Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

Movie Reviews 362 – Hair (1979)

September 21, 2018

Hair is a musical based on a play that tries to capture the tumultuous counter-culture 1960’s era in which America dealt with the Vietnam war and the backlash against the draft feeding the forces, the rise of the hippie counter-culture and their experimentation with abundant hallucinogens and the sexual revolution. Throw in political assassinations, race riots, anti-war demonstrations and the threat of nuclear annihilation with an ever escalating arms race and you begin to sense the stress and anxiety across the land. Heady times indeed.

When Claude (John Savage), a young country boy from Oklahoma, disembarks from a bus with just a few bucks in his pocket at the foot of New York’s Central Park just days before he has to present himself for boot camp, he meets up with a hippie gang looking for a handout. Claude’s intent is on seeing all the tourist sites the Big Apple has to offer before heading out to war, but when the leader of the gang George (Treat Williams) takes a liking to Claude and adopts him into the gang Claude gets to see a part of America that was not on his checklist.

The camaraderie and panhandling has the gang rebuffed by three posh equestrian women riding in the park, but not before Claude gets an eyeful of Sheila (Beverly D’angelo) and performs some of his own rodeo tricks for the gal. The side glances are not missed by George who decides his new friend Claude should spend a bit more time with the reluctant Sheila before joining up with Uncle Sam.That means crashing a formal garden party held at Sheila’s parent’s estate which lands the entire group in jail only to have Sheila come to the rescue.

But once sprung and enjoying a night on the town George pulls a practical joke on skinny dipping Claude and Sheila which results in a frosty reception by everyone. Months later with Claude now in Nevada and about to be shipped overseas, George rounds up the gang including Sheila to visit Claude and to make amends. But with the camp in lockdown George is forced to play one last ruse, only this one too has consequences.

While I was a 70’s teen I was just a tad too young and one country away to have been part of the more radical 70’s portrayed here. Yet I’ve always had an affinity and even jealousy for those that were able to experience the era, warts and all. As such I’ve always had a fondness for movies that captured one or more of the aspects addressed here. But I must say that I was a bit underwhelmed with how little impact it made on me. Understandably as a musical I did not expect as heavy a hand as a pure drama would but at the same time this story was a but too sugar coated and whimsical. Yes some of the issues that were (and still are) indicative of the times were brought up, but in the most cases it was with a white glove treatment.

I was also expecting more of a musical tour de force being familiar with the theme song and number like Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine in, Good Morning Sunshine, and Easy To Be Hard. But aside from a few snippets of other hits of the era in the background I was not all that impressed by most of the other featured songs.

Despite the laudable intent, this Miloš Forman film, while not bad, did not live up to the hype for me. Just not groovy enough for my tastes.




Movie Reviews 361 – Rush (2013)

September 14, 2018

I’ve always been partial to movies directed by Ron Howard who is much better behind the lens than he was in front of the camera as a child/teen actor despite being in a couple of hit television series. Looking at this directorial history it is clearly evident that his best efforts have been ‘real life’ stories, scoring accolades for such docudramas as Apollo 13 (my personal favorite), A Beautiful Mind, and Frost/Nixon. Rush is yet another feather in his cap where he has effectively captured the personal conflict between the two top contenders who were battling for the crown during the 1976 Formula One car racing season.

Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) were two polar opposite and in their own way equally egotistic individuals, both driven to win the competition that year when faith intervened in the form of a tragic accident. With reigning champ Lauda in the points lead and only a few races to go in the season a fiery crash severely burns Lauda and leaves him hospitalized with a scorched face and one ear completely gone. Hunt, already a thorn in Lauda’s side from the season before and with more than his share of bad luck early in the season swings the tide and suddenly finds himself in contention to win. Undaunted, Lauda who really should be recuperating from the accident makes an astonishing and shocking appearance at the final race  where the championship will be decided.

Howard avoids the pitfall of over relying on on-track race thrills and delivers all the suspense from the characters themselves and the off track events which are more entertaining. He emphasizes the drastic differences between the personalities, both assholes in their own way. Hunt the boisterous braggart and his sexual proclivities against the calculating, self centered and unapologetic narcissistic Lauda. Both are extremely talented and yet both were shunned by wealthy parents for pursuing such an undignified profession. Aside from their talents at driving the only other thing they shared was the mutual hatred and loathing of one another. And yet through it all, there comes a glimmer of admiration and even respect.

