About This Blog

A place to find my reviews not featured on epinions.com or horror-asylum.com, as well as opinions and lists on everything from movies to TV to music. It's all about me! Send hate mail to vegie18th@hotmail.com or just leave a comment beneath the posts. Review grading system assumes C+ is somewhere in the vicinity of a Passing grade or minor fail.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Review: Star Trek Into Darkness


After violating the Prime Directive in order to save Spock (Zachary Quinto), Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is stripped of his captaincy…ever-honest Spock even dobbing him in. Serving under Capt. Pike (Bruce Greenwood), Kirk attends a Starfleet meeting that goes to hell when a rogue Starfleet officer attacks the group from his ship, killing Pike, before fleeing to a Klingon planet. Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) reinstates Kirk and orders he and the Enterprise crew to find and kill the rogue officer, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Once on the planet Kronos, however, Harrison ends up saving the Enterprise crew from a Klingon attack, and he then promptly surrenders himself. The plot thickens. Alice Eve plays Carol Marcus, Admiral Marcus’ daughter who signs on to the Enterprise as a science officer under a pseudonym.

 

I enjoyed the 2009 re-boot of “Star Trek” but wasn’t as enamoured with it as many others were. This was due to some casting/character issues (notably Zachary Quinto’s Spock), as well as what I saw as a distastefully cavalier approach to beloved characters and “Trek” history by director J.J. Abrams. Well, this 2013 sequel from Abrams sees me somewhat revise my opinion on one of these issues, but still features several of the same problems I had with the first film.

 

First thing’s first, I was a bit unfair to Zachary Quinto last time around. Having re-watched a bit of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock since, I’ve realised that what I always thought of as Nimoy’s rather inhuman, robot-like interpretation of Spock, was in at least some part simply a bit of a stiff performance from Nimoy. And even without that, the character wasn’t as emotionless as I had seemed to recall from my childhood. The idea of Spock battling between his more logical side and occasional human-like emotions has always been there. That said, and this film shows it just as well as the previous film, I still think Quinto is a little too human-like. It’s probably a matter of personal taste, and by the end of this film I had started to get a sense of what Abrams was trying to do with the character, and appreciate it. In fact, Spock gets my favourite moment in the film and it’s a moment that contradicts everything I’ve already said about my views on the character. I can’t help it, it’s a great fanboy moment reversing a particular moment from a previous “Star Trek” film, even if Abrams pussies out by not following through all the way with it. Meanwhile, I’m still not a huge fan of Chris Pine’s Kirk, partly because I want to slap Pine in the face every time I see him in a film. I won’t deny Pine’s Kirk is a far more interesting character with more depth than William Shatner’s, but he’s not likeable. This detracts a bit of enjoyment for me, and that is furthered by Pine’s casting. Others will have no such problem. Pine does get one of the film’s funniest lines, though when he hears about Uhura and Spock fighting: ‘Oh my God, what is that even like?’. Perhaps that means Douchy Kirk is growing on me…a bit. I do think his relationship with the very fine Bruce Greenwood is a bit too Tom Cruise in “Top Gun”, though, and I don’t want no “Top Gun” in my “Star Trek”, thank you very much.

 

But Abrams’ disrespect for any “Trek” lore before him rears its ugly head again here. It’s not as bad as in the previous film where he seemed to try and wipe out everything that came before, with its oh-so convenient plays with parallel universes/time travel, that’s true. But giving us hairless Klingons who wear dopey “Predator” helmets? I’m not even a Trekkie/Trekker and even I find that highly insulting. Stop messing around with things that don’t belong to you, J.J. You are NOT Gene Roddenberry, and you can use whatever fancy time travel excuse you want, you’re still messing around with someone else’s toys.

