Film Review: Terror of Frankenstein (1977)

Also known as: Victor Frankenstein (original title)
Release Date: March, 1977 (France)
Directed by: Calvin Floyd
Written by: Calvin Floyd, Yvonne Floyd
Based on: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Music by: Gerard Victory
Cast: Leon Vitali, Per Oscarsson, Nicholas Clay, Stacy Dorning

National Film Society of Ireland, Aspect, 92 Minutes

Review:

This co-production between the Irish and the Swedes is considered by many to be one of the best adaptations of Mary Shelley’s original Frankenstein story. I think that’s true but at the same time, it’s a bit dry and feels slow at points.

Weirdly, this does cover a lot of ground between Victor Frankenstein leaving his love behind to further his studies abroad, the creation of his monster, the conflict with his monster and then how he handles everything falling apart while his monster demands a bride.

The film is surprisingly well acted, especially by Leon Vitali, who many might not know but he did work with Stanley Kubrick in Barry Lyndon and Eyes Wide Shut, where he was the mysterious crimson-robed figure at the orgy of the elites.

This movie also has a very Hammer Films vibe to it. It feels similar to the later Frankenstein films that the studio put out. However, the prints of this film weren’t as well preserved as Hammer’s pictures, so the quality of the film that exists today is a bit worn down, grainy and kind of smudgy in parts.

Overall, this was still a neat film to check out, as I had never seen it but had heard good things about it over the years from other classic horror aficionados.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Also known as: Traumnovelle, Rhapsody (working titles), EWS (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: July 13th, 1999 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick, Frederic Raphael
Based on: Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler
Music by: Jocelyn Pook
Cast: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, Marie Richardson, Todd Field, Sky du Mont, Rade Šerbedžija, Thomas Gibson, Vinessa Shaw, Fay Masterson, Alan Cumming, Leelee Sobieski, Leon Vitali, Julienne Davis, Madison Eginton, Abigail Good, Cate Blanchett (voice, uncredited)

Hobby Films, Stanley Kubrick Productions, Warner Bros., 159 Minutes

Review:

“Bill, I don’t think you realize how much trouble you got yourself into last night just by going over there. Who do you think those people were? Those were not just some ordinary people. If I told you their names… no, I’m not going to tell you their names… but if I did, I don’t think you’d sleep so well at night.” – Victor Ziegler

Stanley Kubrick has multiple films that I consider masterpieces and this is one of them. In fact, while re-watching this, I tried to look for things to pick out as negatives and I didn’t find any.

While this motion picture has a long running time, it’s one of those special films that has a real mystique about it and it just lures you in and holds your attention from scene-to-scene.

It stars then-married Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman and as good as both of them have proven to be at their best, this is possibly both of them at their absolute best.

The scenes between Cruise and Kidman are intense and magnetic. While they were divorced a few years after this movie’s release, their love transcends the screen, as does their pain and then their shared truths potentially strengthening their bond by the end of the film. If they were no longer in love in real life, their performances just solidified how great both of them are at their craft. I also think Kubrick saw this in them and that’s why he cast both of them as a married couple.

The bulk of the story deals with Cruise having discovered that his wife nearly had an affair and it makes him question their marriage and sets him off on a quest of sexual exploration. While he is confronted by a lot of things, he never really cheats on her either. However, along the journey, he uncovers a billionaire sex cult in a mansion outside of New York City. He is immediately discovered and then ousted from this secret meeting but it creates an obsession within him, where he needs to uncover the truth behind it. He then finds himself in a cat and mouse game as the reach of this group is much larger than he could’ve imagined. Eventually, a very rich, close friend has to give him his final warning to stop pursuing this mystery.

The end of the film, sees Cruise breaking down and confessing to his wife in a similar manner that she confessed her near affair to him.

The sex cult stuff is the highlight of the film, really. And no, not because it’s a sequence with a sex cult but because of how opulent the setting was and how mysterious and unsettling the whole thing was despite the affluent atmosphere. This sequence was one of Kubrick’s best in his long career and it’s neat that it came in his final film, as so many auteurs tend to lose “it” towards the end of their careers.