This is not a film just for racing fanatics and you don’t need to really understand the sport at all to get the rush from this fine film. You’ll be entertained from beginning to end and not just once the final checkered flag declares the winner in the standings, because the true winners here is the viewing audience.

Movie Reviews 357 – Point Blank (1967)

August 10, 2018

The mysteries pile up quickly in director’s Point Blank based on the novel The Hunter by Donald Westlake. As a late night heist unfolds at vacated Alcatraz prison, we’re not sure what is being stolen, why and from who. We also don’t know much about the thieves, a man named Walker (Lee Marvin), a woman, and their accomplice named Mal Reese (John Vernon). More questions pile up as Reese counts the take and deems it insufficient for his needs forcing him to double-cross Walker. Which he does by shooting him. Point Blank.

With the help of a man named Yost (Keenan Wynn) Walker not only survives but recovers fully and now wants what was coming to him – the $93,000 that was his share of the take – and Reese. Both become an obsession and nothing will stand in his way which ends up translating to a lot of dead bodies.

It begins with the woman who was with the men the night of the heist. Walker’s wife who he learns not only sided with Reese but who she later fled with him to Los Angeles. But when he confronts her at Reese’s house he learns that Mal has already left her and while Walker can’t muster the courage to kill her she obligingly does the job for him.

Walker then follows a trail of clues and people as he deconstructs ‘the organization’, a crime syndicate that was the target that ill fated night and one that Reese now works for. With the aid of his sister-in-law (Angie Dickinson) and the mysterious Yost, Walker escalates the tiers of the organization getting ever closer to his money … and Mal.

This movie is a treat in many ways. Marvin is in top teeth gnashing, tough as nails form as he goes through maniacal phases that have him pumping lead into a empty bed and terrorizing a car salesman during a test drive. The mysterious organization is peeled back one layer at a time with many surprises along the way including a decent twist ending. It was enjoyable seeing Carroll O’Connor in a serious (well almost) role and genre fans should keep an eye out for Sid Haig in a “blink and you’ll miss him” role.

One other star in this film is Alcatraz prison, now more affectionately known simply as “the Rock”. While it has been featured in many movies since, according to the DVD special features this was the first movie made at the infamous island penitentiary so it was a big deal at the time.

Point Blank is one of those great sixties thrillers that never got the respect it deserves but is yet another film that showcased the talent of Marvin and the immense presence he always had. There is one great scene in which Marvin is filmed simply walking down a long corridor, energetically stomping every step of the extended shot. He doesn’t say anything or interact in a way but it expresses the unflinching determination of his character as much as any other scene.

Watch this one. Near, far or at point blank range.

Movie Reviews 355 – Angel Heart (1987)

July 27, 2018

Robert De Niro has always been one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood with roles ranging from roguish mobsters, punch drunk boxers, power hungry revolutionaries and surprisingly even in comedic portrayals. But when he took on the role of The Devil in Angel Heart it turned a lot of heads. But ever the trendsetter, DeNiro’s lord of darkness is not any red horned caricature but an immaculately attired and dignified Satan with a slick haircut and even sporting my earliest recollection of a “man bun”. Yes, this movie is different in many ways.

Beginning in post WWII New York, De Niro as Louis Cyphre (get it?) hires private eye Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) to determine the status a man named Johnny Favorite. Cypher explains to the disheveled looking Angel that Johnny, a one time singer but later war veteran who returned with post traumatic stress and is reputedly being held in a mental institution. But Cyphre has his doubts and explains that he has some outstanding business dealings with Favorite and would like Angel to substantiate Favorite’s institutionalized status. Sure enough Harry discovers that records have been falsified and with great reluctance ends up following a trail that includes a fiancee (Charlotte Rampling), a mistress and her daughter (Lisa Bonet), and former band members all of which Harry encounter in New Orleans.

This “gumshoe-horror” – for lack of a better description – is both a mystery in the traditional sense, while the horror elements are more those of human failings than supernatural ones with just a touch of voodoo rituals. But there is a distinct trail of bodies along Harry’s journey for the truth and the truth is the twist ending.

This movie was criticized more for the scenes of Lisa Bonet – a member of America’s idyllic TV family at the time for her role as one of the kids in The Cosby Show – exposing herself in a few shots and one particular racy sex scene than any of the horror gore. There is also a lot of symbolism, some obvious and others not so much – I could never figure out why but there are fans, big, small, rotating, stationary, every few minutes. And there are plenty of chickens as constantly being pointed out as one of Harry’s phobias and the voodoo offerings.

