The International Writers Magazine: DVD Review of Reviews
James Skinner on Hackwriters DVD reviews
refreshing to see English and Creative Writing students from Portsmouth
University, presumably of todays generation, reviewing a
collection of film oldies albeit in refurbished DVD
format, as part of their college study program. A great deal of
the films were already available several years ago on video cassettes,
and although I possess a couple of them those whose reviews I
intend to review I actually saw when they were first
screened in the cinema. Well sort of!
with One flew over the cuckoos nest, filmed
in 1975 and starring Jack Nicholson and co-produced by one of Hollywoods
future superstars, Michael Douglas. I first saw the film during my stint
in Tehran, Iran just before the Shah was kicked out by Ayatollah Khomeini.
It was in one the local fleapits and carried enormous subtitles in Farsi.
I had never heard of Jack Nicholson let alone realised that the storyline
was based on a book written by Ken Kessey. Sally Hawksfords criticism
is that the main theme running throughout the book of racial prejudice
and discrimination was missed as the leading character should have been
the Indian Chief instead of Randle McMurphy. This may have
been correct and am therefore unable to dispute. Nevertheless I enjoyed
the film tremendously and can assure you that it was a roaring success
when it first came out. My assessment is that Sally is far too preoccupied
with this discrepancy and spends too much time describing the book.
Lets move on.
My next review is on Alex Segals comments on 1974s Jaws
directed by a young Stephen Spielberg and based on Peter Benchleys
book. This time, I had read the book first and saw the film when it
was released, wait for it, in Bogotá Colombia! You guessed, with
Spanish subtitles. Alex is spot on with his review. The plot was changed
to exclude the extramarital affairs between Hooper and Brodys
wife plus the wrong people getting killed. However, the reviews at the
time, including the Oscars spoke for themselves. What Alex forgot to
mention was the aftermath both films (sequel Jaws II) had on the erroneous
reputation of sharks the world over. People began to hate them. Twenty
five years later, Benchley made a public apology to ecologists and all
other lovers of these man-eating creatures below the deep.
It was mainly to restore confidence in diving institutions throughout
the world so that scuba enthusiasts need not worry if one of their legs
went missing during a dive in the Bahamas. Next!
Evita the film, reviewed by Susannah Brooksbank.
I actually saw the original Lloyd Webber stage production in London.
Setting aside the obvious differences, the plot was unchanged. Ah! Dear
Eva Duarte de Peron; Argentinas version of a female Robin Hood;
stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Hogwash! I was brought up
in Argentina, just after WWII and remember the era very well. What these
two characters, Evita and General Juan Domingo did in their days of
dictatorship rule, was to squander the huge surplus bank account the
country had thanks to the food supplies sent to both Britain and Germany
between 1940 and 1945, whilst these countries were trying to destroy
each other. Sure; Evita ran around Argentina stirring up the masses
whilst handing out free housing, complete with washing machines to all
those dressed up in blue overalls. Im a socialist at heart but
not an idiot. It was pretty obvious that sooner or later the backbone
of industrial and commercial enterprises would try to put a stop to
the destruction of Argentinas economy. Fortunately or unfortunately,
depending on how you view the events, Evita died prematurely at the
age of 33 and became another one of a list of female icons equal to
Marilyn Monroe and Diana, the Princess of Wales that would forever live
in the hearts of those who loved them. Peron was eventually thrown out
in 1955, yet Argentina continued down the slow path of economic destruction
to this very day. Depending on how you view it, Evita did achieve one
enormous triumph. By nationalising the railways, large cattle farms
and beef handling plants, she literally kicked out the British, including
my father, from Argentina. Im the one that should be singing,
Dont cry for me Argentina.
I move on to a more recent movie directed by James Cameron, starring
Leonardo Di Carpio and Kate Winslet that is reviewed by Rebecca Kingsbury.
I refer to the umpteenth version depicting the true or false
saga of the sinking of the Titanic. Where to start?
I agree with Rebecca in director Camerons incredible concentration
on detail and film settings that included passenger clothing, ship furniture,
layout of interior decorations and many other minuscule era accuracies.
The eventual scenario of the sinking was spectacular to say the least.
Cameron had one advantage on the earlier versions; the wreck had been
discovered in 1985 by an Anglo-French expedition lead by Dr. Robert
Ballard aboard the research vessel Knorr. As Rebecca rightly points
out, Cameron was able to home in on real details of the ship whereas
past film directors relied on early XX century documentary evidence.
But what about the storyline? Here is where I must bring out the muskets.
It is absolute utter rubbish! Travelling on any liner throughout the
world during the first half of the last century that carried both first
and steerage class passenger had a distinct do not cross
barrier sign that divided the ship into the respective classes. It did
not matter whether you travelled on P&O (Pacific and Orient), Blue
Star, Cunard, Royal Mail or any other British passenger service, if
you were in 1st class you wined and dined accordingly. Those in immigrant
class as it was known remained in their dens, usually below
deck and never the twain should meet! The hanky panky that usually went
on was either the odd male passenger from 1st that would discretely
slip into 3rd looking for pleasure or the freelance females
in 1st having a nightcap with one of the officers. May
I show you the Golden Rivet was the usual punch line! Never, repeat
never, would any steerage class immigrant like Di Caprio,
enter the realms of aristocracy of the upper decks. The difference with
the Titanic was that it was her maiden voyage and
was packed with personalities and really rich passengers. The departure
had enormous press coverage on both sides of the Atlantic, and when
she eventually sank, some of the most appalling safety irregularities
both in lifeboat availability and lack of international radio communication
protocols came to light. It is generally recognised today that the only
proper version of the tragedy is depicted in Roy Bakers A
Night to Remember filmed in 1958 and staring Kenneth More
as 2nd officer Lightoller. It is based on Walter Lords book which
is a recompilation of facts as well as statements taken during the eventual
enquiry that took place after the tragedy.
Despite my criticism it is refreshing to note that young students continue
to take an interest in many of the old and classic films that are still
around today thanks to DVD technology. Alas, my own library of video
cassettes, with gems such as To kill a mocking bird,
High Noon or Captains Courageous,
all based on famous authors are beginning to wither. Im too old
and penniless to have them replaced. Pity!
© James Skinner. December 2005.
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