Movie Review: The Call - Starred by Halle Berry
The career of Halle Berry was going nowhere, even we can call it as retroactively, after playing in X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006. Since the release of the X-Men, Halle Berry never again make a movie that could create an over 100 Million US dollar. Even she had disappeared from circulation for several years. She did comeback to the big screen with several ensemble roles such as New Year's Eve, Cloud Atlas, and Movie 43, but everything was not successful. With the diminishing of her popularity among her fans, can she be able to lift this movie into a drama thriller that among the "above average" rating?
Very often when watching Hollywood movies and TV series, we look at the phone number 911 is pressed to inform the police about the adverse events that occurred. 911 Indeed, it is a phone number for emergency events. Jordan Turner is an operator for the 911 channels. Her daily activity is to take care of emergency situations ranging from the false call like a drunken push the wrong number to the serious case like death threats. One time, she made a mistake during instruction and causing the death of the caller. So it truly hits Jordan and she decided to retreat from the field. She decided to be a teacher for the next generation of 911 operators.
After six months passing by, the fate brought Jordan back on the phone line when an abduction occurs and the victim is a teenage girl who called 911 named Casey. After she finds out that the junior operator is not ready to handle such situation, she decided to handle the call. While wrestling with the guilt of her past, could Jordan save the life of the victim this time? Or is another failure pushed her into the edge of her insanity?
The Call is actually not an entirely new premise. I remember watching it along with two other films. The first of course is the Cellular, stars Chris Evans and Jason Statham. The film does have a premise of a woman who asked for help via telephone. On the other hand, the continues moving cars and a figure of teenage girl Casey who is asking for help, immediately reminds me of the movie Stolen from Nicolas Cage who also had to rescue his daughter who had been locked in the trunk of a moving car. The combination of both of those movies turned out to produce a thriller that is quite solid throughout the film.
Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin as the two main characters in this movie have acting very nicely as per the portion of each. Berry role here does not need to act more than just sheer panic and dismay. Likewise Abigail Breslin who has now grown into a teenager. This movie is not really challenging for her acting ability more than just yelling and fear alone. I'm still waiting for the movie to explore the potential of acting of Breslin who was one of the brightest young stars.
The criminal or the kidnapper played by Michael Eklund, an actor who is more famous in the realm of TV than the big screen. I personally could not see him acting in which his appearance and quasi screaming psychopath just feel too redundant. It's not easy to show the figure of a sadistic villain and cold. Eklund may have learned more from the legendary criminal figures sorts of Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs or Se7en by Kevin Spacey if he wants to act with similar roles in the future.
If there are things I regret from this thriller that is the ending too cliche. It looks like the director and the writer want Halle Berry to get a bigger acting role, but unfortunately, ended up being the logic holes that disrupt the film.
In final words, the Call is a common thriller film but executed in good ways. She is no better than some of the episodes in TV crime series with a slightly larger budget and a longer running time. Well at least, Halle Berry found success again through this film so it will hopefully be push her career in the future.
Director: Brad Anderson
Actors: Abigail Breslin, Halle Berry
The heyday of the big band era of the 1930s and '40s was a special time in music history. Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Chick Webb, Harry James, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Xavier Cugat and the Dorsey Brothers were just some of the big name swing artists leading the charge.
Here are ten big band movies that no fan of swing music should ever miss. Are you "In the Mood?"
New York, New York (United Artists, 1977)
Robert De Niro plays fictional bandleader Jimmy Doyle, who after V-J Day in 1945 forms his own orchestra. Joining the temperamental Jimmy in the band is his talented girlfriend/wife Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli), with the two carrying on their rocky romance amidst the constant travel, petty jealousies and artistic clashes of their entourage. Robert De Niro, the consummate method actor, learned to play the saxophone for his role as the egotistical, womanizing Jimmy.
Liza Minnelli as the perky girl singer Francine, of course, was already set in the music department from day one, with her rousing rendition of "New York, New York" one of the picture's true highlights. There are plenty of big band tunes in this one, including Tommy Dorsey's "Song of India," which kicks off the movie at a raucous New York nightclub where boozy, delirious patrons are celebrating the end of World War II.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Review: "The movie's a vast, rambling, nostalgic expedition back into the big band era, and a celebration of the considerable talents of Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (6/23/77)
On DVD: New York, New York Special Edition (MGM, 2005)
Insert movie poster: New York, New York (1977)
The Glenn Miller Story (Universal, 1954)
James Stewart has the title role of Alton Glenn Miller (1904-1944), the fabled big band leader whose plane went missing over the English Channel in December 1944. There's more Hollywood hokum than actual Miller biography in this film, but the performances and especially the music will surely entertain both Glenn Miller and big band fans. June Allyson plays Helen Berger Miller, with a toothy Harry Morgan as Chummy MacGregor and Charles Drake as Don Haynes. Many of the Glenn Miller standards are here, including such gems as "String of Pearls," "Pennsylvania 6-5000," "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "In the Mood," "Tuxedo Junction," "At Last" and of course the band's signature song "Moonlight Serenade."