All of these bizarre elements make Angel Heart stand out as an unusual film that I would classify as ‘must see’ by any cinefile no matter your genre of preference.

Movie Reviews 350 – Dial M for Murder (1954)

June 22, 2018

After bringing up what was arguably actor Ray Milland‘s worst cinematic achievement, the fun but highly undignified The Thing With Two Heads I felt somewhat obligated to remind everyone that he was once one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. And what better way to do that than to review what may have been his best performance, that of the scheming husband in Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder.

Based on a brilliant stage, the mystery can be broken down as distinct acts that could be titled as The illicit lovers, The murder plan, The failed execution, The cover up and The unraveling.

The film first introduces us to the Wendices, a respectful and refined social couple discussing day to day musings at the breakfast table. As Tony Wendice (Milland) sips his coffee his wife Margot (Grace Kelly) notices that a particular famed writer will soon be arriving on a transcontinental ocean liner. Peeling back that first layer of respectability, we learn that the writer, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings) long ago had an affair with Margot. An affair that he hopes to rekindle. As Margot rebuffs his intentions she confesses that she once considered leaving Tony for Mark. But when evidence of their affair, an old confessional letter was once lost and nearly came to Tony’s attention, she decided to reaffirmed her faithfulness to her husband.

The second act then reveals Tony’s own darker side as he goes to great lengths to blackmail a former acquaintance to murder Margot. It all started with the letter and since that time he has realized that he would be destitute without Margot and has been scheming ever since. So meticulous has been his planning that he explains exactly how and when the murder is to proceed which will give him an ironclad alibi. And all his planning nearly work except for one minute detail …

Part of the fun is following all the artifacts that come into play for the setup and execution of the dastardly plan. Keys, letters, photos, and a myriad of other details. The audience is convinced that the plan seems foolproof, and yet when it does come apart we are just as entertained by how Tony determinedly hangs in and covers up his involvement, one fact at a time. So successful is he with his cover up that he attains his original goal as a result of the spin he puts on events on the evidence despite the failure of his original plan.

At first, the foiled crime seems cut and dry to the police. But both Halliday, being a crime fiction writer and one especially tenacious chief inspector (John Williams) keep Tony on his toes. And the cleverest part is the ultimate test that Tony is challenged with while not even knowing he is under a microscope.

I thought that the camera movements were particularly interesting as it to follows pivotal objects of interest to the crime but I later learned that this movie was actually filmed in early 3D technology which I suspect may have had an impact on some of those framing choices. But cinematics aside, the movie presents an intricate puzzle during each act.

A great murder mystery at the hands of the master Hitchcock and a redemptive portrayal for Milland should you ever believe that he was never an A-list thespian.

Movie Reviews 346 – Fearless (2006)

May 24, 2018

While Jet Li has always been a fair actor with martial arts skills to match the movies he has performed in have been decidedly mixed in terms of quality as well as varied in terms of roles he has played. That range includes prominent roles such as the silent captive in Unleashed to his less than  inspirational government bred super soldier in Black Mask. Now that I have finally come around to watching Fearless I can easily say that  this is by far my favorite Li film, both from the point of view of the story and in particular his multi-faceted role.

As a youngster Huo Yuanjia (Li) diligently watched his father teaching martial arts in his private school. Despite being beaten at school constantly by bullies his father refused to teach Huo himself how to fight due to his asthmatic condition. Unfazed and with the help of his more level headed best friend Jinsun (Dong Yong) he manages to steal a textbook so that he can teach himself how to fight. His inclination to learn becomes all encompassing the day he watches his father die in a ‘Death Challenge’ after having been victorious in a string of prior challenges. His father’s death is all the more perplexing to Huo as he had the upper hand in the battle but failed to deliver the fatal blow after having taken down the opponent.

Now a young family man, Huo racks up a string of victories just as his father did, until he becomes reigning champion of the region. But Huo arrogantly flaunts his status as his followers and students party incessantly. When a visiting rival fighter, Qin Lei, beats up one of Huo’s students he immediately goes to a family feast being hosted by Qin in his old friend Jinsun’s establishment. There Huo publicly challenges Qin, disrupting the festivities. Jinsun warns Huo that he is being reckless, but Huo will have none of it, and severing his friendship with Jinsun soundly beats Qin in battle. It is only after Qin dies overnight as a result of his injuries that Huo learns that he did not have the full story. But in retaliation Qin’s nephew has meted out his own justice, killing Huo’s family including his beloved young daughter.

