A Meditation on Iron Man 3 – Or Why Sequels Suck


I won’t frame this post as a movie review.  I won’t synopsize the plot or provide a detailed opinion on it as a movie.  Instead, I’ll use watching the movie as the launching pad for a rant.  Because rants are fun (for the writer).  Unloading on a movie that disappoints and especially one that trades on the good reputation of an earlier installment feels like a noble action.

I’ll start out by saying I really enjoyed the original Iron Man movie.  Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges and the supporting cast; Terrence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow, provided plenty of entertaining content to this comedy/adventure movie.  That movie was fun, exciting and highly entertaining.

Alternatively, Iron Man 3 is none of those things.  It’s a complete waste of time.  The plot is confusing and essentially meaningless.  All of the characters are annoying and uncompelling.  Even Downey’s Tony Stark is surprisingly uninteresting and poorly written.  He is suffering from anxiety attacks based on his experiences in the Avengers movie that occurred before this film.  He has several of them during the movie and they just seem so contrived and pathetic that it feels like really lazy writing.  So, by the end of this movie, I’m feeling fairly unhappy with the time I’ve wasted watching this crapfest.

So, this is what you get with these movie franchises.  The first one is probably very good.  There’s good writing, good acting and an original idea.  But two or even three sequels down the road you end up with a crappy director, hack writers and a much less talented supporting cast.  And voila, an awful movie.

Now it doesn’t have to be this way.  There have been movie series where the quality was more or less maintained.  Downey, himself for instance, was in one such.  His two Sherlock Holmes films were almost equally interesting and entertaining.  But in general, Hollywood has an equation where sequels are a money-making strategy where quality is abandoned after installment one.

So, what’s my point?  Well, there isn’t one.  Except that I was so annoyed watching this movie that I wanted to carp and moan about my outraged sensibilities.  Robert Downey Jr. is an amusing actor who can carry a picture to great effect if you give him a decent plot and some good lines to recite while he mugs for the camera.  It would have been entirely possible to allow his character to carry this movie without any expensive supporting cast if they had only invested in an actual story!

And so, the takeaway is “caveat emptor.”  Do your homework when it comes to sequels and make sure you don’t pay for a movie that is just a pale shadow of its predecessor.  Luckily, I watched this for free on my cable service.  But I did waste more than two hours of my, at this point, limited time left on this mortal coil.

And shame on you Robert Downey Jr.  You’re better than that.  Now go make the third Sherlock Holmes movie.  And don’t let them phone it in!

The End is in Sight

Tuesday is the end of my ten-day ordeal.  A Chinese water torture of sorts.  Tomorrow will feel like being beaten for twelve hours with a bag full of oranges but knowing that only a single day stands between me and freedom makes me anxious to get it started.  I anticipate catastrophic failure, mob violence and accusations of mopery and dopery.  But it’s as if I can see the daylight shining through the hole punched through the Earth by the screaming asteroid of doom.  So, I am almost giddy with anticipation.  Bring it on, bring it on, bring it on.

I read most of the news today and other than that Miller Beer manifesto for sucking all the joy out of men drinking beer, I didn’t see anything all that exciting.  There were all the lefty rags admonishing Trump and DeSantis, “Let’s you and him fight!”  And there was that idiot Durham with his 300-page report confirming that the FBI started the Russia-gate investigation without any evidence and yet without any criminal or professional consequences for the conspirators.  There were all the economic warnings of the impending financial meltdown.  There was Biden claiming he was going to prevent the millions of immigrants that he invited to the border from coming in, somehow.  There was the ridiculous budget battle between McCarthy and Biden.

And all sorts of other apocalyptic headlines.  But none of them were ready for prime time quite yet.  I’m curious to see if McCarthy scares Biden into creating a budget.  That would be a major accomplishment.  But we’ll have to wait.

The rest of it is just stuffing to separate the beginning and end of these news sites.  It’s something to keep these journalists off the crack pipe.  Or is it fentanyl now?