Director: Anthony Mann
Review: "Sweet is the word the modern swingsters would apply to the type of music played in the Thirties and early Forties by the late Glenn Miller and his band. And that is the word, beyond question, for the picture that has been made by Universal-International about the bandsman, his wife, his music and career." - Bosley Crwother, The New York Times (2/11/54)
On DVD: The Glenn Miller Story (Universal, 2003)
One sheet movie poster: The Glenn Miller Story (1954)
The Fabulous Dorseys (United Artists, 1947)
Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey suspended their sibling feud long enough to play themselves in this big band Hollywood biopic, with Janet Blair and William Lundegan in key supporting roles. Look for an impressive contingent of other big band artists, including Paul Whiteman, Charlie Barnet, Bob Eberly, Henry Busse, Helen O'Connell, Mike Pingatore, Stuart Foster, Art Tatum, Ray Bauduc and Ziggy Elman. The Fabulous Dorseys serves up such big band standards as "Tangerine," "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and "Green Eyes," all of which make up for the movie's weak storyline and the Dorsey Bros', mediocre acting.
Director: Alfred E. Green
Review: "Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey are topnotch popular band leaders. That much we knew before seeing the story of their battling career acted out yesterday on the screen at Loew's State in 'The Fabulous Dorseys.' The picture naturally stresses their musicianship, with the result that Tommy's trombone and Jimmy's saxophone stand out from the dialogue, which is just as well. Whether the film is a fairly accurate account of their rise from humble beginnings we don't pretend to know, but it seems they were always scrapping as kids and the passing of years did not cool their tempers any." Bosley Crowther and Thomas M. Pryor, The New York Times (5/30/47)
On DVD: The Fabulous Dorseys (Quantum Leap, 2004)
Lobby card: The Fabulous Dorseys (1947)
Orchestra Wives (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1942)
George Montgomery stars as Bill Abbot, a trumpeter for the fictional Gene Morrison Orchestra, with Ann Rutherford as his romantic interest. As the title implies, the plot centers on the musicians and their bickering wives, the latter of whom almost tear the band apart. Glenn Miller plays bandleader Gene Morrison, with the rest of the Miller orchestra plus the Modernaires (Tex Beneke, Johnny Best, Ray Eberle, Billy May, Al Klink, Marion Hutton, Skippy Martin, Paul Tanner, Bobby Hackett, Ralph Brewster, et al.) along for the Hollywood party.
Glenn Miller and his band had arrived by train in Hollywood on March 17, 1942, beginning work on Orchestra Wives six days later. Johnny Best performed the trumpet work for George Montgomery while Chummy MacGregor tickled the ivories for Cesar Romero. Later, Ray Eberle quit the band, saying that Glenn Miller had failed to pay him for his appearance in Orchestra Wives, with Miller claiming that Eberle's contract hadn't called for any extra compensation for doing the picture. Orchestra Wives opened on September 4, 1942, featuring such Miller hits as "At Last," "Serenade in Blue," "(I've Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo," "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "Moonlight Serenade."
Director: Archie Mayo
Review: "Hep cats and other such fauna who are 'sent' by Glenn Miller's honeyed swing will be the most likely recipients of Twentieth Century-Fox's 'Orchestra Wives,' which was wafted into the Roxy on wings of song and little else yesterday. For once more the Hollywood tailors have draped the shivering shoulders of a popular band with a trifling little story which is as ridiculous as a zoot suit and has no more shape or distinction than one of those forbidden garbs. Mr. Miller and his assorted virtuosos are killers when it comes to making jive, but it takes more than wind and willingness to support a ninety-seven-minute film." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times (9/24/42)
On DVD: Orchestra Wives (Twentieth Century-Fox, 2005)
Three sheet movie poster: Orchestra Wives (1942)
The Benny Goodman Story (Universal, 1956)
Steve Allen has the title role of Benny Goodman (1909-1986) – a.k.a. the vaunted "King of Swing" – in this spirited Hollywood biopic. Donna Reed plays Alice Hammond and Berta Gersten appears as Mama Goodman, with cameos from musicians Harry James, Ben Pollack, Teddy Wilson, Stan Getz, Ziggy Elman, Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa and vocalist Martha Tilton. Although Steve Allen was already an accomplished musician and songwriter, the comic/actor/television host had to take instruction from Sol Yaged in order to convincingly mime the clarinet for the cameras.
