Tuesday, 21 May 2013

MAY 22, 2013

101 THE MAN FROM EARTH (2007) Directed by Richard Schenkman ***

A science fiction film written by the late Jerome Bixby and produced by his son which contains no visual effects (let alone CGI), no action and takes place in one room. An impromptu farewell party for a university professor by his friends and closest colleagues takes a weird turn when he reveals that he is actually  a  old Cro-Magnon man who  has walked the earth for 14,000 years. He is at first not believed but slowly his friends are divided between those who start to believe him and those who think he is mentally ill. This simple idea opens up into an engrossing conversation piece that tackles preconceptions about anthropology, science, religion. It is only in the area of religion where the film starts to lose itself by becoming a bit too ambitious and looses credibility - not, I hasten to add, because its arguments are invalid, albeit a bit contrived,  but rather because of the unlikely plot twist. Despite this hiccup the film is an engrossing, intelligent chamber piece. Faultlessly acted by the ensemble cast who, with the once exception of William Catt,  are unknown to me - although I am assured that, like author Bixby, many have STAR TREK connections. Definitely worth a look. Richard Schenkman went on to direct ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS. ZOMBIES.

The Man from Earth

102  MAN OF THE WEST (1958) Directed by Anthony Mann ****

Like THE LAST FRONTIER with Victor Mature, this Western with Gary Cooper is not as well known as Anthony Mann's series of James Stewart Westerns although it is highly rated by critics and writers on the Western genre, although it must be said opinions of the fans are sharply divided. Somebody was once asked what they got from an Anthony Mann film that they didn't get from one by John Ford. The answer was "a sense of urgency" and I think that is a fair comment. Mann's films are edgy affairs with damaged heroes. MAN OF THE WEST has ex-outlaw Cooper forced to team up with his former boss in an effort to save the lives of two fellow travellers after a failed train robbery. Coop is truly iconic here - never has he looked so tall - framed in Mann's amazing cinemascope vistas. The rest of the cast is truly remarkable with Julie London, John Dehner, Arthur O'Connell, Jack Lord, Royal Dano, Frank Ferguson etc. For me, however, the film's one weakness and one that jars my sensibilities whenever I watch the film is the performance by Lee J. Cobb as Doc Tobin, Coop's old outlaw boss. I admire Cobb greatly as an actor but here I feel he overacts like crazy and his shouting becomes irritating in the extreme. I can't blame Cobb as one would assume that this is the performance Mann wanted. Despite this reservation this slow-burn film is a great Western.

Man of the West

Also viewed :

103 SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (1942) Directed by Preston Sturges ****
103 CENTURION (2011) Directed by Neil Marshal **
104 NORTHWEST MOUNTED POLICE (1947) Directed by Cecil B. DeMille ***
105 THE LAST FRONTIER (1955) Directed by Anthony Mann ***

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