I was getting Camera Girl some cold medicine at Wally-mart and I went past the $5 bin of DVDs.  And I spotted a copy of John Wick 1.  Now I saw it when it came out and kinda, sorta enjoyed it.  I mean, it’s so cartoonish that I enjoyed it as a cartoon.  And when the second one came out, I rented it.  And it was too cartoonish to enjoy.  The volume of bullets flying and the sheer numbers of people being shot is dizzying.  It almost gives you motion sickness.  I missed the third one.  And now there’s a fourth one coming out.  So, seeing that copy in the remainder bin of venerable old John Wick 1 made me feel nostalgic for the comfortable 5X speed that I remember from that classic.  After my ordeal is over tomorrow, I’m going to find two hours or whatever it was and watch Keanu Reeves do whatever it is that he does in motion pictures.  Sure, it’s stupid and sure it’s not acting but so what?  Where is there acting anymore?  Certainly not on tv.

Of late Camera Girl has been watching some of the innumerable and interchangeable cop and fireman series that are sprinkled across prime-time network tv.  Once in a while she’ll have one on while I’m in the room and recently I’ve discovered what these shows have become in the last ten years or so.  They’re soap operas.  The most important component of the plot is the girl cops or fire girls or NCIS girls emoting about their feeling to their male counterparts or talking to the other girls about which boy they’re in love with.  Honestly, this is what the women of America think a police precinct or firehouse or SWAT team is all about.  It’s completely unwatchable and I have chastised Camera Girl for her horrible taste in entertainment but being a girl herself she can’t see the problem.  So, I’ve asked her to find some time when I’m out of the house or in a coma to watch this sort of dreck.

So Wednesday I’ll resurface and try to have something somewhat clever to say.  But for now, it’s horror and anticipation that holds me in sway.  Enjoy your Tuesday.  We who are about to die salute you.

Blow-up (1966) – A Movie Review

I usually include a spoiler warning with my reviews.  But this movie is so awful that if I can stop you from seeing it by giving away the plot, I would consider that an act of mercy.

The only claim to fame I will grant this movie is as a source for the homage that Mike Meyers did of it whenever he did his photographer bit in the Austin Powers movies.  The absurd behavior that he displayed as he photographed the groovy models in those movies is almost an accurate portrayal of the Thomas character in this movie.  And that is the only good thing I can say for Blow-up.

The movie represents about a day in the life of London photographer “Thomas.”  He’s played by someone named David Hemmings whom I don’t recognize.  There are two actresses in the movie that I have heard of Vanessa Redgrave and Sarah Miles but the only notable part of their performances is they take off their shirts.  In fact, most of the main female characters end up topless at some point.  But I’ll tell you right up front it didn’t help much.  Now I’m not one to disparage the female form in cinema but these attempts at partial nudity were painful.  This was during a time (the 1960s) when fashion models were expected to have the physique of famine victims.  You can literally count their vertebrae when they turn away from the camera.  This is not erotic.  It’s mostly silly and at times annoying because of how clumsy these scenes are.  I never thought I’d fast forward through a female nude scene but so help me, I did.

Anyway, the plot.  Thomas moves around photographing in a working-class area of London then to his home studio then to an antique store where he is attempting to buy an old wooden propeller then to a park where he photographs a man and woman kissing.  This last scene is the center of the plot.  The woman sees him taking her picture and demands that he give her the film.  He refuses and heads back home.  Eventually she finds him and demands the film again.  When he refuses, she, of course, takes off her shirt.  Now for the next twenty minutes we mostly see Vanesa Redgrave’s back.  Eventually he takes his shirt off and then he gives her what she thinks is the film of her in the park and she leaves.

Now we find out that he kept the roll of film from the park.  He prints it and after a very, very long sequence of him blowing up portions of the photos we can tell that there was a man hiding in the trees with a gun and eventually we see that the man who was kissing the girl was shot by the gunman.  Now why Thomas didn’t hear a shot isn’t explained but then again who cares.

Then Thomas goes to visit a friend whose wife is in love with him.  Then he goes to see the body that’s still in the field.  Then he comes home and finds that his house has been ransacked and his film and prints of the park have been stolen.  Then he goes to a party where the Yardbirds are playing and then he goes to another party where his agent is smoking pot.  When he wakes up the next morning in the party house he heads over to the park and the body is gone.

After that he watches some mimes pretending to play tennis on an actual tennis court.  Thomas even throws their pretend tennis ball back to them when it goes over the fence.

The End.

This movie is purported to be an iconic cinematic masterpiece.

It ain’t.

If I can convince you to never watch this movie, I will feel that I have struck a blow for humanity.  You will have saved two hours of your life.  If in the course of this website’s existence a hundred people decide not to watch Blow-up two hundred precious hours of human life will have been saved.  I will count that as my great gift to mankind.  Instead watch the first Austin Powers movie and enjoy his parody of Thomas.