Universal paid Benny Goodman $25,000 for the movie rights to his story, with Goodman also collecting another $10,000 for his role as consultant and for his musical contributions to the soundtrack. The movie, which chronicles the life of Goodman from age nine up to his historic 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall, features plenty of tunes, including "Let's Dance," "Goody, Goody," "Stompin' at the Savoy," "And the Angels Sing," "One O'Clock Jump," "Avalon," "Sing, Sing, Sing," "Don't Be That Way" and "Moonglow."
Director: Valentine Davies
Review: "Benny Goodman's swing music is so much a part of the familiar sounds of our times that just to hear it as Benny and his bandsmen used to play—and still do—is an experience of multiple charms...It's this music, delivered in abundance and in the genuine Goodman style, that makes the movie, 'The Benny Goodman Story,' at all worth going to see...Steve Allen, the TV actor who makes his screen debut in the role of the fictitious Goodman...is so tense and taciturn—or so timid and temperate—that the only personality he projects is that of an amiable wallflower. It isn't Benny—and it isn't good. Mr. Allen has picked a fine way to crimp his popularity on TV." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times (2/22/56)
On DVD: The Benny Goodman Story (Universal, 2003)
Half sheet movie poster style B: The Benny Goodman Story (1956)
Hollywood Hotel (Warner Bros., 1937)
Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane and Lola Lane head the cast of this wacky musical comedy, with Powell playing Ronny Bowers, a saxophonist in the Benny Goodman Orchestra who wins a ten-week movie contract with Miracle Pictures in Hollywood. The big attraction in the film of course is Benny Goodman, whose clarinet wails as he leads his orchestra in such spirited tunes as "Hooray for Hollywood," "California Here I Come," "Let That Be a Lesson to You" and "Sing, Sing, Sing." Look for Goodman band members vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, drummer Gene Krupa and trumpeter Harry James. Raymond Paige and His Orchestra also appear, along with Hollywood gossip columnist Louella Parsons, Hugh Herbert, Ted Healy, Glenda Farrell and Frances Langford.
Director: Busby Berkeley
Review: "Hollywood Hotel is a smash musical entertainment, with a lively and amusing story and some popular song numbers." - Variety (1937)
On DVD: Hollywood Hotel (Warner, 2008)
One sheet movie poster: Hollywood Hotel (1937)
The Gene Krupa Story (Columbia, 1959)
Sal Mineo has the title role of Gene Krupa (1909-1973), the popular jazz/swing drummer who plied his talents for such bandleaders as Red Nichols and Benny Goodman, later forming his own orchestra in 1938. Susan Kohner, James Darren and Susan Oliver also appear, with Red Nichols, singer Anita O'Day and comic Buddy Lester playing themselves. The movie candidly delves into Krupa's struggle with alcohol, drugs and fame, but on the whole Hollywood "artistic license" appears to be the order of the day. Gene Krupa himself provided the off-screen drumming, and one can't help but admire his immense talent playing the skins. Among the featured tunes are "Cherokee," "Memories of You" and "Royal Garden Blues."
Director: Don Weis
Review: "Columbia's film biography of the king of hot jazz drummers arrived yesterday at the Forum with Sal Mineo in the title role, some dandy musical sequences and a plot that, however authentic, plays like a familiar success story. As we meet the gifted Mr. Krupa here he is an out-of-town lad who conquers the jazz world, makes a bad mistake and finally comes back from oblivion to the right girl and the big tune." - Howard Thompson, The New York Times (12/26/59)
On DVD: The Gene Krupa Story (Sony, 2004)
Lobby card set: The Gene Krupa Story (1959)
Las Vegas Nights (Paramount, 1941)
Constance Moore, Bert Wheeler and Phil Regan head the cast of this musical, with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and the Pied Pipers as the principal attractions. Frank Sinatra fans can view an uncredited Ol' Blue Eyes in his motion picture debut (earning $15 a day for the effort), singing his dreamy version of "I'll Never Smile Again" as a vocalist for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. The Dorsey band also performs "Song of India," "The Trombone Man Is the Best in the Land" (with a manic drum solo by Buddy Rich), "Shadow Waltz," "On Miami Shore," "Dolores" and "Cocktails for Two." The movie's storyline involves an old vaudeville act who purchases a decrepit building and tries to turn it into a swinging nightclub, but watch this one for the big band music.
