1950’s Action/Adventure

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The Ten Commandments

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

The Ten Commandments [Blu-ray]

Tagline – It would take more than a man to lead the slaves from bondage. It would take a God.

Starring – Charlton Heston (Moses), Yul Brynner (Rameses), Anne Baxter (Nefretiri), Edward G. Robinson (Dathan), Yvonne De Carlo (Sephora), Debra Paget (Lilia), John Derek (Joshua).

Released – October, 1956

Directed By – Cecil B. DeMille

Produced By – Motion Picture Associates (II)

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – Egypt’s Pharaoh, Rameses I, has passed an edict ordering the killing of all firstborn Hebrew males. In order to save the life of her son the Hebrew woman Yoshebel places the infant in a reed basket and sets it adrift in the Nile.

Bithiah, princess and sister of Pharoah Seti, rescues the infant and decides to adopt the child in spite of the protests of her servent Memnet who recognizes the child as being Hebrew.

As a young man, the child, Moses, becomes a respected general and loses his heart to Nefretiri, the “throne princess,” who is obligated to marry the next pharaoh. While Pharaoh Seti has grown very fond of Moses, Seti’s son Rameses has grown to hate him.

During construction of a treasure city for Pharaoh Seti’s Jubilee, Moses witnesses the cruel treatment given to the slaves who provide the labor. Here, an incident brings him in contact with his birth mother, a fact he does not yet realize. Moses also meets Joshua, a stone-cutter, who tells Moses of a Hebrew God whose coming is awaited by all Hebrew’s.

His experience at the construction site cause Moses to institute reforms concerning the treatment of slaves. His compassion for the slaves angers Rameses who accuses Moses of planning an insurrection and claims that the slaves call Moses the “deliverer” of their prophacy.

Moses explains that the improved treatment of slaves has resulted in increased productivity. This defense is born out by the progress of the project. However, Pharaoh Seti is concerned about the Hebrew’s claims that a “deliverer” is coming. Seti orders Rameses to find out if there really is a Hebrew with this purpose.

Memnet has found proof that Moses is Hebrew and shows it to Nefretiri threatening to expose him to the pharoah. Nefretiri kills Memnet in order to keep the secret, but does reveal the truth to Moses. In disbelief, Moses, looks for the truth himself and finds out that he is really a Hebrew.

Standing up for his new heritage, Moses is cast out of Egypt. This breaks the heart’s of both Pharaoh Seti and Bithiah, but very much pleases Rameses.

Moses heads for the desert where he begins his new life. Here he sees the Burning Bush on Mount Sinai, and after approaching it, hears the voice of God. He has been chosen and commanded by God to return to Egypt and free the Hebrews from slavery.

In Egypt, Pharaoh Seti has died and Rameses has taken over and strengthened the hold over the Hebrews. Moses challenges the rule of Rameses and demands that the slaves be freed. Denied this demand, Moses warns of a plague that will fall upon all of Egypt.

The plague comes and brings death with it. Death that includes the son of Rameses who is now a broken man. Rameses tells Moses to take his people and go. As the Hebrews begin their exodus from Egypt, Nefretiri goads Rameses into a rage causing him to again be taken over by hate.

Rameses orders his troops to assemble and they leave to catch up with Moses and the Hebrews with the intent of killing them all.

NOTABLE: The Ten Commandments won the Academy Award for Best Effects, Special Effects, and received nominations for Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color, Best Cinematography, Color, Best Costume Design, Color, and Best Sound, Recording.

In 1999, this motion picture was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

The Ten Commandments ranked #10 on the American Film Institutes 2008 list of the ten greatest films ever.

To give the effect of sandstorms, Cecil B. DeMille used the engine blasts from Egyptian Air Force planes.

During production, Cecil B. DeMille suffered a heart attack. He would only rest for two days and, against doctors orders, returned to complete the film. The Ten Commandments would be the last film produced and directed by DeMille.

The Ten Commandments was the highest-grossing film of 1956, earning a profit of $185 million dollars. Adjusted for inflation, today that figure would be well over a billion dollars.

