07/12/05forsaking all others undercover brother
"The Complete, Uncensored Private Snafu" (1990)
This generously-programmed DVD includes material from two previous videos, collecting all of the Private Snafu American military cartoons, released between 1943-46. Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) was placed in charge of this humorous propaganda series, in which a nitwit Army provate illustrates the perils of gossip, poor weapons maintenance, etc. The upper eschelon of the Warner Brothers cartoon producers created these cartoons, including Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Frank Tashin and others. Although the transfers aren't of the greatest quality, technical snags are easy to overlook in light of the great historical (and entertainment) value of the series... Also, since they were intended to only be shown to American servicemen, the jokes are often surprisingly ranchy and sexual (as well as predictably racist, particularly when looking at non-Europeans). This is pretty cool stuff, certainly worth tracking down if you're a 1940s culture buff.
"The Day Of The Dead" (1985)
Yeek! The third of George Romero's high-concept, low-rent zombie masterpieces, in which he explores the psychology of the undead. A small scientific team, with an unstable, volatile military attachment, is holed up -- literally -- in a vast underground government storage facility. Can they figure out what makes the zombies tick before time runs out... Or has it already? Apparently "fans" of the series pan this flick as inferior to the first two... I dunno; it seems pretty much of a piece with the rest of them, and it sheds some interesting new light on the zombies and their potential to develop social relations and culture... Pretty juicy, provocative stuff, if you ask me! The film's also pretty damn gory, at least in the last third act, when the fur really starts to fly; the first part of the film is curiously, atypically placid, other than the thick psychic tensions running amok among the survivors. There's a lot of hammy, even campy acting, but nothing gets in the way of Romero's thoughtful, subversive storytelling. If you ask me, this is a superior horror flick.
"The Story Of Floating Weeds" (1934)
"Bride And Prejudice" (Miramax, 2005)
"Father Goose" (Universal, 1954)
A slight comedy that starts out well enough, but quickly devolves into mildly discouraging fluff. An older, grizzled Cary Grant stars as Walter Eckland, a self-involved ne'er-do-well who is determined to sit out World War Two without risking his own neck. Too bad for him that he's stuck in the middle of the Pacific war theatre, just as the Japanese have routed the Brits, and he is drafted to stay behind on a small atoll as a spotter, tracking the movement of enemy troops. All very well and fine, until Leslie Caron shows up as a schoolmarm with several upper-class girls in tow. From then on it's a dull battle-of-the-sexes scenario with typical flat, old-school misogynistic humor. Grant hams his way through a scanty script, yelling and failing to inject much life into his paper-thin character. To his credit, Trevor Howard treats his role as Eckland's commanding officer with reasonable aplomb. But there wasn't much anyone could do to breathe much life into this clunker. It's watchable, but maybe not the best way to spend your time...
"Le Cercle Rouge" (Janus, 1970)
A cool, captivating crime film from France, starring Alain Delon as a recently paroled convict who falls instantaneously into a no-nonsense world of larceny and murder. The plot is pretty standard fare -- a paroled con, a fugitive and an ex-cop join forces to pull a big heist -- but the production itself is stylish and taut. Good, gripping story... recommended!
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