Here are five short reviews of some recent viewings that are all over the genre map.
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is a beautifully shot big Hollywood version of the famed Tombstone shootout as the Earp Brothers face down the Clantons. Burt Lancaster makes for a stoic Wyatt Earp, a hard ass who totes the line. Kirk Douglas does his best impersonation of himself as the alcoholic, tuberculosis ridden, Doc Holliday. The story itself is pretty fictionalized. Johnny Ringo, for example, died before the shootout, and the real life shootout only lasted only about 30 seconds. Then there is Jo Van Fleet, who only two years earlier played James Dean’s mother in East of Eden, as Kate Fisher, Doc Holliday’s female companion. In real Earp lore, Kate was known as “Big Nose” Kate. But then who cares about all that. Watching the two stars interact makes this a fun watch.
When the President of a large furniture company unexpectedly dies, there quickly becomes a boardroom battle as to who will take his place. Office politics is like a Chess game. It’s all about strategic moves at the right time. Even more than 50 years ago Corporate greed exposed it’s ugly head. One board member, portrayed by Louis Calhern, quickly sees the executive’s death as an opportunity to make money, selling his stock holdings quickly before news of the man’s death hits the newspapers and stock prices tank. He then plans to repurchase the stock at the new and lower price.
One should note, the film has no musical score, only a loud resounding clock’s bell that pounds at various times thoughout the film. William Holden reunites with Barbara Stanwyck for the first time since they appeared together in Golden Boy some 14 years or so earlier. The cast is good, but the standouts are Holden, Stanwyck, Fredric March and Nina Foch. A mature script by Ernest Lehman, though a bit talky, with fine steady direction by Robert Wise.
After framing the President of a union for murder, the mob moves in taking it over. Extortion, prostitution, white slavery and other criminal activities go into full swing. Sounds intriguing, but this is a mediocre crime drama badly in need of a better script and better direction. The drone sounding voice over makes it all come across like a bad TV show. Brian Keith is sleep inducingly dull as the D.A. with political aspirations. He is too easily convinced of a man’s guilt when trumped up evidence is dropped into his lap. He doesn’t bother checking a phony tape recording used to convict the framed man, before the trial, just presents it all as fact.
The Woman on the Beach
Choppy and uneven, due to severe cutting by RKO. Still, French master Jean Renoir managed to pull out a visually stunning film due to some wonderful camera work. That said, the film lacks cohesion and the three main characters are all unappealing. Robert Ryan is in his final days in the Coast Guard. He suffers from what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and gets involved with a married woman (Joan Bennett). Her husband is a blind artist, portrayed by Charles Bickford. Unfortunately, all three are truly annoying characters. You just do not care about any of them. That said, the film is worth seeing for Renoir’s visual touches.
Out of Sight
Elmore Leonard created some of the most original and quirky characters to ever grace the written page. In Out of Sight, Steven Soderbergh, along with screenwriter Scott Frank, capture Leonard’s tone and spirit perfectly. Leonard has generally not been served well when translated to the screen. Out of Sight is cheeky, sexy, witty, poignant with the few unexpected burst of violence. The performances are all pitch perfect. George Clooney is full of wise cracks and charm. Jennifer Lopez, in a pre J-Lo, pre-media vampire, performance, has never been better, possessing a toughness, yet vulnerable facade. The rest of the cast includes Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Albert Brooks, Isaiah Washington, Steve Zahn and Nancy Allen all delivering spot on performances.