 

I also have issues with the style in which Abrams and cinematographer Dan Mindel have shot the whole thing. The shaky-cam isn’t constant, but it is annoying. As I’ve said countless times before, all it does is call attention to the fact that you’re watching a movie and that everything is being filmed with cameras. The Tony Scott-inspired rapid swish-pan/zoom combo wore thin on me too, after a while. It distances one from the material. Abrams fondness for lens flares continues to be a giant alien bug up my arse. I hate the trend, they are an eyesore, looking like a photographic mistake and feeling like you should be wearing sunglasses to reduce the glare, or worse turning away from the screen. It’s idiotic and it needs to stop. Can’t Abrams see it’s a problem that ruins the image? Having said all this, the film is still mostly very good-looking, with some interesting, quite eye-popping extra-terrestrial terrains, and aliens that are unlike anything else in cinema. Sure, the colour scheme is reminiscent of Abrams’ “Super 8” and Spielberg’s excellent “War of the Worlds”, but otherwise, the film’s visual design is all its own. There’s some particularly excellent FX in the action scenes, only slightly sullied by the lens flare bullshit. The film also sounds good, with a rock-solid music score by Michael Giacchino (“Star Trek”), let down only by Abrams’ insistence on not referencing/echoing previous “Trek” music often enough in my opinion.

 

Plot-wise the film seems to be dangerously heading into “Die Hard” territory, as Abrams’ vision is far less peacenik/United Nations inspired than previous “Star Trek” incarnations, but luckily it doesn’t quite turn into “24 in Space”. This is still “Star Trek”, just that Abrams’ vision for the franchise incorporates a bit of foul language and sexual references, which won’t be for everyone, I suppose.

 

Going into the film I have to say I was preparing for the worst with Benedict Cumquat as the main villain. I’m not a fan and his deep baritone voice always sound dubbed coming out of his rather wimpy-looking facial features. But surprise of all surprises, he’s really good here. He has a Malcolm McDowell meets Peter O’Toole meets Alan Rickman vibe here that works for the role. I’m sure by now it’s no surprise to tell you that his character is indeed Khan, and while nothing like Ricardo Montalban, that’s fine by me. He’s wonderfully evil and pretty much steals the show. The highly underrated Peter Weller and his inimitable deep voice provide rock-solid secondary villainy as well. In fact, it’s these two actors alone who probably keep this about a half notch ahead of the previous film for me. On the other end of the scale is a surprisingly awful Alice Eve, hitting all the wrong notes as Weller’s daughter. You keep expecting her character to have ulterior motives that might explain Eve’s awkward performance. Nope, she’s just awful, and I say that as someone who loved her in “She’s Out of My League”. Her entire performance is off, though at least perverts like me can rejoice in her entirely unnecessary, totally gratuitously sexist underwear shot. I’ll give you credit for that one, J.J., though even then I have to say the normally hot actress looks somewhat weird and angular. Feminists with have apoplectic fits over her poorly written character.

 

As for the rest of the regulars, well they’re as much of a mixed bag as last time. As was the case in the previous film, Simon Pegg is an hilarious Scotty. Yes, it’s an entirely comedic take on the character, and yes I hated the attempts at comedy in “Star Trek IV: The One With the Whales”, but Pegg is just so loveable and funny in the role I can’t help but be entertained by him (Much more so than in anything else Pegg has done). Meanwhile, John Cho and Zoe Saldana are still the best Mr. Sulu and Foxy Uhura of all (with all due respect to the inimitable George Takei, the original Sulu), even though their contribution to this film is not terribly large in terms of screen time. The film could definitely have used more Sulu, as the character’s competence and strength really do shine through when the script allows. Sadly, Uhura is really just here to speak Klingon, kiss a Vulcan, fire a gun, and save her robot boy toy. Putting things into perspective, though, that’s a helluva lot more than Nichelle Nichols ever got to do in TOS. Anton Yelchin, like Walter Koenig before him, gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop playing the relatively uninteresting Chekov, but the only problem with his performance is that more so than last time, he overdoes the accent a bit. He’s good, but let’s face it, no one likes Chekov, do they? Chekov is the worst ethnic stereotype in a series that already has Scotty. Bringing up the rear as was the case last time, is the hopelessly inadequate Karl Urban as Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy. People rave over his supposedly dead-on DeForest Kelley impersonation, but I have to say that to me he looks and sounds absolutely nothing like him (I should point out that Bones is my favourite OS Star Trek character, so I’m not talking out of my arse). He gives a boring, lethargic performance suggesting from his very first moment that he has absolutely no idea what he’s doing. He delivers the Bones-esque ‘Damn it, I’m a…’ lines with zero energy or inflection whatsoever.

