Film Review: Mr. Arkadin – The Comprehensive Version (1955)

Also known as: Confidential Report (UK)
Release Date: June 27th, 1955 (Barcelona premiere)
Directed by: Orson Welles
Written by: Orson Welles
Based on: original radio scripts by Ernest Bornemann, Orson Welles from The Lives of Harry Lime
Music by: Paul Misraki
Cast: Orson Welles, Robert Arden, Paola Mori, Akim Tamiroff, Michael Redgrave

Filmrosa/Cervantes Films/Sevilla, Warner Bros., 93 Minutes (Spanish version), 95 Minutes (public domain version), 98 Minutes (TCM print), 99 Minutes (Corinth version), 106 Minutes (The Comprehensive Version – The Criterion Edit)

Review:

“You are simply a fool. I will not ask you your price, because you have nothing to sell. But, still, I’ll make you an offer. I am going to give you something to sell. And, then, I will pay you for it. Come on. You have tried to threaten me with a secret that does not exist. Now, I will make you a present of a real one. The great secret of my life.” – Gregory Arkadin

Mr. Arkadin is an Orson Welles movie that has eluded me until now. While I’ve known of its existence since I was studying Welles in my high school film studies class, I knew that it was a film that had a half dozen different edits, lots of missing pieces and it wasn’t really a complete body of work.

It’s not quite a lost film, as a 95 minute version of the film has existed in the public domain for quite some time, but much of it was lost and even with the more recent Comprehensive Version, we still don’t have an edit of the film that is Orson Welles’ complete and realized vision.

The genesis of this film is pretty interesting though, as the story was adapted from a few episodes of the radio series The Lives of Harry Lime. Fans of Welles probably already know that he played the character of Harry Lime in Carol Reed’s film-noir masterpiece, The Third Man.

Additionally, Welles once referred to this film as the “biggest disaster” of his life. This was because he lost creative control after missing an editing deadline, which then led to the film’s producer taking over and eventually releasing several different edits of the picture. The multiple edits created a lot of confusion and none of the released versions of the film were done so with the approval of Welles.

The Comprehensive Version, which is the edition that I watched and am reviewing here was made by taking pieces from the multiple versions of the film and trying to re-edit them into a form that makes the most narrative sense. However, the film still doesn’t feel whole and it isn’t.

That being said, it’s kind of difficult to review a film that isn’t complete and ultimately, wasn’t a fully realized concept brought to life by the artist that created it.

But you can still see how good it was by seeing some of these segments come to life. Welles employed great cinematography and one can’t deny that the film looks good and consistent with the level of visual storytelling that his movies were known for.

It’s also finely acted, even if some moments might not feel as coherent as they should. That’s not the fault of the actors, that’s the fault of the producer and editor. Well, at least they should take the blame based off of their involvement in making a chopped up and messy version of what this was intended to be.

It’s sad that this film didn’t get to be seen in its best form. The most recent form that exists is seemingly the best and it is still watchable but it just makes me wonder how different Welles’ version would have been. Additionally, for those that don’t know the full story behind this film, how would they see it? As a bad movie, a confusing one or even as an example of Welles not being on his A-game?

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Orson Welles’ other noir-esque pictures.

Film Review: Hercules and the Captive Women (1961)

Also known as: Ercole alla conquista di Atlantide (original Italian title), Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis (original English title), Hercules Conquers Atlantis (UK), Hercules and the Haunted Women (alternative title)
Release Date: August 19th, 1961 (Italy)
Directed by: Vittorio Cottafavi
Written by: Vittorio Cottafavi, Sandro Continenza, Duccio Tessari, Pierre Benoit, Nicolo Ferrari
Music by: Gino Marinuzzi Jr., Armando Trovajoli
Cast: Reg Park, Fay Spain, Ettore Manni, Luciano Marin

Comptoir Français du Film Production (CFFP), SpA Cinematografica, 101 Minutes (original Italian cut), 94 Minutes

Review:

“Uranus… to rule over all!” – Androclo, Re di Tebe, “What you say is blasphemy!” – Ercole

After seeing about a half dozen (maybe more) of these Hercules films, as well as other sword and sandal schlock, featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, they all sort of blend together in my mind. It almost doesn’t matter that this is the most recent one that I watched, most of it already got flushed down the memory hole.

I mean, if anything was truly a dime a dozen, these Italian sword and sandal flicks would take the cake. While there probably aren’t as many of them as there were spaghetti westerns, which took over when these died out, the quality is generally pretty poor. This film is not an exception to the rule and other than dudes yelling about Uranus the whole movie, there’s not much worth remembering.

Hercules in this outing was played by Reg Park, birth name Roy Park because he’s surprisingly not Italian. In fact, he was an Englishman and won Mr. Universe in 1951, 1958 and 1965. He also played Hercules four times. Most importantly, though, he was an idol and mentor to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Park couldn’t save this movie, however, but what Mr. Universe has ever saved a film apart from Schwarzenegger?

This is a pretty mundane and monotonous movie where a whole lot of nothing happens, other than a buff dude solving problems by lifting heavy things.

