It’s because of this that we at HeyUGuys (and in this case we is myself and Gary) have decided to set ourselves a project. To watch and review all 250 movies on the list. We’ve frozen the list as of January 1st of this year. It’s not as simple as it sounds, we are watching them all in one year, 125 each.
This is our 24th update, my next five films watched for the project. You can find all our previous week’s updates here.
No. 122 – For a Few Dollars More (1965) – Rating 8.2
The second spaghetti western in Leone’s trilogy that includes A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, it features two rival bounty hunters Monco (Eastwood) and Lt. Douglas Mortimer (Van Cleef) competing for the scalp of vicious bandit El Indio (Gian Maria Volonte) before striking an uneasy alliance to catch their man and hatch a plan where Monco infiltrates El Indio’s gang to help get the odds on their side.
After a bank raid for a hell of a lot of money by Indio and a plan gone a bit wrong by the bounty hunting team they end up being caught by Indio and his gang but end up in a further twist when Indio plans to kill his own men to keep the money for himself which eventually leaves us with just Monco, Mortimer and Indio and also reveals the flashback story of the reasons behind Douglas Mortimer’s passion to kill Indio. Monco steps aside ensuring Indio plays a fair game in a final draw to the death with Mortimer, it’s Classic Sergio Leone.
For a Few Dollars more is a huge improvement from the very enjoyable Fist full of Dollars and a clear sign of things to come with the almost perfect Good, Bad and the Ugly which shows Leone as having a wonderful eye for story and characters. Lee Van Cleef is amazing as Mortimer and Volonte is one of my favourite movie villains as he just rules the screen with evilness and a horrible level of calm. Morricone’s score is again instantly recognizable and magical fitting the film perfectly. Then there is Eastwood who again just fantastically nails the role of his iconic cowboy with an heavy coating of coolness doing everything left-handed so his right hand is always remaining on his gun underneath his trademark poncho and uttering some wonderful lines and when everything comes together under the directing of Sergio Leone magic just happens on screen, the close-ups, the wide shots and the attention to detail is just sublime. I knew little of Leone’s movies before the project and now two of his films are in my all time favourite movies.
No. 97 – The Great Dictator (1940) – Rating 8.3
The Great Dictator is the 5th Chaplin film from the project and placed 2nd out of the Chaplin films on the list, I would have to agree with it being the 2nd best Chaplin film from the bunch. The Great Dictator was Chaplin’s first talkie movie having continued to make silent movies for about 12 years into the age of sound movies, It was his greatest commercial success but also it’s regarded as his last great movie and it was the last time we saw the iconic Tramp character again.
The story evolves around a barber played by Chaplin who is a World War 1 soldier stricken with amnesia after an aircraft accident. After twenty years in a hospital he returns to his Jewish town in Tomania where he opens his forgotten shop blissfully unaware of how the world has changed. The country is run by Adenoid Hynkel who bares an uncanny likeness to the barber and of course Hitler and we follow the Barbers struggles against the regime with the local residents trying to fight back against the storm troopers and plot to assassinate Hynkel who constantly restrict their lives.
We also follow Hynkel as he plots to kill off all the Jews (then the brunettes) with the help of his loyal generals Field Marshal Herring (Hermann Goring) and Propaganda Minister Garbitsch (Joseph Goebbels) and with the visit of the dictator Benzoni Napoloni (played superbly by Jack Oakie) of the neighbouring country of Bacteria that things descend into chaos as they both try to get the upper hand of each other and argue about almost everything whilst edging war with Tomania ever closer. It’s only towards the end the inevitable confusion of identity between Hynkel and the barber allows The Barber to mistakenly take the role of Hynkel and make a speech to the world to end the war which just stops the films narrative dead and the film stops being a parody with what feels like Chaplin stepping out of character to make it himself to the world and over time it feels ever more appropriate.
The Great Dictator is anexcellent film, Chaplin plays the crazed dictator Hynkel with such vigour in his savage and unconcealed parody of Hitler that it gives the film it’s immortality in movie history and provides one of the most memorable character parodies of all time. Chaplin actually studied hours of footage to capture Hitler’s mannerisms and the pay off is not only hilarious but surreally comparable as he spouts of gobbledygook German with English words thrown in (check out the clip below).
The Great Dictator has some of the funniest scenes especially when giving the speech as Hynkel which had me laughing so hard. There are also some classic comedy moments like when he shaves a customer in time to classical music or when the two Dictators of Hynkel and Napoloni are sitting in barber chairs both trying to make theirs higher than the other, it’s charming, it’s funny, it’s brutally honest and it goes for the jugular in its attack on Hitler and war. Chaplin is a true legend of cinema and his contribution will never be forgotten.
No. 115 – A Touch of Evil (1958) – Rating 8.2
A knew very little about A Touch of Evil before watching it and after three minutes I was hooked. Orson Welles directs and stars alongside Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh in a brilliant film noir that is quite simply breathtaking.
The film opens up with a 3 minute 20 second continuous tracking shot where we witness a bomb being placed in the rear of a car and we follow it through the dilapidated city streets of Los Robles which borders Mexico. As the car cruises round, we see local town folk going about their business, clubs pumping out music, seedy hotels and we’re introduced to newlywed cop Mike Vargas (Heston) and his wife Susan (Janet Leigh) who are in town on their honeymoon walking the streets to the border. The camera follows the scene going to great heights to get wide angled shots then swooping down low to catch the players of the film all in one take and it’s glorious and it ends with the car exploding for the films story to begin.