 

Personally I still prefer “The Next Generation” over J.J. Abrams’ incarnation of “Star Trek”, but this second outing for the re-booted franchise is still solid entertainment, especially whenever Benedict Crumblebum and Peter Weller are on show. It’s fun popcorn entertainment with solid action, great FX, and some laughs. I didn’t even mind Abrams’ series white-washing with the two Spock’s quite as much this time around, though Abrams is still on probation in my opinion. Oh, and more Sulu and Uhura next time, please Mr. Abrams. And fire Karl Urban for all of our sakes! The screenplay is by Abrams’ cronies Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”), Damon Lindelof (TV’s “Lost”, “Cowboys & Aliens”), and Robert Orci (“Star Trek”).

 

Rating: B-

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: Sharknado 2: The Second One



Ian Ziering is back as the former surfer and Sharknado survivor who is travelling via plane with ex Tara Reid (who is kinda not his ex anymore), when he thinks he spots some sharks flying around in bad-looking weather outside the window. Indeed, it’s started all over again, and Reid somehow gets injured in all the calamity. She is hospitalised while Ziering travels to New York to try and get to his estranged sister (Kari Wuhrer!) and her family, who are about to attend a baseball game. A baseball game about to be cancelled by bad Sharknado weather. Judd Hirsch plays a New York cabbie, Mark McGrath plays Wuhrer’s husband who has a past with Ziering, Vivica A. Fox is their friend who has an even more interesting past with Ziering, with Judah Friedlander as another old buddy. Cameos include Robert Hays as the plane captain (Sadly not named Oveur), Sandy ‘Pepa’ Denton as one of Wuhrer’s gal pals, Billy Ray Cyrus as a surgeon (!), wrestler/Olympic gold medallist Kurt Angle as a fire chief (!), Robert Klein as the NY mayor (!!), and most ridiculously of all, Richard Kind as a former baseballer/former team manager (!!!!!!!). Various other news and media personalities turn up as themselves to show they’re hip to the whole “Sharknado” thing.
 
Director Anthony C. Ferrante (who used to work for “Fangoria” magazine) and screenwriter Thunder Levin are back with this 2014 attempt at creating the same social media/cultural phenomenon deal they kinda sorta did with 2013’s “Sharknado”. And hey, it proved to be one of my biggest pageview-earners, so I was game for a second go round. Unfortunately, they still haven’t learned that you can’t force a bad movie to happen, it just doesn’t work. In some ways, this one proves to be a slightly better film than the first one…and that’s one of the problems. The film doesn’t know what it really wants to be, let alone know what it should be. The performances by Judd Hirsch and Kari Wuhrer are solid enough (under the silly circumstances) that they deserve to be in a better film than this. Meanwhile, the cinematography has significantly improved since the last film, even if the FX might be just as bad as last time. And the film opens with a cameo from Robert Hays as a pilot who debates whether to have the fish or the chicken, in an hilarious reference to his role in the classic spoof “Airplane!” (It’s sharks on a plane, dude!). But it doesn’t belong here in a film that spends most of its time being a cheesy monster movie, not an outright parody, and when you add the genuinely decent work from Hirsch and Wuhrer (who has been in enough crap- and titty movies- to know how to get through something like this without looking embarrassed), it just confuses things even more. The opening scene is genuinely entertaining, and I’m not sure it really should’ve been, but that’s not the kind of ‘unintentional entertainment’ I’m talking about. It ain’t “Plan 9 From Outer Space”.
 