Director: Ralph Murphy
Review: "On account of Tommy Dorsey and his band being hopefully but vainly involved, there may be some mild jitterbug interest in Paramount's 'Las Vegas Nights,' which settled heavily upon the screen of the Paramount Theatre yesterday. But from every other possible source of friendship, its expectation of favor is virtually nil. For there is precious little humor, little life, little anything save an excess of dullness in this labored musical show about a troupe of indigent entertainers adrift in the Nevada gambling town." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, (3/20/41)
On DVD: Not commercially available
One sheet movie poster: Las Vegas Nights (1941)
Reveille with Beverly (Columbia, 1943)
Ann Miller stars as Beverly Ross, the spunky host of an AM radio show that caters to servicemen, with William Wright, Dick Purcell, Franklin Pangborn and Larry Parks also on board. Get set for big band/pop music in this baby, with appearances by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra ("Take the 'A' Train"), Bob Crosby and His Orchestra ("Big Noise from Winnetka"), Count Basie and His Orchestra ("One O'Clock Jump"), Frank Sinatra ("Night and Day"), the Mills Brothers ("Sweet Lucy Brown"), Freddie Slack and His Orchestra featuring Ella Mae Morse ("Cow-Cow Boogie") and the Radio Rogues ("Wabash Moon"). Made for $400,000, Reveille with Beverly was a big box office hit, particularly with the troops, raking in over $2 million. Look for Ann Miller's big, spectacular "Thumbs Up and V for Victory" number.
Director: Charles Barton
Review: "'Reveille With Beverly' opened with a thud yesterday at the Abbey. Dedicated to the hepcat element, which seemed to have stayed away in large numbers, it is a cheerless series of musical numbers strung together with a tired little story guaranteed to produce a severe case of ennui in record-breaking time. One by one, between smiles by Ann Miller, Duke Ellington, Bob Crosby, Count Basie and Freddie Slack stand up to wave their batons over some noisy demonstrations which resemble nothing so much as the left-over numbers from some old musical short subjects." - Theodore Strauss, The New York Times (4/24/43)
On DVD: Reveille with Beverly (MarsRising, 2010)
One sheet movie poster: Reveille with Beverly (1943)
Swing Kids (Buena Vista, 1993)
The sleeper in the genre, Swing Kids stars Robert Sean Leonard and Christian Bale as teenagers in 1939 Nazi Germany who use banned American swing music as a form of rebellion. Also in the cast are Frank Whaley, Barbara Hershey, Tushka Bergen, David Tom and Noah Wyle. Swing Kids' soundtrack is loaded with big band tunes, including "Bugle Call Rag" (Benny Goodman), "Taint What You Do (It's the Way That Cha Do It)" (Jimmie Lunceford), "Harlem" (Teddy Foster) and "Goodnight, My Love" (Benny Goodman). "No one who likes swing can become a Nazi," Frank Whaley's Arvid proclaims. What a wonderful thought...
Director: Thomas Carter
Review: "'Swing Kids' is a bad idea whose time has not come. It's 'Cabaret' as Col. Klink might have envisioned it, a nutty anti-Nazi a go-go for teenagers, set to American music... 'Swing Kids' is another daft idea from Disney on the order of 'Alive,' the movie about really bad airline food. It's a moralistic muddle with only one message: If Disney wants to make movies about Germans, it should restrict its efforts to German shepherds." - Rita Kempley, Washington Post (3/5/93)
On DVD: Swing Kids (Buena Vista, 2002)
Ten More Big Band Movie Favorites
- Sun Valley Serenade (1941)
- Dancing Co-Ed (1939)
- That's Right - You're Wrong (1939)
- Hi-De-Ho (1947)
- Hollywood Canteen (1944)
- Birth of the Blues (1941)
- Beat the Band (1947)
- Thousands Cheer (1943)
- Hi, Good Lookin'! (1944)
- Best Foot Forward (1943)
Movie herald: Sun Valley Serenade (1941)
- All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
- Top image: Half sheet movie poster style A: The Benny Goodman Story (1956)
Copyright © 2013 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.
The notorious Al Capone (1899-1947) ruled the Chicago underworld during the Roaring Twenties. Big Al later ran afoul of the tax man in 1931, serving part of his seven-year prison stretch for income tax evasion at infamous Alcatraz Island. Capone died of complications from neurosyphilis at his Palm Island, Florida, home on January 25, 1947.
Here are ten movies featuring Al "Scarface" Capone that no film fan should ever miss. The screening room at the Lexington Hotel, Capone's old Chicago headquarters, is now open, with Geraldo Rivera as your genial host...
The Untouchables (Paramount, 1987)
Robert De Niro winningly plays Al Capone in this $20 million crime drama that also stars Kevin Costner as U.S. Treasury agent Eliot Ness. Set in 1930, the film is centered on Ness and his Untouchables, who work tirelessly to bring down the ruthless Capone and his criminal empire. One of the most memorable scenes – and certainly an extremely violent one at that – takes place at a gangster banquet where a baseball bat wielding Capone brutally eliminates one of his fellow mobsters who failed to protect a liquor warehouse from the police. The baseball loving Al didn't appreciate his own "players" exhibiting individualism over teamwork – as the bloody result so graphically illustrates.