Sicario (2015) – A Movie Review

Sicario is about a United States law enforcement team’s efforts to capture the head of a Mexican drug cartel.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Kate Macer (played by Emily Blunt) and Reggie Wayne are FBI agents who discover a cartel safe house in Arizona filled with corpses.  They become drawn into a task force headed by CIA Operative Matt Graver (played by Josh Brolin).  But also involved is a Mexican national, Alejandro Gillick (played by Benicio del Toro) whose precise role is unexplained.

The task force heads into Juarez, Mexico to bring into US custody Guillermo Diaz whose brother Manuel is a lieutenant in the Sonora cartel.  During the return drive a contingent of cartel foot soldiers attempts an ambush but is overwhelmed by the special forces soldiers assigned to the task force.  But Macer is troubled by the unorthodox and secretive aspects of the operation.  She surmises that Gillick is not a legitimate law enforcement agent and she suspects that the operation is really a CIA hit squad that will be violating US laws by operating in the United States.

Macer and Wayne meet a local policeman they know named Ted in a bar.  She invites Ted into her room but she discovers he’s on the cartel payroll and attempts to arrest him.  He overpowers and begins to strangle her.  But Gillick appears in the nick of time and after some “persuasion” Ted provides the task force with the names of the other American policemen on the cartel payroll.

The “interrogation” of Guillermo reveals that a tunnel is used by the Sonora Cartel and a mission is planned to capture Manuel Diaz there.  During the operation Macer witnesses Gillick executing Mexican nationals and taking a cartel-owned Mexican federale as prisoner.  When she attempts to stop him, he shoots her twice on her body armor and warns her to never point a gun at him again.

Macer is outraged by Gillick’s actions but when she complains to Graver, he warns her that the war against the drug cartels had become a real war and the CIA uses extreme tactics.  He also tells her that Gillick’s wife and daughter were executed in a horrible manner by Manuel Diaz’s boss, Fausto Alarcón.  Gillick is intent on revenging himself on Alarcón and Graver intends to use this revenge to accomplish the destruction of the Sonora Cartel.

And that’s exactly what Gillick does.  He uses the captured Mexican policeman to pull over Manuel Diaz’s car and then he uses Diaz to get himself into Alarcón’s guarded compound.  Finally he finds Alarcón eating dinner with his wife and young children.  Gillick talks about the murder of his family and then murders Alarcón’s family.  After a decent interval for his victim to suffer the loss, he shoots him too.

Sometime after this mission Gillick sneaks into Macer’s apartment and at gunpoint he orders her to sign a document confirming that Gillick’s team had followed all US laws during its mission.  At first, she refuses but when he puts the gun to her head, he tells her that to refuse would be to commit suicide.  She signs the paper.  He tells her to find a small town to live in where the law still exists.  He says, “This is a land of wolves and the wolves will kill you.”  Or something like that.

Gillick leaves and when he is across the street she comes out on her balcony with a gun.  Gillick turns to her to give her the shot but she lowers her gun and he walks away.

This movie has several problems.  The biggest one is the actress playing Macer.  She probably weighs seventy pounds sopping wet but she’s part of an assault team taking down narcotrafficantes left and right.  It’s patently absurd.  Next, the episode with Ted, the rogue cop is too contrived.  Also, Macer seems at the same time drawn to this highly unorthodox mission but also shocked to see commando operations used against foreign nationals attacking the United States.  But putting all those things aside, this is a very exciting action film.  The acting and action are highly entertaining and the plot resolution is satisfying.  I highly recommend this movie to fans of action films.

Worst Movies of the 21st Century List

The Hollywood Reporter is a rag that’s been around forever and purports to know something about film.  They’ve put out a list of what they claim are the “best” films of the 21st Century.  If you go through this list from start to finish you’ll most say, “Huh?”  Which is a good thing.  Most of this dreck explores the neuroses of sexual deviants trying to figure out why they are desperately unhappy and at odds with normal human experience.  Good luck with enjoying that with a tub of popcorn.  There are one or two movies that were entertaining or meaningful but as a list to choose entertainment it’s a joke, a bad joke.

One of these days I need to publish some best movie lists by categories and put these professional critics to well deserved shame.