A shattered man, Huo leaves town and becomes a wandering vagrant saved from drowning one day by old woman. The woman brings him home to heal at the hands of her blind daughter Yueci (Sun Li). In their village Toiling in the rice fields Huo learn about humility, patience, and finally love as he falls for Yueci. But Huo is compelled to return to his home to make amends for his past, and once there he is again lured to the battle arena. But this is a new Huo, and his fate will be dictated by his newfound wisdom.

While Fearless does have action sequences – one a particular standout battle atop a high scaffold arena – this is not an action packed film like most of Li’s other films. This film has a split personality that mimics the transition of Huo’s character growth. Edgy at first, then flowing into a somber and humble pace. The message of the film is one of personal ambition clashing with family values, morals and personal integrity while throwing in a dash of anti-colonialism. The end of kind of a mixed bag with Huo finding his inner peace but at a coming with price nonetheless.

If your looking for an action movie there are plenty of better choices, but if you want a well rounded martial arts film this will suit the bill and is definitely recommended.


Movie Reviews 343 – The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

May 3, 2018

Oscar Wilde‘s The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel that straddles being a love story, a morality play and a Victorian gothic horror. This multi-angled plot is why many underrate or dismiss altogether the ‘Horror’ label and why MGM, not recognized for horror other than a few sporadic efforts decided to stray from their roots and produce this 1945 adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray. This is quite a shame as the studio delivers in all the aforementioned elements in this finely crafted film that included great performances by the entire main cast.

Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield) is a young aristocrat who embraces his youth and upon seeing his finished portrait declares “As I grow old my picture will stay young. I wish it was the other way around”. But such Faustian desires are always fraught with danger and when Dorian first falters at holding societal norms, callously testing his lover’s morals, he notices that there are slight yet unmistakable changes in his picture. Over time he discovers that he is indeed ageless while his image ages in his place. But even worse than simply maturing, this portrait begins accumulating grotesque features for each and every of Dorian’s misdeeds. As his exploits and destruction continue in an ever widening spiral, so does the painting until it becomes a monstrous obscenity that even he cringes to look upon.

Dorian is the focus of the story but George Sanders takes top billing as the callous and heartless Lord Wotton who first leads Dorian down the poisonous path. The first victim is a poor, lovely singer (Angela Lansbury) who captures Dorian’s heart but is the one that he morbidly tests. Despite the terrible outcome this test, Dorian continues baneful ways for years, indifferent to the murmurs and lurid speculation among nobles. The second woman  to catch his affections is Gladys (Donna Reed), the niece of the painter that created the portrait when she was but a child. At this point Dorian becomes more perceptive of the harm inflicted on others around him and wishes to spare Gladys the evident eventual torment. But can he turn back to clock?

As lauded as the cast is the stunning mutating artwork that is the title of the movie. The movie was filmed in black and white but it does switch to color (a novelty at the time) for a few seconds at points in the film when the portrait is being shown depicting further decay. These brief expositions are quite effective, especially when Dorian has just stabbed his first direct murder victim and we now view ghastly red blood added to the portrait’s palette. Artist Ivan Albright, already celebrated for his time consuming, intricate detail work painted the ever deteriorating Dorian (as well as the freakish backdrop) but this was done on top of a painting of a young Dorian by another artist. Thankfully the painting can still be enjoyed as it was preserved and currently resides in the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is as celebrated on film as is the novel which is has remain in constant reprint across the world. There were British, German and Hungarian silent film renditions respectively released in 1916, 1917, 1918, well before this film. There have also been two remakes that were simply titled Dorian Gray, the first in 1970 an Italian production (Il dio chiamato Dorian) from B-movie maven Samuel Z. Arkoff that was quite indicative of the sexually liberal era in which it was filmed and the other in 2009 in a film that strays somewhat from the original version. And there is also a full title 2004 movie starring Josh Duhamel. But given all these choices, this is the version you want to see with your tea and crumpets.

Movie Reviews 340 – All About Eve (1950)

April 13, 2018

I was going to write a review for an entirely different type of movie this week but the ‘chinglish’ dubbing was so atrocious I could not be sure what some of the points of discussion really meant (that movie was Jet Li’s early oeuvre Lord of the Wu-Tang for those that are curious and I may attempt it again in the future). But as luck would have it I watched All About Eve the following night and was so enthralled I just had to write about it instead and solve my problem at the same time

I always thought that Bette Davis had her second coming with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, easily my favorite Davis film. But it turns out that that was her second career revival as she had already faded once before only to be resurrected by her stunning performance in All About Eve. Even I have to admit her performance here was almost as outstanding as her Baby Jane role. What makes all this so bizzare are the multitude of ‘life imitating art’ coincidences associated with both this movie and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.  Davis plays an aging movie star while herself being considered a has-been at time, and in both cases she earned Oscar nominations for those portrayals.  Also in both cases, what happened behind the scenes eerily mimicked the plots of the movies.