Though he had some success with his jazz score of The Man With the Golden Arm, this was the first major project for legendary composer Elmer Bernstein.

Charlton Heston’s newborn son, Fraser, portrayed the baby Moses.

Cecil B. DeMille’s first choice to play Moses was William Boyd. However, Boyd selflessly turned the role down feeling that his popularity as “Hopalong Cassidy” would be a detriment to the film.

The famous scene depicting the parting of the Red Sea was shot by pouring 300,000 gallons of water into a tank and then playing the film backward.

DeMille’s directing challenges were immense and included the organizing of 14,000 extras and 15,000 animals.

There was a long-standing joke on the set during production of the film. It was said that if the picture were to be a success it was due to Cecil B. DeMille, if it were to fail then that would be the fault of God.

Personal Note: The Ten Commandments is my favorite biblical epic. This VistaVision production is a masterpiece of eye-candy with spectacular use of color and special effects and can be considered nothing less than visually stunning.

The cast is excellent and it was an injustice that this motion picture lost out on the Best Picture Oscar to Around the World in 80 Days.


Around the World in 80 Days

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Around the World in 80 Days (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Tagline – It’s a wonderful world, if you’ll only take the time to go around it!

Starring – David Niven (Phileas Fogg), Cantinflas (Passepartout), Shirley MacLaine (Princess Aouda), Robert Newton (Inspector Fix).

Released – October, 1956

Directed By – Michael Anderson

Produced By – Michael Todd Company

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – Based on the 1873 novel by Jules Verne, this is the story of English gentleman Phileas Fogg and his belief that he can travel around the world in the unheard of time of 80 days.

Fogg is a member of the Reform Club and this claim draws nothing but skepticism from the other members of the prestigious club. Fogg agrees to accept both the challenge and the very large wager (20,000 Pounds) presented to him by the other club members.

The journey will start out with a train ride and Fogg will be accompanied by his valet Passepartout. First stop, Paris.

Back in England, Fogg comes under increasing suspicion regarding the theft of 55,000 Pounds from the Bank of England. Scotland Yard assigns Inspector Fix to arrest Fogg. Meanwhile in Paris, Fogg learns of an avalanche that is blocking his intended way of travel to their next stop in Spain.

The best available option now is a hot air baloon. What follows is a constant series of adventures for our world travelers. Passepartout will find himself fighting a bull in Spain, while he and Fogg wait for the use of a fast boat for the next leg of their trip.

Back in London the quest to circle the globe in record breaking time has fueled a betting obsession. Now in Bombay and riding the rails, Fogg and his valet are stranded on railway tracks that lead to nowhere.

A premature end to the journey? Not at all, as Fogg purchases an elephant to carry them through the jungle. The pair find themselves in a situation that requires the rescue of the young widow Princess Aouda who is sentenced to burn to death.

The adventurous journey continues with stops in Calcutta, Siam, Hong Kong, Japan, San Francisco, and the area known as the Wild West where they are attacked by Indians. They board the wrong boat for their return to London and find themselves on the way to Argentina.

To make matters worse, Fogg is about to run out of money and it seems that all will be lost when they finally come up with a plan to get them back to London in time to win the wager… thanks to an extra day provided by the International Date Line.

And, just when you think things are looking up, Fogg and Passepartout find themselves caught and arrested by Inspector Fix.

NOTABLE: Around the World in 80 Days won 5 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Writing, Best Screenplay – Adapted, Best Cinematography, Color, Best Film Editing, and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. The film was also nominated for Best Director (Michael Anderson), Best Costume Design, Color, and Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Color.

This motion picture includes cameo appearances by over 40 celebrities and is generally considered the film that created the “cameo role.” In all, the cast, including extras, totaled 68,894 people, and 7,959 animals.

The barge used for the scene in Bangkok actually belonged to the King of Thailand who loaned it to producer Michael Todd.

Around the World in 80 Days set a new record for the number of costumes required with 74,685.