Does this film want to be ‘so bad it’s funny’? A parody? Merely a cheesy B-movie? No, if anything it merely wants to be ‘that movie everyone’s talking about’. And that’s a cop-out. I have no problem with Ian Ziering and Tara Reid returning, but why would anyone else want to jump on board when the first one wasn’t worthwhile itself? Like I said, it’sto be in the movie that everyone’s talking about. If the first film tried too hard and failed to be a bad movie, this one’s trying too hard to bring back memories of that first film, whilst a bunch of C-list names and faces seem to want to jump on the ‘cultural phenomenon’ bandwagon. I doubt it’ll work, with the ‘Subway’ product placement and cameos by Kelly Ripa, Matt Lauer, Al Roker, Billy Ray Cyrus and Andy Dick being the most desperate of all. The ‘spot the celebrity-ish’ game proves more of a distraction than anything. Ian Ziering is as committed as he was before, former sci-fi/softcore babe Kari Wuhrer is here to remind me we’re both getting old and she’s looking better for it than me (And I’m about 10 years younger!). Judah Friedlander for some reason dons a different disguise here, pretty much defeating the purpose of his casting, and Vivica A. Fox is here so we can all kinda sorta recall that she almost used to be somebody.
 
The only way this film was going to work as genuine bad movie fun was if Tara Reid were in the film a whole lot more. Oh my God is she bad in this, and I don’t think it’s as intentional as she thinks. No, the woman either has been rendered facially immobile via plastic surgery, is an alien, or simply has no conception whatsoever of genuine human emotions. They seem foreign to her, and it’s absolutely hilarious to watch. Other than that, it’s kinda cute that the film is set in a cleaned-up New York where apparently guns don’t exist, but overall this film is at once too much of a failure to recommend and not enough of a failure to enjoy in a bad movie kinda way. But ultimately I guess Twitter will be the judge. I think the whole thing can be best summed up like this: Biz Markie turns up in it. I mean, who’s more desperate for ‘buzz’ here, the washed-up Biz Markie, or SyFy for hiring the washed-up Biz Markie, thinking it would be a cool idea?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: Bullets Over Broadway


Set in the 1920s, John Cusack stars as a neurotic playwright whose new work gets a rather unorthodox backer, NY mobster Joe Viterelli…so long as Cusack (who refuses to let anyone but himself direct) agrees to fulfil the artistic ambitions of Viterelli’s talentless, dingbat girlfriend Jennifer Tilly and give her a big role. As for the lead role? Cusack hires melodramatic, egotistical (faded) ‘star’ Dianne Wiest, whom he somehow becomes infatuated with. Meanwhile, Viterelli has insisted one of his goons (Chazz Palminteri) accompany Tilly to work every day, and wouldn’t you know it, the big lug has surprisingly valid creative ideas of his own! Jim Broadbent plays an English actor whose diet is dictated by his nerves, Tracey Ullman plays an annoying actress with a similarly annoying dog, Mary-Louise Parker is Cusack’s girlfriend, Jack Warden is Cusack’s producer who introduces him to Viterelli, and Rob Reiner is Cusack’s failed playwright colleague.

 