Both written and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, the story about a calculating and conniving aspiring actress Eve (Anne Baxter) that manipulates star Margo Channing (Davis) and her entourage by eliciting pity and plying adoration as needed to make her way up the Broadway ladder. Her marks include Margo’s boyfriend Bill (Gary Merrill), Margo’s best friend Karen (Celeste Holm) and her playwright husband Lloyd (Hugh Marlowe), and the theater critic Addison (George Sanders) in this circle of friends. This is literally all about Eve’s lies, deceit and games, all geared towards taking Margo’s place.

I’ve always said that if any movie is worth its salt it begins with a good script and All About Eve is a fine example of that axiom. It seemed that almost ever sentence had a double meaning and the perception of almost every character seems to change from good to bad or the other way around. It is chock full of memorable one liners like Lloyd noting “It’s about time the piano realized it has not written the concerto!” or Davis’ famous “Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy night.

My 20th Century Fox “Studio Classics” DVD contained a “Backstory” documentary on the making of the film which detailed the history as well many aspects where the film echoed real life. For instance, while Davis was a shoe in for the Best Actress Oscar nomination, Baxter fought and convinced producer Darryl Zanuck that she should vie for the same Oscar and not settle for a Supporting Actress one. But by pitting both performers in the same category and presumably having them take one one another’s votes they both lost, effectively both losing oscars probably would have otherwise won had they been in separate categories.

There is so much more to this movie that tackles ageism, the politics of theater, fame, and of course love and friendship. There is even a decent amount of comedy, most of that coming from Margo’s assistant Birdie (Thelma Ritter). But the best is of course Bette Davis essentially playing… well herself.

Movie Reviews 338 – The Ten Commandments (1956)

March 29, 2018

I jumped the gun on purpose this week to rewatch The Ten Commandments which is a movie traditionally broadcast on network television and watched by millions over the Easter weekend. I did so to try to get my review out just before the weekend hoping that some would read it and garner a greater appreciation for this epic film. I should point out right away that while it is a religious film depicting the Exodus, Moses and his struggle to free the Israelite slaves, I am not a religious person by any means (quite the opposite in fact) and yet have always enjoyed every aspect of this marvelous film.

I supposed that some of my love for this film was conceived when I first saw this movie in 1972 when it made one of its many rounds in theaters – keeping in mind that in those days there were no home viewing devices other than television so movies would often have multiple theatrical releases hoping to have a new generation of viewers come and watch. I was doubly lucky in that I was able to view it in one of the city’s last majestic, ornately decorated theaters – Montreal’s long gone Capitol theater which had seating capacity for over 2500 people – just one year before it was razed. But I digress…

Clocking at nearly four hours, the story relates how Moses (Charlton Heston) is raised as a prince of Egypt despite being born of slaves, and grows up as the favored successor to the throne overshadowing the king’s own son Ramses (Yul Brynner), outshining him not only in the eyes of the pharaoh Sethi but also in the heart of the princess Nefretiri (Anne Baxter). Only when Moses learns of his true heritage he willingly trades in his royal garb for the loins and life of a slave where he ponders the legitimacy of slavery until eventually assuming the role of the prophesized Deliverer and the voice of God himself.

I won’t go into details of the layered plot for those that have never seen the movie – ironic since this is one of those films I’ve watched so many times I can probably recite the proceedings from memory – other than saying that Moses is exiled when his parentage is revealed to the king and he is denounced as the Deliverer, despite making no such claim. With Moses castigated, Sethi proclaims Ramses as the heir to the throne, a position that also gives Ramses claim to the princess. Moses ends up in a faraway land and upon hearing the continued misery of the slaves confronts God on Mount Sinai who command him to return to Egypt and free his people. Moses unleashes and ever increasingly impressive display of supernatural events that fail to convince Ramses of Gods powers until the final one breaks the pharaoh. But taunted by the princess Ramses makes one last vainful attempt to regain his dignity.