Director: Brian De Palma
Review: "As Capone, De Niro's going for a broad, theatrical style of acting. He creates a satire on the idea of Capone. With his chest puffed out in front of him, he's a petty despot – Il Duce in spats. But because the crime boss is supposed to represent the force of evil in the film, the absence of any real violence in his characterization is a crucial miscalculation." - Hal Hinson, The Washington Post (6/3/87)
On DVD: The Untouchables Special Collector's Edition (Paramount, 2004)
One sheet movie poster: The Untouchables (1987)
Al Capone (Allied Artists, 1959)
Rod Steiger has the title role of Alphonse Gabriel Capone, charting his rise from New York City transplant to unchallenged czar of the Chicago underworld. Fay Spain plays Maureen Flannery, Capone's love interest and the widow of a man he murdered, with Nehemiah Persoff as Johnny Torrio, Murvyn Vie as George "Bugs" Moran, Robert Gist as Dion O'Banion and Joe De Santis as Big Jim Colosimo. Steiger excels in the "Scarface" role, effectively capturing the gangster's many moods, from violent hoodlum to charming benefactor. The final scene, in which the big shot Capone is attacked while an inmate at Alcatraz, serves as the movie's crowning sense of justice.
Director: Richard Wilson
Review: "A tough, ruthless and generally unsentimental account of the most notorious gangster of the prohibition-repeal era, Al Capone is also a very well-made picture. There isn't much 'motivation' given for Capone, at least not in the usual sense. But the screenplay does supply reasons and they are more logical than the usual once-over-lightly on the warped youth bit." - Variety (1959)
On DVD: Al Capone (Warner Bros., 2009)
Rod Steiger in Al Capone (1959)
Capone (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1975)
Ben Gazzara enters the gangster cinematic sweepstakes, ably playing Al Capone in this somewhat forgotten entry from the Gerald Ford era. Susan Blakely plays Iris Crawford, Capone's main fictional squeeze. "There should be a law against women drinking," Capone tells Iris. "Well, I think there is," Iris smugly replies, correctly referring to the 18th Amendment that ushered in Prohibition. A parade of actors portray real-life gangsters, including Sylvester Stallone as Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti, Harry Guardino as Johnny Torrio, John Cassavetes as Frankie Yale, Frank Campanella as Big Jim Colosimo, John Orchard as Dion O'Banion, Carmen Argenziano as Machine Gun Jack McGurn and John Davis Chandler as Hymie Weiss. Don't look to Capone for the historical facts – Frank Nitti, for example, is seen giving the eulogy at Big Al's funeral despite having died four years earlier. But for a good, violent gangster romp, Capone may just fit the bill, pallie.
Director: Steve Carver
Review: "Sad to say, 'Capone' isn't much fun. There's one good laugh and a lot of violence. And if you're ready for it, there is even a brief outdoor love scene in which Al Capone and his new girl friend run dreamily past soft-focus trees and flowers...But too much of the movie is devoted to a deadingly repetitious series of scenes in which men in overcoats drive up in cars and machine gun gangsters coming out of restaurants." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (4/18/75)
On DVD: Capone (Fox, 2006)
Lobby card: Ben Gazzara and Susan Blakely in Capone (1975)
Scarface: The Shame of a Nation (United Artists, 1932)
Paul Muni plays Antonio "Tony" Camonte, an extremely violent hood who claws his way to the top of the underworld. The principal character may be Antonio Camonte, but there's little doubt as to who producers had in mind when they filmed this baby during the Great Depression. Mr. Camonte shares the same initials with one Alphonse Capone, who was about to depart to the big house to serve an eleven-year sentence for income tax evasion upon the movie's release on April 9, 1932. Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley, Osgood Perkins, C. Henry Gordon, George Raft and Boris Karloff appear in supporting roles. It's an over-the-top performance by Muni, featuring prominent use of the Thompson submachine gun – a.k.a. "tommy gun," "bean shooter" and "Chicago typewriter." Two of Capone's thugs visited the film's screenwriter Ben Hecht in Los Angeles, demanding to know if the movie was about their boss. When told that it wasn't, they were still curious as to why the picture was titled Scarface. "If you call the movie Scarface, people will think it's about Capone and come to see it. It's part of the racket we call show business," Hecht informed the two torpedoes. Satisfied, the bent noses left the hotel.
Director: Howard Hawks
Review: "The slaughter in 'Scarface, the Shame of a Nation,' the Howard Hughes gangster production which was launched yesterday at the Rialto, is like that of a Shakespearean tragedy, for after the smoke of machine guns and pineapple bombs has blown away and the leading killer has gone to his death on the gallows, the only one of a group of principal characters left is a blonde with carefully plucked eyebrows—she who had been the mistress of two underworld giants." - Mordaunt Hall, The New York Times (5/20/32).