Overall, this is a pretty standard Hercules picture, which means there’s not much to give a shit about. If you feel compelled to watch it, just watch the MST3K version.

Rating: 2/10
Pairs well with: other Italian Hercules movies, as well as the other sword and sandal pictures of the era.

Documentary Review: Portrait: Orson Welles (1968)

Release Date: June, 1968
Directed by: François Reichenbach, Frédéric Rossif
Written by: Maurice Bessy, François Reichenbach, Frédéric Rossif
Cast: Orson Welles, Jeanne Moreau, Pierre Vaneck (narrator)

41 Minutes

Review:

Orson Welles has always fascinated me. Well, at least since I learned about him extensively in my high school film studies course.

Luckily, there are a ton of biographies and documentaries about the man and his work.

This documentary is unique though, as it was made for French television in the ’60s. I guess it didn’t actually air and was sort of lost to time and only resurfaced after being included in a Criterion Collection featuring some of Welles’ work.

The short film doesn’t play like a standard biographical documentary, though. It really just follows Welles around a bit, talking about his struggles in getting his art made, while also editing in some clips of Welles interviews.

This is a pretty up close and personal peek into Welles’ life at the time that this was made and honestly, it feels kind of like a time capsule.

While I wouldn’t call this a spectacular piece or the best of the many Welles documentaries, it is still worth a look for those who feel like they may want to see the man, as himself, more intimately.

I also couldn’t find a trailer for this short ’60s documentary, probably because one doesn’t exist, so I instead posted one of my favorite Welles scenes of all-time.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Orson Welles documentaries, which there are plenty of.

Documentary Review: Los Angeles: City of Film-Noir (2015)

Also known as: Los Angeles: Cité du Film Noir (original French title)
Release Date: February 28th, 2015 (France)
Directed by: Clara Kuperberg, Julia Kuperberg
Written by: Clara Kuperberg, Julia Kuperberg
Cast: James Ellroy, Eddie Muller, Alain Silver

Wichita Films, 52 Minutes

Review:

This is a short one hour documentary that specifically focuses on film-noir that has encapsulated the City of Los Angeles.

The documentary features only three people, which doesn’t seem like enough but all three men do have extensive knowledge on the subject.

James Ellroy has lived in L.A. his entire life and has written noir-esque crime novels, two of which were made into major neo-noir motion pictures: L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia.

Eddie Muller is a film-noir historian that runs the Film-Noir Foundation, restoring lost noir classics to HD beauty, as well as having gone on to host the Turner Classic Movies weekly program, Noir Alley.

Alain Silver is a film producer and author that has spent extensive time working in the realm of noir.

So there’s a lot of meat and potatoes here to chew on in regards to the subject matter.

Still, more talking heads would’ve been great and I think that this is something that could’ve gone on for longer than 52 minutes because of how interesting the subject matter is.

If you dig classic film-noir, this is certainly worth a watch. In fact, as opposed to just a trailer, I posted the full documentary below.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries on film-noir. Several can be found on YouTube.

Film Review: Child’s Play (2019)

Release Date: June 18th, 2019 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Lars Klevberg
Written by: Tyler Burton Smith
Based on: Child’s Play by Don Mancini
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Gabriel Bateman, Brian Tyree Henry, Mark Hamill (voice), Tim Matheson

Orion Pictures, BRON Creative, Creative Wealth Media Finance, KatzSmith Productions, United Artists, 90 Minutes

Review:

“[about to stab and mutilate Shane] This is for Tupac.” – Chucky

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have much urge to see this. I didn’t want or need a Child’s Play remake and in fact, I want the franchise to carry on with Brad Dourif as Chucky and Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany wherever Don Mancini wants to use her character. I certainly didn’t want a reboot that misses most of the point of the original film and really could’ve just taken its original ideas and made a movie where this new doll wasn’t Chucky.

After seeing the film, I don’t hate it but I also don’t really like it. It just kind of exists in this weird alternate timeline limbo in my head. The films with Dourif’s Chucky will always be my Child’s Play movies.

Sure, bringing in Mark Hamill as the new voice of Chucky was definitely a great move by the producers, as his voice work is almost always tremendous but it doesn’t make up for the lack of Dourif and the unique personality that he brings to the role. It’s like the remake for A Nightmare On Elm Street. I absolutely love Jackie Earle Haley as an actor but anyone else other than Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger is almost criminal.

It’s not just the change of voice that’s the problem though, it’s the whole “modern take” on the Chucky doll.

In the original film series, Chucky was a human serial killer that used a voodoo spell to hide his soul in a doll in order to evade death. His plan was to then transfer his soul into that of a child to start life over again, as a serial killer in a new, little kid body. I mean, that shit’s terrifying.

In this remake, Chucky is just a robot doll, no soul. He becomes a killer because a disgruntled employee in a Vietnamese factory removed the safety protocols from the Chucky doll’s A.I. chip. Really, that’s it.

I guess the scary thing is that Chucky is basically Siri in the form of a doll, as he can tap into the A.I. of every smart device made by the same Apple-like or Google-like company that manufactured him. So Chucky can control TVs, lights, cameras, automated Uber cars and all types of other shit. While that is actually a cool idea to explore, why did a neat concept like this have to be altered and crammed into a Child’s Play reboot, as opposed to just being its own, fairly original film?