The special effect laden movie boast some spectacular scenes hallmarked by Moses parting the Red Sea as an escape route for the Israelites as he keeps Ramses and his army of chariots at bay by a pillar of fire. But as mesmerizing as the spectral scenes are, the rest of the film is just as eye catching. While the backdrops suffer somewhat from primitive rear projection techniques no expense were spared in the many other stock scenes whether it be the rise of a new city (and the thousands of slaves toiling as thee build it) or the storms raging on mount Sinai.

This is one of the earliest movies featuring a star studded cast that includes Vincent Price, Edward G. Robinson and Yvonne De Carlo to name just a few and despite the length, the script is taut and suspenseful from beginning to end. This was actually director Cecil B. DeMille’s second stab at making The Ten Commandments, having made a silent version in 1923. He must certainly have learned a few things because in my opinion, he nailed it with this one. The script, the acting, the cinematography, the costumes, the sets, the score and certainly the special effects.

While I do have a considerable number of Blu-ray movies in my collection, I rarely go out and buy them new. However in the case of this movie I was anxiously awaiting the Blu-ray edition so that I could watch this film and all it’s lavish colours and detail in the high definition it deserves.

If you have yet to see this film, you must watch it.

“So let it be written, so let it be done.”

Movie Reviews 332 – Saturday Night Fever (1977)

February 16, 2018

This is as much a confessional as it is a movie review. Why? Because until this week I had never seen Saturday Night Fever before. Most of my readers would think “So what?”, correctly assuming that the majority of films I review here are new to me. So why is the fact I have never seen this particular film in the 40 years since it’s release such a big deal?

The answer lies in part based on my ‘hood’, high school and heritage. The disco mania of the era was a global phenomenon to be sure, but nowhere was it embraced as energetically as within adolescent Italian circles.Growing up Italian – well half Italian to be precise – in a predominantly Italian neighborhood and attending a Catholic high school where about 95 percent of the students were Italians, it was a given that I had seen this film. In this sphere it was considered sacrilegious not to and I suspect a shock to some of my friends from that era who may be reading this now and discovering I had fallen in this regard. That is not to say there was not a staunch rocker, anti-disco clique as well, but they were certainly in the minority. How Italian was John F. Kennedy Comprehensive High School in Montreal in the late 70’s? This was a milieu where you couldn’t throw a rock and not hit a Tony or Maria. (For the record, there were twenty guys named Tony and twenty girls named Maria in my graduating year alone. Trust me, I counted them all in my yearbook.) And being what it was, the vast majority of those students lived and breathed the disco lifestyle – and quite honestly, many of them still do. These kids went to see this movie over and over at the theater, some perhaps a dozen times. My brother was a DJ and his copy of the vinyl LP soundtrack to this film had to be replaced more than once due to the sheer number of ‘spins’ these tracks got. The clothing, hairstyles,  the Italian horn and ‘cornuto’ gold pendants and even those ‘pointer’ shoes all the guys wore reflected that mirror-balled, vainglorious lifestyle.

I’ll be honest that in stating I’m not even sure why I drew the line watching this movie when surrounded by so many devotees. Given what little I knew of the movie one of the reasons I avoid it was that I assumed it would have little or no substance. But I have to admit I was wrong in that particular regard.

Ostensibly the story is about Tony Manero (John Travolta), a young man living under the shadow of his pious priest brother while working a menial job at a hardware store by day. When not begging for salary advances at work he gets hounded at home by his parents for his lack of ambition. His salvation presents itself at night on the dance floor of his local discotheque where his lithe feet and his good looks reward him with women swooning over his every step. Vain and self centered at first, Tony begins to question his friends, values and future. While a lot of this is fluff delivered in a Brooklynese accent as thick as my mother’s spaghetti sauce – and with the exception of the lead, some fairly cringe worthy acting skills – there is more going on here under the surface. The story is buttressed with episodes of unrequited love, parental expectations, responsibilities of adulthood, unplanned parenthood, turf wars and just a smattering of religion.

But the true charm of watching this movie today is the nostalgic time-trip it delivers. Amidst the retro Farrah Fawcett and Rocky posters is a fun look back at what I can only describe as an ‘interesting’ time period for which some attitudes and priorities still perplex me. The music, obviously a large part of this feature and primarily delivered by the Bee Gees, is memorable and even still catchy (at times) after all these years and despite not being my choice of genres.

A few last observations about this movie worth noting. First, you may want to look for a brief appearance of Fran “The Nanny” Drescher in some of the scenes. And lastly, I have to ask: Why was there a strip bar within the discotheque? Because that’s not how I remember them at all. Had I known, perhaps I would not have waited forty years to watch the damn movie.