The final take was apparently done on the nights last attempt after multiple tries due to one minor character constantly fluffing his lines and Orson told him just mumble anything and we’ll dub it in after, when you watch it you’ll see the sun just rising in distance.
The arrival on the crime scene of unethical, overweight, corrupt junkie Hank Quinlan brings and instant and exciting conflict between him and Vargas that quickly proceeds into ever increasing rivalry, Quinlan accuses a Mexican of the crime and Vargas is sure of coverup and gets too close to the truth so Quinlan joins forces with local crime boss to impugn his character which puts his wife in danger and heads the film into a breakneck paced finale.
The plot is stunningly original with some of the most interesting characters in any movie i’ve seen in the IMDb250 so far, Welles is intimidating as screen filling Quinlan and dominates the movie with his vile character and personality and Heston is brilliant as the “Mexican” Vargas adding a stunning performance to display the anxiety of his characters situation but it’s an ensemble performance that makes it work so well with even the minor roles filled with interesting and memorable characters including an incredibly creepy performance from motel manager Dennis Weaver, a nice cameo from Marlene Dietrich and especially the Gang members that terrorise Susie Vargas which still haunt me.
The look and pace of the film is wonderful and full of Welles stylistic visual shots with wonderful angles and gloriously staged black and white lighted scenes throughout which showcase his talent as one of the best directors of all time and the stories I’ve read about the post production of this film is stunning as Orson Welles was sacked and it was re-edited and partially re-shot by Director Harry Keller and Welles wrote a 58 page memo asking for changes to be made which were ignored. in 1998 Walter Murch and Universal released as close to the Welles version as they could using his 58 page memo and original material so we get a film we were suppose to see, it’s as close to a Directors cut you could want.
Wonderful film and something very special from Orson Welles. Check out the incredible opening shot below.
No. 89 – All About Eve (1950) – Rating 8.3
It’s an incredible bitchy story about backstage betrayal that grabs you from the opening scene and never lets you go till the end, the performances are incredible from everyone with Bette Davis and Anne Baxter having one of the best on screen rivalries of all time but the outstanding ones for me were from Oscar winner George Sanders as Addison DeWitt the critic who narrates the film with a wonderful charm and cynical outlook on the theatre business and also the excellent Thelma Ritter who stars as Margo’s faithful and down to earth assistant who also sees through Eve’s act from the start.
Overall an excellent film that isn’t normally my taste but I found myself enjoying it more and more the deeper the story unfolded as Eve became one of the most evil female screen characters of all time.
No. 249 – Infernal Affairs (2002) – Rating 7.9
The film Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Departed’ is a remake of and one of the most successful Hong Kong films of all time, it’s one of those films I’m glad I saw shortly after its release but one that I’m gutted I saw as it ruined the shock value of the Departed end scene which had friends jaws dropping in abundance. Infernal Affairs, or its native title Mou Gaan Dou, sits 198 places below its remade counterpart The Departed which is at 51 on our list and is the only film to have both the original and remake on the same list which says something about the films quality in story that has people voting so highly for it.
Infernal affairs follows the story of two moles, Chen Wing Yan (Tony Leung) who is a cop working undercover in the Triads for 10 years and Inspector Lau Kin Ming (Andy Lau) who is a member of the Triads is rising star in the police force and the film covers the cat and mouse chase of finding out who is the Cop and who is the mole. The story works so well as only one member of the police force, Wong Chi Shing (Anthony Wong), knows the undercover cops identity and the mole ensures the gang is always one step in front of the police as he knows there next move.
The crisis in identity for the undercover cop is handled really well by the brilliant Tony Leung who plays a similar role to his undercover cop in John Woo’s Hard Boiled and is equally as enjoyable. The film’s focus is not on violence or brutality of the Triads business but focuses on the gripping and enthralling way of outsmarting your enemy and the paranoia of not knowing who your enemy is and then how far do you go without compromising your identity to the people you work with, it really is some of the most exciting edge of your seat thriller/action/drama films you will ever see.
For me Infernal affairs carries off some of the scenes far better than The Departed like the Police Commander being thrown off the roof is a complete surprise as he hits the roof of a car in front of Chen where as in the Departed we see Martin Sheen falling before he hits the ground which removes the shock factor of a major turning point in the plot as he is the only person who knows his identity, However seeing Leonardo Di Caprio’s head explode when shot as the lift doors open is handled better in the Departed and seeing such a major character and star taken out like that is a truly remarkable and brave moment to have in a film, It’s such a brilliant way to end the film.
I’ve seen the two following films in the series with part two being a prequel showing the young versions of Chen Wing Yan and Lau Kin Ming growing up which is pretty good and the third film that is a sequel and prequel to events of the first film brings the film full circle but seems a bit unnecessary but overall a real achievement in story telling.
You can find Barry’s next update next week, catch you in two.
Don’t forget, you can follow our progress on Twitter at http://twitter.com/baz_mann and http://twitter.com/Gary_Phillips