The sex cult sequence, like the rest of the film, is hypnotic and enchanting. This is not just due to the acting, the pacing of the film, the score and the mysterious, disturbing circumstances but also the tone and atmosphere, which came courtesy of Kubrick’s wonderful eye for shot-framing, as well as the stellar cinematography of Larry Smith. Shockingly, this was Smith’s first film and he also did double duty, serving as the lighting cameraman, as well. He’d eventually go on to work with Nicolas Winding Refn on Fear X, Bronson and Only God Forgives, three films that also look amazing.

Eyes Wide Shut is a picture that isn’t for everybody. It actually asks a lot of its audience, as there are a lot of deep things to ponder. While Cruise’s obsession with the cult might seem like a large distraction from the real point of the plot, it’s actually just what he latches onto to simultaneously ignore and process his feelings of sadness, anger, growing guilt over his own actions and the overbearing thoughts of marital betrayal. 

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: Barry Lyndon (1975)

Release Date: December 11th, 1975 (London premiere)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Written by: Stanley Kubrick
Based on: The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray
Music by: Leonard Rosenman, Ralph Ferraro (uncredited)
Cast: Ryan O’Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Kruger, Diana Koerner, Gay Hamilton, Steven Berkoff, Andre Morell, Anthony Sharp, Philip Stone, Pat Roach, Leon Vitali

Peregrine, Hawk Films, Warner Bros., 185 Minutes

Review:

“Well then, look you now… from this moment, I will submit to no further chastisement from you. I will kill you, if you lay hands on me ever again! Is that entirely clear to you, sir?” – Lord Bullingdon

This is the only Stanley Kubrick film I had never seen, apart from his early documentary work. I always wanted to see this but I was intimidated by its length and usually, once I start thinking about Kubrick, I tend to go back to watching one of my three favorite films by him: 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange or The Shining. I often times mix in Dr. Strangelove and Eyes Wide Shut, as well.

I thought that I needed to see this, greatly, and that not having seen it already was a bit of a crime against myself, as I consider Kubrick to be one of the three men in my personal Holy Trinity of Directors. I do think I need to expand that to a Mount Rushmore of Directors, though, as there are really four at the highest level of craftsmanship that I always go back to, again and again. However, this isn’t about that.

This is a long, epic film but man, it’s pretty exceptional.

While I found it slow in parts and there were chapters in the story that weren’t as interesting as the best bits, I really enjoyed this and thought that if it were ever remade, it should definitely be expanded into a limited television series, as there’s just so much story. I have never read the book, though, so I’m not sure how much of it this film actually covered.

Still, this shows the entirety of a man’s adult life where he initially starts out as pretty likable but then slowly dissolves into a real piece of shit. The picture does a great job of showing you all the major events and turning points in his life, however, and it builds towards something quite incredible.

As should be expected, the cinematography is magnificent, as is the acting and the use of music.

In regards to the film’s score, Kubrick went a similar route to what he did with A Clockwork Orange in that he uses many classical masterpieces but often times uses distorted versions of them, which give off their own unique feel that does more for the tone of specific scenes than the visuals and the acting. If you’ve never seen this but are familiar with A Clockwork Orange, you probably know what I’m talking about. However, his use of altered classical works is more limited here and less noticeable, initially.

There is one character in this that you do grow to care about, as Barry Lyndon devolves into a pure prick, and that’s his stepson. Their hatred for each other climaxes in an old fashioned duel. It’s a fucking tragic scene where you can’t guess what’s going to happen and every single frame of film adds to the building tension in a way that I haven’t felt in a film in a really long time. It’s actually a breathtaking sequence that’s impossible to look away from.

They really don’t make movies like this anymore and honestly, it truly makes me appreciate this near masterpiece that much more.

Barry Lyndon is as great as I had always hoped it would be.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: other Stanley Kubrick films, as well as other epic, fictional biographical movies.