On DVD: Scarface (United Artists, 2007)
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Twentieth Century-Fox, 1967)
The infamous February 14, 1929, St. Valentine's Day Massacre garners the Hollywood treatment in this heavy-handed film presented in docudrama fashion. Jason Robards Jr. plays a swaggering, Irish-looking Al Capone, who orders the bloody hit on Bugs Moran's North Side Gang. A fine supporting cast appears, with George Segal, Ralph Meeker, Jean Hale, Clint Ritchie, Frank Silvera, Joseph Campanella and Bruce Dern filling the ranks of gangsterhood. When a newspaper reporter suggests that maybe cops were responsible for the massacre, Bugs Moran (Meeker) replies, "You must be new to this town, mister. Only Al Capone kills like that." Look for bit player Jack Nicholson, who appears as a gangster named Gino.
Director: Roger Corman
Review: "The only theatrical value and commercial purpose of this luridly publicized picture, which opened at the Warner and the 68th Street Playhouse yesterday, appear to me to be the callous horror and the morbid fascination of the terminal scene, in which those seven members of the Moran gang are trapped and mowed down by Capone machine-gunners in a North Side garage. For those who like blood and twitching bodies, there is plenty of that in this scene." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times (7/27/67)
On DVD: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Twentieth Century-Fox, 2006)
One sheet movie poster: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967)
The Scarface Mob (Desilu, 1959)
The Scarface Mob is actually a compilation of ABC-TV's The Untouchables (1959-63) two-part pilot episode, which was first telecast via the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse on April 20 and 27, 1959, with host Desi Arnaz introducing each segment. The edited movie was later released to theaters in 1960-62. Eliot Ness (Robert Stack) and his band of Untouchables move in on the Capone gang, hoping to crush Big Al's hold on the Chicago underworld. Neville Brand portrays a sneering Al "Scarface" Capone, with Bruce Gordon as Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti. Also appearing are Keenan Wynn, Pat Crowley, Barbara Nichols, Bill Williams, Joe Mantell, Peter Leeds, Robert Osterloh and Paul Picerni. One scene proved to be particularly racy, at least for 1950s television, whereby several Capone thugs pay a visit to Ness' innocent girlfriend Betty Anderson (Pat Crowley), breaking into her apartment, ripping open her blouse and leering at the "merchandise." I Love Lucy this wasn't.
Director: Phil Karlson
Review: "Originally the opening installments in the TV series, this crime drama of the Aspirin age still looks pretty good in feature form." - Steven H. Scheuer, Movies on TV (1984)
On DVD: The Untouchables - Season 1, Vol. 1, includes feature movie version of the pilot a.k.a. The Scarface Mob (Paramount, 2007)
One sheet movie poster: The Scarface Mob (1962)
Alcatraz Express (Desilu, 1961)
Alcatraz Express is the feature-length version of the two-part The Untouchables episode "The Big Train," first telecast over ABC-TV on January 5 and 12, 1961. The edited movie was later released to theaters in 1962. With Walter Winchell providing the snappy narration, Alcatraz Express opens in 1931, with Al Capone (Neville Brand) having been convicted of income tax evasion and sentenced to an eleven-year prison stretch at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. Capone's cash bribes have made his stay in the Atlanta pen pretty comfortable, but when it becomes known that Big Al and other top name criminals are now headed to Alcatraz, the Chicago gangster and his mob conspire to spring him loose during the train journey. The old Untouchables gang is here, with Robert Stack as the tight-lipped Eliot Ness, Abel Fernandez as Agent William Longfellow, Nicholas Georgiade as Agent Enrico Rossi, Steve London as Agent Jack Rossman and Paul Picerni as Agent Lee Hobson. Bruce Gordon plays Frank Nitti and Gavin MacLeod appears as gangster Three-Fingered Jack White. Watch Ness and his boys engage in a Wild West shootout with mobsters in a small desert town.
Director: John Peyser
Review: "It still looks like a TV show, but manages to whip up a good amount of suspense." - Steven H. Scheuer, Movies on TV (1984)
On DVD: The Untouchables - Season 2, Vol. 1, includes the original two-part episode "The Big Train" (Paramount, 2008)
Frank Nitti: The Enforcer (ABC-TV, 1988)
This made-for-TV movie stars Anthony LaPaglia as Frank Nitti (1881-1943), one of Al Capone's top lieutenants and the front man for the Chicago Outfit. Like his boss, Nitti was later found guilty of tax evasion and sent to infamous Alcatraz Island for a little 18-month government-sponsored "vacation." Vincent Guastaferro plays Capone, with Trini Alvarado, Michael Moriarty, Michael Russo, Hank Azaria and Bruce Kirby in support. LaPaglia as the feared "Enforcer", lights up the small screen, with Guastaferro's Scarface appearing as second banana.