Hud (1963) – A Movie Review

What kind of movie should Hud be called.  It’s not a clear thing.  I guess I’d call it a character driven story about an amoral man.  Paul Newman plays Hud Bannon the son of a small-time Texas cattle rancher Homer Bannon (played by Melvyn Douglas.  They live in a small house on their ranch along with Hud’s nephew Lonnie.  And rounding out the cast is the housekeeper Alma Brown played by Patricia Neal.

Hud is a handsome, personable young man who spends his time drinking and sleeping with the various unfaithful married women of the small town they live near.  In the opening scene Lonnie is searching around town for Hud to come look at a dead cow at the ranch.  When he finds him at the house of one of his women the husband shows up and Hud tells the man that Lonnie was the one who was with his wife and Hud quickly escapes with Lonnie while claiming that he will punish Lonnie for his behavior.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

This sets the tone for the whole movie.  Hud is completely irresponsible and selfish and he really doesn’t care how his behavior effects anyone or anything.  The movie shows Lonnie learning about his uncle by following him around and experiencing how exciting, reckless and dangerous his uncle is.  We gather from his speech that Homer has long ago written off his son as a hopeless case and shows cold distaste for him.  Part of this is based on Hud having killed Lonnie’s father in a drunken car accident years ago.    Alma is somewhat charmed by Hud’s attentions but she is careful not to encourage him because she senses his callousness and irresponsibility.

By the end of the movie the depth of Hud’s selfishness and disloyalty is on full display.  When the ranch is in crisis because the herd has to be destroyed because of disease, Hud immediately calls on a lawyer to have his father declared incompetent so he can turn the property into cash.  And in another scene, in a drunken debauch, Hud attempts to rape Alma and is only stopped when Lonnie pulls him off of her.  Hud barely restrains himself from beating Lonnie to a pulp.

The story ends with Homer dying from a fall from his horse but it seems the case that he no longer wanted to live.  Alma has already left town to escape Hud and in the final scene Hud comes back from the funeral to see Lonnie walking away down the road to continue his life without his heartless uncle.

I will admit that this doesn’t sound like a promising plot.  But the four principals provide truly excellent characterizations and the plot draws you in to see how this fraught situation will resolve.  Newman’s character is both unsympathetic and mesmerizing.  Patricia Neal’s Alma is humorous and bittersweet.  Hud’s father and nephew are also played very convincingly.  When the movie ends, and it ends abruptly, I guess the feeling you’re left with is anger.  Now that’s a strange way to leave an audience but at the same time there’s an honesty about the ending.  Many people have probably known someone like Hud, a charming sociopath who leaves a path of destruction in his wake.

This movie may not be everyone’s cup of tea.  I’m recommending it because I think it’s a good film.  If my description hasn’t scared you off give it a try.

Master And Commander – The Far Side of the World (2003) – A Movie Review

I’d heard a good deal about this movie from a friend of mine who was of old Yankee blood and a sailor.  I finally got a chance to see it last week.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

The story follows the adventures of the crew of the HMS Surprise during the Napoleonic Wars as its captain, Jack Aubrey, (played by Russell Crowe) chases a French privateer, the heavy frigate Acheron, from the coastal waters of Brazil, around the Cape Horn and into the tropical waters of the Pacific.

Because the Acheron has a much more substantial hull the Surprise is heavily damaged during their first engagement off Brazil while the Acheron is virtually undamaged.  Aubrey foregoes a lengthy refitting in port and instead makes hasty repairs at sea while doing his best to pursue the Acheron.  But because of the Acheron’s superior battle capability it becomes a cat and mouse game where the Surprise is sometimes the pursued.

And while all this goes on, we meet the rest of the crew.  The ship’s surgeon, Stephen Maturin is played by Paul Bettany.  The doctor not only can saw off a midshipman’s arm as needed but he’s also the captain’s accompanist in their musical string duo.  I kid you not.  The crew and the officers have a complicated relationship with strict discipline and primitive superstition both playing a part.

Eventually through luck and guile Aubrey engineers the attack on the Acheron and we get an epic sea battle with the Surprise’s crew boarding the Acheron.  And the Surprise is victorious and captain and crew prepare for the business of bringing the captured Acheron to port.