Although there are some good performances, funny lines, and it’s a pretty good-looking film, this popular 1994 Woody Allen (“Annie Hall”, “Manhattan”, “Hannah and Her Sisters”, “Deconstructing Harry”) film is a near-miss for me. There were some things about it I just didn’t buy, mostly concerning Dianne Wiest and her character. How Wiest managed to win an Oscar for this, not to mention beating her more deserving Academy Award-nominated co-star Jennifer Tilly just boggles my mind. Wiest, normally a solid character actress, gives her worst-ever performance in a completely clichéd, caricatured part that is as overacted as it is overwritten. Wiest even has the whole long cigarette and head wrap deal. We get it, she’s a parody of Norma Desmond from “Sunset Blvd.” or some such. But that’s all she is, a shrill and surface-level parody of a caricature, and unlike Ms. Tilly (who could play dumb molls in her sleep), Wiest is unconvincing and miscast in the part, so it doesn’t come off at all even as the cheesy parody it’s probably meant to be. Usually adept at meek or kind-hearted parts (such as the mousy, frustrated single mother in “Parenthood”, where she was truly terrific), she’s lost at sea as an overly dramatic, tempestuous old-school star, far too mannered and forced. She’s actually quite amateurish, going for all the easy clichés in a role that really ought to have gone to Faye Dunaway, Anne Bancroft, or ideally Shirley MacLaine (and even then part itself is still too corny and overdone). Worse still is the fact that John Cusack’s character is meant to become infatuated with her both artistically and romantically. With Dianne Wiest. Yeah…not buying that in the slightest, it’s yet another case of Woody’s weird ideas in regards to women. This is the guy who in the otherwise terrific “Deconstructing Harry” expected one to believe that someone would leave Amy Irving for Judy Freakin’ Davis, and tried to convince us that Lillith Freakin’ Crane would make for good casting as an experienced prostitute in the same film. You’re a very weird little man, Mr. Allen, very weird indeed. Keep these thoughts to yourself, freak. Sadly, the casting of Wiest actually drags down the otherwise well-cast Cusack as the film’s Woody substitute.

 

Getting away from Wiest, I also don’t understand why Woody would take one of cinema’s greatest ever character actors in Jack Warden and completely waste his versatile talents in a mere background, functionary character of little import. Ditto, Mary-Louise Parker in a less than nothing role, and once again, if you’re with Mary-Louise Parker, why on Earth would Dianne Wiest tickle your tallywacker?

 

Luckily, the film does have some commendable elements. Aside from some clichéd costuming, the film looks terrific, not only in period detail, but also some lovely shots of autumn leaves captured by cinematographer Carlo Di Palma (“Blowup”, “Hannah and Her Sisters”, “Manhattan Murder Mystery”). Co-scripted by Douglas McGrath (director of “Infamous” and writer of the remake of “Born Yesterday”) I also found some of the dialogue very, very funny. Including one exchange between John Cusack and Chazz Palminteri over a certain dead woman, that dare not reveal. Woody also gives the inimitable Harvey Fierstein a cute line about a musical version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” called “Quasimodo Jones”. I assume Harry Belafonte would play Phoebus in that production.

 

There are also some good performances, with the aforementioned Tilly stealing the show easily. She’s an acquired taste as an actress, but this is just as good a showcase for her as the later “Bound”. It’s especially funny when her character tries to act smart and sophisticated, with her African-American maid in the background with a look that says it all, really. I normally find Tracey Ullman irritating beyond belief, but in this film, that’s pretty much the point, so it’s an amusing performance in that respect. Chazz Palminteri as the mob goon who unexpectedly takes an interest in playwriting is also very cute (he was nominated for an Oscar), with the late Joe Viterelli well-cast as Tilly’s mobster husband, and nice work by Rob Reiner in a few scenes too, getting some funny lines. I also must commend Cusack for playing Woody Allen without becoming insufferably mannered and full of tics, gulps, and quirks. He reminded me a bit of a less shouty Gene Wilder (circa 1968) at times.

 

Ultimately this film has some good with the bad. It nearly gets over the line due to a very funny Jennifer Tilly, but it’s neither Woody’s best nor anywhere near his worst. To be honest, the only new things here are the period setting and the disarmingly intelligent mob bodyguard character. Otherwise it’s your standard look at making a play/film, something Woody would revisit in the slightly better “Hollywood Ending”, minus the mob and set in the cinematic world instead of Broadway.

 

Baffling decision to give a terrible Dianne Wiest an Oscar. What were the Academy voters thinking?

 

Rating: C+

Review: Beast From Haunted Cave


Chicago crims (led by Frank Wolff, and including Richard Sinatra, Sheila Carol, and Wally Campo) venture to snowy South Dakota to pose as tourists at a local ski lodge. They’re really hoping to rob the storage facility for a local gold mine, misdirecting unwanted attention by setting off explosives inside the gold mine itself. Their plan also includes hiring an unsuspecting ski instructor (Michael Forest) to guide them to a cabin where they will be met by a plane for their escape. Unfortunately, things hit a snag the night before the robbery, as would-be ladies’ man Sinatra has himself a bit of nookie with a local chickie whilst in the mine, as he is supposed to be setting the explosives. And that’s when the spider-like monster makes its presence known, killing the mood, and the girl. No one believes Sinatra, and the heist is still planned to go ahead. Bad idea.