Director: Michael Switzer
Review: "Al Capone may be the most famous Chicago mobster, but his successor, Frank 'The Enforcer' Nitti (Anthony LaPaglia), was just as ruthless. This biopic goes to great lengths to accurately trace Nitti's rise to the top of the Windy City's underworld, amid corruption, betrayal and violence. The result is an engrossing glimpse into mob life in the early 20th century." - TV Guide (2009)
On DVD: Frank Nitti: The Enforcer (Direct Source, 2006)
Road to Perdition (DreamWorks, 2002)
Good ol' Tom Hanks plays Michael Sullivan Sr., a hit man for the Chicago Irish mob seeking revenge for the murder of his wife and youngest son. Anthony LaPaglia plays Al Capone, whose single scene was axed in the final cut. In the subsequent DVD, however, the sequence was restored in the deleted scenes section. Paul Newman, Tyler Hoechlin, Daniel Craig, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jude Law and Stanley Tucci also appear in this classic gangster tale with plenty of bleak, film noir atmosphere.
Director: Sam Mendes
Review: "Filmed in a harsh winter of rain, snow and chilling darkness, Road will be long remembered for the artistry of cinematographer Conrad Hall. There are breathtaking scenes of shootouts and bank robberies, complimented by Thomas Newman's evocative score." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone (8/1/02)
On DVD: Road to Perdition Widescreen Edition (Universal, 2003)
One sheet movie poster: Tom Hanks in Road to Perdition (2002)
The Untouchables (Paramount Television, 1993-94)
This syndicated television series stars Tom Amandes as fabled Treasury agent Eliot Ness. Appearing in 15 episodes is William Forsythe, who plays the role of Al Capone with hot-headed, tommy gun relish. The series wrapped up its two-season, 42-episode run with the two-part segment "Death and Taxes," telecast on May 15 and 22, 1994, with Forsythe's Big Al eventually running afoul of both. Also look for Paul Regina as a sinister Frank Nitti in 15 episodes.
Director: Tucker Gates, Vern Gillum, Charles Robert Carner, Steve De Jarnatt, Eric Laneuville, et al.
Review: "First installment in Paramount's latest attempt to mine the 'Untouchables' cash cow looks great, sounds trite. Figuratively speaking, at least, it's a return to black-and-white television. Problems may be that the story of Eliot Ness and Al Capone has been told so often, it's already part of the national consciousness." - Todd Everett, Variety (1/12/93)
On DVD: Not commercially available
The Untouchables: Capone Rising
- The Untouchables: Capone Rising, a prequel to the 1987 Brian De Palma movie, is now in pre-production. Nicolas Cage, slated to play Capone, had earlier withdrawn from the film.
- All images courtesy Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas
- Top image: Half sheet movie poster style A: Rod Steiger as Al Capone (1959)
Copyright © 2012 William J. Felchner. All rights reserved.
Franklin J. Schaffner's Papillon thrilled movie audiences in 1973. Steve McQueen has the title role, playing a resourceful prisoner who mounts several escape attempts from the brutal French Guiana penal institution better known as Devil's Island. Here are 21 amazing Papillon movie trivia items and fun facts...
1. Papillon is based on the 1969 book of the same name by Henri Charriere (1906-1973). Known as Papillon ("the Butterfly") in the Parisian underworld, Charriere had been sent to French Guiana in 1931 following his conviction for the murder of a pimp. Charriere had always maintained his innocence, and later made his successful escape from French Guiana in 1945.
Steve McQueen in Papillon (1973) - Heritage Auctions
2. Henri Charriere had begun writing his memoirs in July 1967. By early 1968, he had completed his work, written in longhand and housed in 13 spiral notebooks. The manuscript was then typed by several volunteers in Venezuela, where Charriere was now a citizen, and mailed to Paris literary agent Jean-Pierre Castelnau. In June 1970, Papillon was published in France by Robert Laffont, eventually becoming an international bestseller.
3. Charriere's memoirs have always been suspect, with many charging his book is largely fiction. One doubter was Papillon director Franklin J. Schaffner, as quoted by actor Don Gordon: "Schaffner told me that he never believed half the things he (Papillon) said in the book, that Charriere was a lying son-of-a-bitch."
4. The movie rights to Papillon were purchased by European producer Robert Dorfmann for $600,000. Dorfmann had originally envisioned French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo in the title role.
5. Steve McQueen was very wary when approached to play Papillon, changing his mind several times. Finally, McQueen consented to do the movie at a salary of $1.75 million (later upped to an even $2 million) along with a hefty percentage of the movie's gross.
6. Franklin J. Schaffner, who had won an Academy Award for the World War II epic Patton (1970), collected a salary of $750,000 for his services on Papillon.