So, what’s the story with this movie?  Why do some people rave about it?  The first thing I noticed was that the movie successfully captured the claustrophobic crowdedness of these sailing ships.  You can feel the lack of air in the hold where the crew sleeps cheek to jowl.  It feels real.  Less like Hollywood’s version of the 19th century English navy.  Right down to some of the midshipman being essentially boys of twelve years or so.  Then there’s Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Aubrey.  Crowe is a damn good actor.  He makes the captain a real figure.  You can believe in him.  And Aubrey and Maturin’s friendship and clashes also ring true.  The man of action and the man of science confronting their conflicting priorities as best they can.  And lastly, the battle scenes are very well done and highly exciting.  The only part of the story that I had trouble with was the final battle.  The boarding scene was intentionally chaotic.  Such an event would have to be.  But honestly at many points I couldn’t tell which side was doing what to whom.  It didn’t ruin the film but I thought it could have been a little less indecipherable.  I enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to lovers of adventure and students of history.

What’s Really Wrong With the Oscars?

I don’t know why I would read an article in Vox magazine entitled “This is the most populist Oscars in a long time.  So why doesn’t it feel like it?   I guess it’s because sometimes I wonder what Hollywood thinks about its own destruction.  I really should stop wondering.  But anyway.

This article is centered around a recent Saturday Night Live skit about how no one can name any movies in the last five years.

“This is an interesting problem for me, a film critic, to think about. I watch more movies in a year than some people watch in a lifetime, and hear about hundreds more. The situation is different for most ordinary folks. In the SNL sketch, Yang asks Pascal to “name three movies from the past five years.” Stunned by the challenge, Pascal ventures, “Oh, wow. Three? Okay.” He contemplates, and comes up with Top Gun. Then he tries another: “The Hangover?”

“That was 20 years ago,” Yang says.

“The Night … Man,” Pascal says.

“Sounds like you’re just saying words. Come on, all you need is one,” Yang coaxes. “Can’t you just name one more movie?”

“Nope,” Pascal says, resigned.

“That’s right!” Yang crows, jubilantly. “Nope! You won the speed round!””

So, this is supposed to be funny but it’s just reality.  Hollywood can no longer make a good movie.  At this point if one happens it’s an accident.  All we’re left with are sequels and superheroes.  When they stray away from those mainstays we end up with a dreary story about tortured people that have some affliction like transgenderism or Tourette’s syndrome who we’re supposed to cheer on as they bravely struggle to force the world to struggle along with them.  Or maybe it’s a genre film; science fiction or film noir where the protagonists are transgender or have Tourette’s syndrome and the people who aren’t transgender or don’t have Tourette’s syndrome are the evil villains.  Or it’s a story about lesbian or gay love.  Or it’s a documentary about a woman who was being kept down by “the man” but now she’s the head of a multi-national non-profit that makes bean bag furniture for everyday people.  Or it’s a documentary about a mostly peaceful riot during the Summer of George Floyd.  Or best of all, maybe it’ll be another story about slavery in the antebellum South.  What a joy that would be!

But, no!  The authoress then reveals the real problem, it’s just poor marketing!  So, get that.  In a world in which you are bombarded with ads on every device you can possibly own, on every site you enter, giant media companies aren’t able to tell you they have a movie coming out.

“The abundance of options and possibilities tend to strip the context and intentionality away from the viewing experience; you didn’t have to talk to your friends about what movie you wanted to see, buy a ticket, and create an experience out of it. Now it all just flows toward you, content in an endless stream.”

This is gibberish.  I suspect this woman was dropped on her head at some point in the past and never recovered her wits.  Or maybe she thinks we were.  Of course, people heard about movies from friends.  The problem is all the movies are now unwatchable so our friends don’t have anything to tell us.  It’s like what happened to broadcast television.  The profit model changed so they stopped making things that were good and filled up the time with reality shows and police procedurals where the police are all young women who have really nice hair and clothes and only arrest straight white men who are keeping the BIPoCs, LGBTQ and women “down.”

There are no good movies to see.  Even the superhero movies have become infested with woke characters and plots.  And that why Top Gun made a bazillion dollars last year.  It was an old-fashioned movie with a plot and likeable characters and it didn’t show you anything weird that you had to make believe you liked.

“It’s okay if you haven’t seen most of the Oscar nominees, or even heard of them. In 2023, that probably means you live a normal, well-balanced life, one full of going outside to toss around a softball and maybe, I don’t know, reading books and whatever normal people do. But if you find yourself wondering why you can’t name three movies that came out in the past five years, remember, it’s not just the movies’ fault — and it’s a fixable problem, with a little effort.”