 

Producer Gene Corman (“Attack of the Giant Leeches”, “Cool Breeze”) remakes an earlier film produced by his brother Roger (“Naked Paradise”, unseen by me), with this 1959 cheapie from debut director Monte Hellman (“Two-Lane Blacktop”), scribe Charles B. Griffith (“Little Shop of Horrors”, “Bucket of Blood”, “Death Race 2000”), and AIP Studios. Gene’s name is the most important to take into consideration here, as he might’ve been involved in low-budget filmmaking, but he sure as shit wasn’t as good at it as his brother Roger. If you see Gene’s name attached to any film, you know not to expect much (and that includes producing one of Roger’s rare directorial duds, the awful 1962 remake of “Tower of London”).

 

Because it only runs about 70 odd minutes, and spends an insurmountable stretch setting up the central characters, there’s simply not enough time to give equal weight to the monster movie element of the film. The monster isn’t even hinted at until the second half and the ending is awfully rushed.

 

I know the monster is absolutely awful and embarrassingly inadequate, but that’s no excuse to drown the whole thing in talk, especially when the actors are mostly not up to the task. Frank Wolff (who played Mr. McBain in “Once Upon a Time in the West”) fares best in one of his earliest screen outings as the head crim, but he can’t save it on his own. Wally Campo seems an incongruous fit in serious surroundings, though at least he has a personality. But that’s it for niceties amongst the cast. Richard Sinatra (nephew of you know who) gives one of the worst ‘method’ performances I’ve seen given by anyone other than Marlon Brando at his most unrestrained. And yet, Michael Forest still manages to be even worse, he’s even more wooden than the trees. Speaking of, the scenery is excellent, just a shame it wasn’t in service of something more substantial than this.

 

A high-concept film that moves too slow for something so short, ends up incredibly underwhelming. You could see it occupying the latter half of an AIP double bill, but I feel sorry for anyone who stays for it, and I doubt anyone who does would stay all the way through it. It’s not an outstandingly awful film, just a bit less than mediocre, and not worth talking about at any great length. Not Mr. Griffith’s finest hour, and not really worth seeing.

 

Rating: C-

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: Monsters University


Here’s the story of how monsters and eventual best buds Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sully (voiced by John Goodman) first met. They are freshmen at Monsters University, and it’s actually hate at first sight as obnoxious second generation ‘scarer’ Sully and wannabe scarer Mike (whom no one finds remotely scary no matter how hard he tries) both manage to flunk the scaring program. Well, actually they are kicked out of it by the disdainful Dean Hardscrabble (voiced by Dame Helen Mirren) when their rivalry causes mayhem. But they have one chance to get their scholastic scarer ambitions back on track by joining a fraternity and entering (and winning) the Scare Games. Initially reluctant to work together, Mike and Sully end up forced to team up and join a ragtag (to put it mildly) group of inept would-be scarers (sorry, ran out of euphemisms). If they lose, the entire team will be expelled. Steve Buscemi provides the voice of Randall Boggs, Mike’s college roommate, who is frankly a bit of a slimeball.

 

The original “Monsters Inc.” is my favourite of the Pixar animated films, both for its humour and beautiful, textured animation. I’m happy to report that this 2013 prequel from director Dan Scanlon (a former animator in his first full-length directorial gig), and his co-writers Robert L. Baird and Daniel Gerson. The animation is once again very pretty and nicely textured right off the bat. Maybe not on the level of “Rango”, but still the animation looks so textured you’d swear it was some kind of hi-tech stop-motion. I mean, just look at Mike’s cap, or Sully’s fur. You feel like you could reach out and touch it. And then you hurt yourself trying to reach through the TV screen and you feel like a tool. I’m not speaking from personal experience, though.