This motion picture ran for over three consecutive years at the Rivoli Theatre in New York, from 1956 to 1959.

Mexican star Cantinflas was the wealthiest film star in the world during the mid-1950’s. His scene fighting a bull was completed without a stunt double. Cantinflas had bullfighting experience and wanted to do the scene himself.

Over a dozen airlines provided service to the cast and crew. Before filming was completed a total of over 4,000,000 miles were traveled.

Moby Dick

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Moby Dick

Tagline – From the immortal adventure classic… of whaling men, their ships, and the sea!

Starring – Gregory Peck (Captain Ahab), Richard Basehart (Ishmael), Leo Genn (Starbuck), Harry Andrews (Stubb), Friedrich von Ledebur (Queequeg).

Released – June, 1956

Directed By – John Huston

Produced By – Moulin Productions Inc.

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – Rescued at sea, clinging to a floating coffin, is Ishmael. He is the lone survivor of a sunken whaler, and he has a harrowing tale to tell.

Ishmael is a young merchant marine who had decided to sign on with a whaling ship out of New Bedford, Mass. Together with the heavily tattooed Polynesian harpooner Queequeg, they join the crew of the Pequod.

The Pequod will be under the charge of Captain Ahab, who the ship’s owners consider to be a man with a solid reputation and legendary experience. Before the voyage, the townspeople and the seamen gather for a Sunday service where the pastor gives what will be a prophetic sermon on Jonah and the whale.

While the sermon is comforting, Ishmael and Queequeg’s encounter with an apparant drunk is not. The man, who calls himself Elijah, tells the friends that the day they smell land, where there is no land, is the day Ahab will die, then return and beckon others to follow him.

The ship sets sail, but as of yet the men have not seen their captain, as Ahab, to this point, has remained in his quarters. A few days into the journey Captain Ahab finally makes an appearance. He is an imposing man with a haunted look in his eyes. His face is scarred on one side from his hairline down to his jaw. One leg is missing from the knee down and replaced with a peg made of whale bone.

He gives an emotional speech to the crew and although they believe they are on a normal whaling mission, he promises an ounce of gold to the crewman who spots the great white whale Moby Dick. Unknown to the crew is the fact that, to Captain Ahab, this journey has only one purpose… to find Moby Dick and kill him. It is this great white whale that is responsible for the captain’s disfigurement.

Years of studying the migratory habits of whales has led Ahab to believe that Moby Dick will be in the area of Bikini Atoll. The journey of the Pequod continues in that direction and all seems normal to the crew. They have encountered and killed a number of whales, salvaged the carcass, sliced the blubber, and rendered the oil.

Passing another ship, Ahab hears of the sighting of a white whale and immediately changes course to head for the area of the sighting. This change does not sit well with the crew as they were achieving great success in the hunt for whale oil. They consider going against Captain Ahab, but end up relenting to his will.

It is now clear that this trip is no more than Captain Ahab’s self-destructive obsession to find and kill the great white whale. The Captain’s obsession is so strong that he is willing to sacrifice everything including his ship, the lives of his crew, and even his own life.

The fateful encounter between Captain Ahab and Moby Dick will soon take place.

NOTABLE: Moby Dick is an adaptation of the great Herman Melville novel of the same name.

The whale, Moby Dick, proved to not only be a problem for the seaman, but also for the production crew. The fake whale used continually was breaking down and sinking, requiring it to be rebuilt many times at great cost of both time and money.

Orson Welles, who portrayed Father Mapple, had a little stage fright during filming. This problem was solved by director John Huston who kept a bottle of brandy nearby for whenever Welles felt the need to calm his nerves.

The Starbuck’s coffee chain took its name from the character Starbuck in the film.


The High and the Mighty

Friday, January 7th, 2011

The High and the Mighty (Two-Disc Collector’s Edition)

Tagline – The 2-Year Best-Seller Sensation! The Year’s Greatest Cast!

Starring – John Wayne (Dan Roman), Claire Trevor (May Holst), Laraine Day (Lydia Rice), Robert Stack (John Sullivan), Jan Sterling (Sally McKee).