It’s not a fixable problem because Hollywood cannot be fixed.  It has been in a death spiral and that’s now approaching impact.  When it splats it will leave a lot of stupid emotional people without jobs.  Good.

It can only be replaced by something willing to provide entertainment that people are willing to pay for and willing to watch.  And that is why no one with half a brain will be watching the Oscars this year or any other year.  Pass the popcorn.



Blood on the Moon (1948) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

“Blood on the Moon” is a western that manages to transcend some of the cliches of the genre.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

When we first meet Robert Mitchum as Jim Garry, he’s riding through an Indian reservation to reach an old partner of his, Tate Riling (played by Robert Preston).  He’s intercepted by a cattle outfit run by John Lufton.  He tells Garry that Riling is trying to prevent Lufton from getting his cattle off the reservation in time to avoid their confiscation by the government over a voided contract.

When Garry finally reaches Riling, he finds out what kind of job he’s been summoned to perform.  Riling is in cahoots with a federal agent named Pindalest that procures the cattle for the reservation.  They’re trying to force Lufton to sell his cattle for pennies on the dollar and then sell them to Pindalest at the full price with a goodly bribe to Pindalest.  Out of the huge profit Riling will cut Garry in for ten thousand dollars for being the gun hand to make sure nothing interferes with Riling’s plan.

When Riling and his men and the homesteaders that he’s fooled into helping him attack Lufton’s herd they manage to scatter it thoroughly which should be enough to guarantee that Riling’s plan will succeed.  But one of the homesteaders, Kris Bardon (played by Walter Brennan) loses his son in the stampede and Garry decides the whole plan is too dirty for him to go on with.  He quits Riling’s crew and manages to save Lufton’s life when two of Riling’s men were preparing to gun him down.

To further confuse the situation Lufton has two daughters.  Carol Lufton is in love with Riling and has been providing him with information about her father’s plans and actions.  Amy Lufton starts out hating Garry but over the course of the movie as she sees his actions are well-intentioned, she changes her mind and comes to trust him.

When Garry quits the crew Riling goes looking for him and they have a huge brawl in a cantina.  Garry finally knocks Riling out.  When one of Riling’s henchmen gets ready to execute a defenseless Garry, Kris Bardon shoots the gun hand.  Now Garry goes to Lufton and reveals the whole plan about Riling conspiring with Pindalest to steal the herd.  They come up with a plan to defeat it.

Garry goes to Pindalest as if he’s still working with Riling and tells him to suspend the government’s seizure order on Lufton’s herd and creates a ruse that has Pindalest go with him out into the mountains to give Lufton enough time to gather the herd and bring it off the reservation.  The ruse succeeds up to a point but then an Indian whose friends with Riling tips him off that Pindalist is being stalled by Garry.  Riling and his men come after Garry and in an altercation, Garry is stabbed and Pindalist is rescued.

A badly wounded Garry escapes to Kris Bardon’s cabin where Amy Lufton joins them to nurse Garry’s wound.  Soon Riling, Pindalist and one other gunman show up and surround the cabin while Bardon and Amy hold them off with rifles.  That night Garry, sensing that eventually the outlaws would manage to overcome the defense, tells Bardon and Amy to provide a diversion while he slips out the door and sneaks behind the gunmen and takes them on.

He manages to pistol whip Pindalist into unconsciousness and shoot the other gunman.  And in the final confrontation he shoots it out with his former friend Riling.  Garry is victorious and he reappears at the cabin.  Later John Lufton and his men appear at the cabin.  They take Pindalist into custody for delivery to the marshal.  And as the drama ends Amy tells her father of her plans to marry Jim Garry.

Although this western was made during the heyday of that genre, this production differed substantially from the typical black hat, white hat conflict.  Mitchum’s character is more reminiscent of the characters he usually portrayed in film noirs where he would be a small time criminal or a gun for hire.  He straddles the line between good and evil pretty thoroughly until almost the end of the movie.  And that’s what keeps the movie from devolving into a typical good guy, bad guy shootout.  Mitchum and Preston manage to keep the battle between light and darkness alive and interesting throughout the movie.  The rest of the cast isn’t afforded much opportunity to rise above the normal western tropes.  The two actresses in love with Garry and Riling are given fairly stereotypical plot and dialog for those roles and the other parts fairly equally follow the conventions of the genre.  But Mitchum and Preston provide the fireworks and it boosts the movie well above the average.  Highly recommended for fans of westerns and fans of Robert Mitchum.