 

The film definitely brings the laughs, too, whether it’s the hilarious running gag involving the snail/slug-like creature who is late for class because he’s so damn slow, or the hilarious revelation of a nerdy frat house that is really a student’s mother’s house. They have to do their initiation with his mother loudly doing the washing in the background. Funny stuff.

 

I just love the idea behind these films. Think about it: By turning scary monsters under children’s beds into cuddly and misunderstood creatures, you’re making them not scary anymore and you’re teaching kids not to be scared…and selling movie tickets and merchandise while you’re at it. Genius.

 

I also think the voice casting of John Goodman and Billy Crystal is perfect, as anyone who knows what they look like in real-life knows that their sizes kinda match the characters, too. New addition Dame Helen Mirren, meanwhile, is spot-on if you ask me, though Steve Buscemi’s talents are a bit underused here.

 

This is a highly entertaining and never boring prequel, quite underrated actually. So long as you’re not expecting laughs in every single scene, you should have a good time with this one. I really wouldn’t mind a third adventure for these characters, I’ve come to really like them.

 

Rating: B-

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Review: The Mountain


When a Calcutta-to-Paris bound plane crashes somewhere in the mountains, experienced climber Spencer Tracy (supposedly playing a Frenchman) is asked to lead a rescue (or recovery) mission. He politely refuses, claiming to be retired and frankly too old. His younger brother Robert Wagner wants to go up there for his own grave-robbing reasons, and although a past trauma up those mountains still haunts Tracy, he agrees to go up there with the kid (who is less experienced in climbing) to make sure he doesn’t die, and maybe even to get him to see sense. E.G. Marshall plays the leader of the initial search party, who aren’t as knowledgeable or skilled as Tracy, whilst Claire Trevor (who apparently didn’t think highly of the film at all) briefly appears as a local woman.

 

If you don’t mind the occasionally clunky dialogue, and can get past 56 year-old Spencer Tracy and the always cool Robert Wagner (26 years-old here, and he has such incredible genes that even in 2014 he still doesn’t look his now 84 years of age) being cast as brothers two years after they played father and son in “Broken Lance”, then this 1956 mountain-climbing/disaster movie/family squabble drama hybrid manages to actually deliver the goods somewhat. Directed by Edward Dmytryk (“Broken Lance”, “The Caine Mutiny”, “The Young Lions”) and scripted by Ranald MacDougall (who directed the highly underrated “The World, the Flesh, and the Devil”), it took me a while to swallow the casting, but Tracy and Wagner (whose hair is absolutely fantastic) are otherwise convincing, and once they head for the mountain, the film really gets going. It’s far from the best work either man has done, but it’s an entertaining yarn, even if it’s beneath its stars somewhat.

 

The blue screen work is obvious, but Tracy (as the tortured veteran climber who believes himself cursed) is such a pro that he really sucks you into feeling the tension and inherent danger. He looks nervous as hell yet super-focussed with the job at hand. It’s unbearably tense at times. The best thing by far is the lovely scenery captured by cinematographer Franz F. Planer (“Not as a Stranger”, “The Big Country”), it’s a stunningly well-shot film. I also liked the central hook of the film with the two brothers of different temperaments and moral compasses making the trek up the mountain for differing motives. It’s just that the screenplay doesn’t execute this premise brilliantly, and it’s a tad hokey, especially early on with the family back-story sounding awfully tacked-on. Bit of a waste of one of cinema’s greatest ever character actors, in E.G. Marshall, who disappears after the opening third. So that’s a shame.

 

If you’re a fan of the actors and like films about mountain climbing that aren’t as dull or offensive as say “The Eiger Sanction”, then give this one a go. That film might’ve had more dangerous climbing stunts, but this one actually makes you give a damn. It’s a B-movie with A+ leads and better than you’ve probably heard (if you’ve even heard of it at all).

 

Rating: B-