7. Dustin Hoffman had caught wind of Papillon and was looking for a serious role in the production. Since no significant role existed at the time for Hoffman, producers basically created the co-starring role of Louis Dega, the frail, bespectacled counterfeiter of National Defense Bonds Series 1928. The consummate professional, Hoffman immersed himself in the history of French Guiana's penal colonies, reading everything he could find in the New York Public Library. Hoffman earned $1.25 million for Papillon.
8. Papillon proved to be a bear to make, initially budgeted at $4 million but eventually escalating to $14 million. Raising additional cash proved to be a problem. Don Gordon, a friend of Steve McQueen who plays Julot in the film, later recalled: "From what I understand, the producer would take a couple of reels of film, get on an airplane, go back to France, show them the reels of film, get money, get back on an airplane, and bring it back on a lease."
9. Producers had originally wanted to film Papillon in French Guiana, where the infamous prison had once stood. That idea, however, was quickly abandoned when it was discovered that many of the original buildings were either in ruins or had been reclaimed by the jungle.
10. Honduras, Guatemala and the Cayman Islands were all considered as location shoots. Winning out in the end, however, were Spain and Jamaica. An actual replica of the original prison at French Guiana was constructed in Spain. Visiting the set one day was the real Papillon – Henri Charriere. Ali MacGraw, Steve McQueen's girlfriend (and later wife), was present on that day, and later described Charriere as "quite a charming character, but with a huge ego." Charriere died in Madrid on July 29, 1973, and never viewed the final print of Papillon.
11. Steve McQueen shut down the production for five days when he learned that other cast and crew weren't receiving their per diem living expenses, like himself and Dustin Hoffman were. The shutdown cost producers $250,000.
12. That's Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman actually wrestling a crocodile in the movie, "shot" by Vic Tayback who plays a guard. The "wounded" 22-foot croc used in the scene had been temporarily drugged with its deadly jaws wired shut. McQueen jumps on first, followed by a wary Hoffman.
13. Steve McQueen's love for Red Stripe Jamaican beer proved to be a problem. In order to mask the actor's weight gain, costumer Kent James outfitted McQueen in bigger and baggier prison clothes.
14. Papillon begins in a French prison yard populated by naked convicts, where screenwriter Dalton Trumbo plays the stern commandant, launching into his speech: "As of this moment, you are the property of the Penal Administration, French Guiana. After serving your full terms in prison, those of you with sentences of eight years or more, will remain in Guiana as workers and colonists, for a period equal to that of your original sentences. As for France, the nation has disposed of you. France has rid herself of you altogether. Forget France, and put your clothes on." The scene was actually shot at a school yard in Las Matas near Madrid, Spain.
15. Memorable scene: The assembled convicts are marched through the cobbled streets (not in France, as depicted, but actually in Fuenterrabia, Guipuzcoa, just across the border in the Spanish Basque country) in a long procession down to the harbor, guarded at all times – both front and back – by soldiers and policemen with drawn, bayoneted rifles. "You'll' be back, Papillon. Don't worry. You'll be back," a well-dressed woman calls out. "No, you won't," answers Julot softly as he marches to the right of Papillon.
16. Newly arrived on French Guiana, Dega bribes a trustee 2,000 francs so that he and Papillon can remain on Saint Laurent and given easy jobs. A guard hears Dega's name mentioned, introduces himself and states that his family lost everything in Dega's National Defense Bonds forgery scheme. He then assigns both Dega and Papillon to Kilo 40, a brutal work camp where cons cut and move logs in crocodile-infested waters.
17. On his first escape attempt, Papillon is sent to Reclusion on Saint Joseph, where the policy is total silence. Here he endures two years in solitary confinement in cell #234.
18. Anthony Zerbe plays Toussaint the Leper Chieftain. On Pigeon Island, the hideously deformed Toussaint offers Papillon a puff on his cigar, which the escaped con accepts. "How did you know I have dry leprosy, that it isn't contagious?" an amused Toussaint queries. "I didn't," Papillon replies.
19. Papillon debuted on December 16, 1973. Reported Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice: "Schaffner has really made an exhilarating movie out of the most dangerously depressing material."
20. Papillon was a hit, grossing $22.5 million at the American box office, earning the #4 position on the list of the top moneymaking movies of 1973.
21. The film ends with the narration: "Papillon made it to freedom. And for the remaining years of his life, he lived a free man. This, the infamous penal system in French Guiana, did not survive him."
Additional Reading & Top Image
- Ten Valuable Papillon (1973) Movie Posters & Collectibles
- Ten Best Steve McQueen Movie Roles
- Dustin Hoffman, left, and Steve McQueen in Papillon (1973) - Allied Artists
Copyright © 2011 William J. Felchner