The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) – A Movie Review

This movie is not strictly speaking a WW II movie.  It is a chronicle of the events leading up to the death of German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

James Mason plays Rommel.  It opens up with a British submarine off the coast of German occupied North Arica.  A platoon of commandoes is landed by rafts to assault the headquarters of the German Afrika Corps.  The commandoes storm the building and pour machine gun fire and grenades into the living space.  As German reinforcements arrive the British soldiers retreat.  One man is too badly wounded to escape.  As he is captured, he asks the German soldier, “Did we get him?”  And the German soldier scornfully answers in the negative.

The “him” that the Briton meant is Rommel and the suicide mission proclaims the enormous respect that Rommel’s enemies have for his skills in war.  But unfortunately for their mission Rommel was at that time being treated in Germany for a case of nasal diphtheria.  But before he can recover, the British attack his forces in the second Battle of El Alamein and Rommel is summoned by Hitler back to the desert to ward off this attack.  Unfortunately, Berlin only sends Rommel, not tanks, ammunition, men or even fuel to run the tanks they still had.  Orders are given to stand and fight to the last man.  Rommel disobeys the orders and arranges a tactical retreat to save his men.  But exhausted and still sick he is forced to return to hospital in Germany.  And his army is defeated and captured by the British and Americans.

Recovering from his illness he is visited by Dr. Karl Strölin (played by Cedric Hardwicke), the mayor of Stuttgart and an old friend of Rommel’s.  We learn that many senior officials in Germany have lost faith in Hitler and are looking for a way to remove him from power.  Rommel rejects the idea and warns his friend not to discuss this idea with him.  He declares himself to be a soldier and not a politician.  His friend warns him that a time will come when he will have to face the consequences of being a soldier in Hitler’s army.

Now Rommel is directed to help lead the defense of the French coastline against the expected invasion.  The supreme commander of the German forces, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt (played by Leo G. Carroll) explains to Rommel that Hitler has taken complete control of the strategy of the invasion defense.  He explains that the strategy is being decided based on astrology and that instead of reinforcing the beaches they are concentrating on the coastal cities.  When D-Day arrives Berlin refuses to allow troops to redeploy to reinforce Normandy and so the Allies break loose from Normandy and begin their march to the Rhine.

The officers who are planning to assassinate Hitler once again approach Rommel for his support.  He tells them he must first attempt one last time to convince Hitler to redeploy his forces to avoid catastrophe.  He meets with Hitler but is rebuffed and told to remain in place and fight to the last man.  Rommel tells the coup leaders to go ahead with their plan.  But before the assassination attempt Rommel is injured when his staff car is strafed by enemy aircraft and crashes.  While he is recuperating in a hospital the attempt on Hitler is carried out but he is only injured.

After release from the hospital Rommel is sent home without any military orders and all mention of him disappears from the war effort.  One day he is called from Berlin to sat that a deputation would arrive at his home to discuss his future assignment.  But instead, when it arrives he is told that an investigation has convicted him of treason and he is given the choice of secretly committing suicide by painless sedative or being garroted.  But Rommel says he would prefer to answer the charges in open court to at least make his statement in public.  But then the officer adds that if he agrees to take the silent suicide his reputation will be preserved and wife and son will be taken care of.  If he decides to go public no such guarantees apply.  And so, he goes to his death.  The movie ends with the recitation of a speech that Winston Churchill gave honoring Rommel for his courage in risking his life in attempting to eliminate Hitler and thereby save his country from catastrophe.

This is a very unusual movie in that the Second World War is only the backdrop for the dramatic action of the plot.  We’re shown a great general, a consummate professional, learning that detaching his duty as a soldier from his responsibilities as a human being is sometimes impossible.  He is brought to understand that obeying the orders of a madman cannot fit under his warrior’s code.  Mason is usually interesting to watch in a movie and this one is no exception.  If nothing else he has one of the most distinctive and commanding voices in the history of cinema.  The movie is not highly dramatic.  It’s almost understated considering the circumstances and the people involved.  I would recommend this movie to students of history and those who enjoy a cerebral movie experience.