Getting back to the A.I. chip thing, no manufacturer would have individuals manually put safety protocols into a chip. The chips themselves would be manufactured the way they needed to be before some Vietnamese dudes in an assembly line even touched them. The A.I. program would be copied directly to the chip at the point of the chip’s manufacture, as opposed to the doll’s manufacture.

Also, this movie must exist in the future, as we aren’t using automated robot cars as Ubers yet.

Additionally, Chucky seems to be motivated by his emotions, as he wants to be Andy’s BFF but Andy eventually rejects him after the murder spree begins. Are there real emotions there? Is it simply Chucky’s programming that makes him just simulate emotional responses? I’d probably go with the latter but even then, shouldn’t he be trying to win Andy over instead of plotting and executing the sort of revenge that will make Andy hate him? Sure, his safety protocols are gone but what does that have to do with logic?

But the core of what Chucky is, is also why this doesn’t work for me. I knew that the original Chucky was an evil human being that wanted to steal the body of a child at any cost. New Chucky is just a broken iPhone that can walk around and carry a knife. There’s no actual connection to it emotionally because it is just a broken object and not an actual force of true evil.

The film also seems to miss the point about Andy being a kid that is sort of isolated. While he starts out that way in this movie, he quickly makes friends and has a whole posse that he runs around with. In the original, Andy’s attachment to Chucky seemed more real and organic because he was a really lonely kid and because Chucky was actually a human being that knew how to pull Andy’s emotional strings.

Being an Aubrey Plaza fan, I did want to give the film an honest shot because she was in it and I’d like to think that she wouldn’t have done the film if the script was shit. While I enjoy her in this, as I do almost every role she’s played, it’s not enough to salvage the whole picture.

But I also thought that the majority of the cast was solid, despite the film being a mess.

Now the picture did give us some good horror kills with standard slasher level gore but none of the kills were great or anything all that original, except the death by robot Uber but even then, Chucky had to crawl into the car to finish the job.

Honestly, the only thing I truly thought was promising about the film was the concept of a corrupted A.I. turning a doll into a killer that could use your own devices and technology against you. The concept was ruined by having it forced into a pointless reboot instead of being its own fully realized idea that could’ve stood up proudly. But what we got was a kernel of an idea propped up by a now bastardized franchise that was once beloved.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the original, superior films.

Documentary Review: Shadowing the Third Man (2004)

Release Date: October 11th, 2004
Directed by: Frederick Baker
Written by: Frederick Baker
Cast: John Hurt (narrator)

Media Europe, NHK, BBC, 95 Minutes

Review:

The Third Man is a movie that I discovered fairly recently but it instantly became one of my favorites. I couldn’t get enough of it, honestly, and I watched it three times over the course of a month.

So when I came across this documentary about the film, I had to check it out. This is streaming on the Criterion Channel for those of you interested in watching it.

This goes into great depth about the film, looking at how it was made, as well as being a love letter to Vienna and the iconic locations where the film was shot.

What’s really cool about this, is that it shows you the same locations in Vienna now, in modern times. Not much has changed in these locations but it’s really neat seeing them in full color, compared to the shots of the film.

This documentary is narrated by the great John Hurt and he adds a certain bit of eloquence to the presentation, as he guides the viewer through this film’s genesis, it’s execution and the impact it had after its release.

Another great thing about this film is that it shows interviews with most of the key people involved in the film. The stuff featuring Orson Welles is compelling stuff.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The Third Man and any Carol Reed or Orson Welles film.

Documentary Review: Moebius Redux: A Life In Pictures (2007)

Release Date: 2007 (Germany, France)
Directed by: Hasko Baumann
Written by: Hasko Baumann
Music by: Aaa
Cast: Jean Giraud (Moebius), H.R. Giger, Stan Lee, Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, Dan O’Bannon, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Philippe Druillet, Enki Bilal

Arte France, Avanti Media, Morag Loves Company, 68 Minutes

Review:

I’ve admired Moebius’ artwork for years. However, I sadly didn’t know much about the man until this documentary.

Sure, I knew that he was an artist’s artist and that he has been praised longer than I’ve been alive but I never delved beyond just his art. But I guess that’s my crime and I missed out on not knowing more about Jean Giraud, the man behind the pseudonym.

This short film interviews a lot of iconic people from Alejandro Jodorowsky to Stan Lee to H.R. Giger to Jim Lee to Mike Mignola and they all give their two cents on Moebius and the impact of his work on the comic book and film mediums, as well as his influence on their own work.

Most importantly though, this spends a lot of time with Giraud, as he gives his story, in his own words. He talks about his influences and how Moebius evolved over time, working in the western genre and then sci-fi, fantasy and other styles that come with their own sets of tropes.

This was just a cool documentary about a guy that’s cooler than most people.

Moebius is an extremely talented artist and on top of that, his life is compelling and fascinating.

I’d say that this is definitely a must see for those who love the comic book medium and intriguing creatives with a hell of a lot of passion and imagination.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other comic artist documentaries. I’ve reviewed a ton of them here, already.