctors in their neighborhood are dying of mysterious causes. The way the mystery is presented allows the audience to solve it alongside the characters. This presents the idea of the audience sharing an experience with the detectives in the film. Even though we see what is making these doctors die, it doesn’t take away from the intrigue of the mystery. In fact, it keeps the audience invested in what is about to happen next. Seeing how all the pieces of the story connected was interesting to see. It definitely kept my attention as I watched the film!

The craftmanship: There were several items in this movie that caught my eye due to their quality and artistry. A frog mask is just one example. The head covering mask is covered in three different shades of green, allowing it to shine from many different angles. Gold piping can also be found on the mask, assisting in distinguishing its shape. Jewels add finishing touches as the mask features gold gems around the frog’s eyes and an emerald clasp in the back. Dr. Phibes’ mask also boasts incredible craftsmanship! The eye covering mask is shaped like a bird and is coated in shiny shades of green, bronze, and gold. Both masks were two of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen!

The set design: The Abominable Dr. Phibes features several interesting set designs that are worth noting. Despite Dr. Phibe’s house only being shown at night and only part of its exterior could be seen, it was a magnificent structure! Its Victorian style brightened the night with its white frames and cherry wood doors. The house features a grand white marble staircase paired beautifully with chandeliers and crystal sconces. I wish more scenes had taken place by this staircase, as it is an impressive part of Dr. Phibes’ residence! Other locations in the story also displayed memorable set designs.  Dr. Vesalius’ apartment is a great example. Near the front door is a curved, frosted window. The door itself was covered in a light and dark wood that ending up complimenting the faded yellow walls. This location looked reflective of the late ‘60s to early ‘70s due to its color scheme and furniture selections.

Scared audience image created by Katemangostar at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/terrified-friends-watching-horror-movie-in-cinema_1027311.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People image created by Katemangostar – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The underutilization of Vincent Price: As I said in my introduction, this is the fifth film of Vincent Price’s I’ve seen. Therefore, I, as an audience member, know what he is capable of, talent wise. Despite being the top billed actor in The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Vincent wasn’t given much material to work with. He didn’t have any speaking lines in this movie. While there is an explanation given within the story, the only time we hear Vincent’s iconic voice is through recordings. It also doesn’t help that the different ways Dr. Phibes went after his victims overshadows Vincent’s performance. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the creative team behind this film cast Vincent Price simply to get more people to see the movie?

Weak on comedy: The Abominable Dr. Phibes is classified as a horror-comedy. When I made this discovery, I was expecting the movie to be more like Young Frankenstein. Even though there were a few times I found myself giggling, the film didn’t contain much humor. The Abominable Dr. Phibes relies more on the horror genre. It also contains a mystery within the overall plot, which would make it a horror-mystery. I felt misled after these reveals.

Depiction of demises partially used for shock value: Strictly from a story-telling perspective, it was interesting to see how Dr. Phibes carried out his plan. But when the plan is put into practice, the depiction of his victims’ demises comes across as more gross than scary. Within a segment of the story involving rats, there was a brief shot of a rat chewing on what looks like a bloody bone. I won’t spoil The Abominable Dr. Phibes, in case any of my readers haven’t seen it. But parts of the film like the one I described feels like the movie’s creative team just wanted to shock their audience.

Ultimate Decades Blogathon (1) banner created by Kim and Drew from Tranquil Dreams and Drew’s Movie Reviews.

My overall impression:

When I think of the term “horror-comedy”, Young Frankenstein immediately comes to mind. Even though I haven’t seen this film, I am aware of its premise. Because of my expectations, I was somewhat let down by The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Sure, its mystery was intriguing and kept me invested in the overall story. But as I look back on this movie, I find myself expecting more. Despite its classification as a horror-comedy, it ended up being a horror-mystery, with very little comedy to be found. I was also disappointed to see Vincent Price underutilized in The Abominable Dr. Phibes. While he was given different material to work with, he didn’t have any speaking lines. The way Dr. Phibes’ victims met their demise overshadowed Vincent’s performance. These factors make his portrayal of the titular character feel like a part of an ensemble instead of someone leading a film. This is an interesting movie, but I can think of stories of this nature that are stronger than this one. I still prefer a picture like The Crow over The Abominable Dr. Phibes.

Overall score: 7-7.1 out of 10

Have you seen a horror-comedy? Which film of Vincent Price’s would you recommend? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

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