Released – July, 1954

Directed By – William A. Wellman

Produced By – Warner Brothers/Wayne-Fellows Productions

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – The experiences and interactions of both passengers and crew on a flight from Honolulu to San Francisco. Midway of the journey the plane develops engine problems that result in a severe fuel leak.

The first half of the film presents the individual backgrounds of passengers and crew; developing each as individual personalities and describing their relationships. As the plane approaches completion of the first half of the trip, the point of no return, an engine fire causes a fuel leak that soon causes terror among the passengers.

Capt. John Sullivan orders the crew to prepare to ditch the airplane into the ocean. This is a risky move almost certain to result in a total loss of lives. Veteran co-pilot and First Officer Dan Roman believes that they will have just enough fuel to complete the trip and should not ditch the plane.

Roman’s judgement is questioned as a result of his tragic past as a pilot. He had once piloted a plane that crashed, leaving him with a permanent injury and killing all the passengers including his own wife and son.

The tension in the cockpit adds stress to the already panicking passengers and comes to a head when Capt. Sullivan shows signs of fear of flying, a condition that can affect pilots who have logged too many flight hours.

Roman assumes command and, in an effort to lighten the load of the plane, orders the passengers to dump all of their baggage. The passengers are again instructed on the use of lifejackets and lifeboats as they prepare for the worst.

After recalculating their fuel supply and weather conditions, they believe they can just make it to San Francisco. That is until they realize that they have eleven additional minutes of flight time then they had originally believed.

NOTABLE: The High and the Mighty received an Oscar for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture and was also nominated for Best Director (William A. Wellman), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Claire Trevor), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jan Sterling), Best Film Editing, and Best Music, Original Song.

This motion picture served as a “template” for later disaster movies.

This was John Wayne’s first film in CinemaScope.

Actress Jan Sterling shaved her eyebrows for her role in the film, and for some reason they never grew back.

Because the film had no main character, and was more of an ensemble acting experience, many big names refused to appear in the movie. They included, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers, Ida Lupino, and Dorothy McGuire.

Actor Spencer Tracy was originally cast as Dan Roman, but turned the part down after hearing how difficult director Wellman was to work with. It was also suspected that Tracy, a Democrat, did not care to work with Wayne’s production company.

The Naked Jungle

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Naked Jungle

Tagline – He feared only two things on earth…the MARABUNTA…Nature’s deadliest force, and his fiery New Orleans bride!

Starring – Eleanor Parker (Joanna Leiningen), Charlton Heston (Christopher Leiningen), Abraham Sofaer (Incacha), William Conrad (Commissioner).

Released – March, 1954

Directed By – Byron Haskin

Produced By – Paramount Pictures

Distributed By – Paramount Pictures

Description – Just after the turn of the century, young, tough, and stubborn Christopher Leiningen came to South America. He built levees around thousands of acres that bordered the Rio Negro river in order to build a chocolate plantation.

Now at 34, he feels something is missing from his life. With little knowledge of women, he decides to send for a mail-order bride.

Arriving from New Orleans is Joanna. Beautiful and independent, Joanna proves to be much more than Christopher had anticipated. If he was expecting just another subordinate, he was wrong. Her strong personality causes Christopher to treat her coldly and to refuse any attempts she makes to become friendly. When Christopher learns that she is a widow, he totally rejects her.

As Joanna waits for a boat to return her to the United States, they learn of an approaching invasion of army ants to the area. They are called the Marabunta, and will strike in a few days destroying everything in their path.

Christopher refuses to evacuate and give up everything he has worked so hard to build. Joanna also decides to stay and help Christopher try to save his plantation. However, where the Marabunta pass, only the naked jungle remains.

NOTABLE: The unique sound made, as the ants devour everything in their path, was created by stirring a straw in a glass of water filled with crushed ice and amplifying the sound.

During the scene when Heston’s character was to pour oil on himself in order to repel the ants, syrup was used. As it turned out, the syrup attracted every insect for miles.