"Sandra" promises greatness with the presence of luscious Claudia… More"Sandra" promises greatness with the presence of luscious Claudia Cardinale and director Luchino Visconti, but this sluggish tale unfortunately fails to deliver. Cardinale plays a jet-set beauty who returns to the lavish family mansion with her new husband, only to find some dark secrets re-emerge during the reunion. There's not much more to say about the story, which should tell you something about its thin development -- mostly, the action is just a lot of indoor talking and implied tension. There's also a remarkably grating piano piece recurring in the score. And while I rarely complain about old films not being in color, this is one case where I will -- the black-and-white cinematography poorly serves the home's opulent decor.
Even if it weren't dwarfed by the later Judy Garland classic, this… MoreEven if it weren't dwarfed by the later Judy Garland classic, this "Wizard of Oz" would be a sad, pathetic film. Director/writer/co-star Larry Semon obviously shot for the moon with this expensive-looking silent, and if you're wondering if he got there, you've probably forgotten to ask yourself "Larry WHO?" This misguided version of the L. Frank Baum book wastes half of the film back in Kansas, mostly setting up a love triangle between innocent Dorothy and two farmhands (Semon and the pre-stardom Oliver Hardy). Dorothy doesn't know she's the exiled queen of Oz, but when she turns 18, she and her loved ones discover the truth and are storm-whisked back to her homeland. There is no real magic in this Oz -- no witches, only an evil ruler -- and the iconic Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion roles are awkwardly filled by Semon, Hardy and a forgotten black actor wearing disguises to avoid capture. The latter man (using the pseudonym "G. Howe Black") is especially problematic, as his racist part requires him to munch watermelon and abundantly mug in stereotypical, bug-eyed fashion ("cowardly," indeed). Logical holes are everywhere (for one, why does Dorothy's uncle enter as an abusive ogre and then abruptly turn into a good guy?) and laughs are woefully absent except during a late sequence where humans and shipping crates form a slapstick take on "the shell game." A few bits of crude animation offer some intrigue, but it's not enough. The ending is a throwaway, almost as if Semon abruptly ran out of money. He probably did.
Rated by a mere three Rotten Tomatoes users as of this posting,… MoreRated by a mere three Rotten Tomatoes users as of this posting, "Rotten to the Core" is a delightful caper comedy that Ealing/Peter Sellers/Alec Guinness/Terry-Thomas fans are overdue to rediscover. A lack of durable male stars may be the problem here, even if the young Charlotte Rampling has a prime supporting role (she also has a sexy underwear scene that you won't want to miss). John Boulting ("I'm All Right Jack," "Private's Progress," "Brighton Rock," "Heavens Above!") directs with his usual deft timing. There's also a notably sharp theme song, with cynical lyrics about the generation gap rattled over a speedy jazz beat.
Three lovable idiots (Kenneth Griffith Is the funniest) are released from prison and seek out their old ringleader "The Duke" (Anton Rodgers, who apparently replaced Sellers). They originally hear he's dead (his gravestone epitaph: "He took things as he found them") but soon find him running a crackpot health clinic where senior citizens are kept sedated with booze disguised as magical healing waters. But the Duke (who pulls some obviously Sellers-like disguises) has a greater scheme in mind. Rampling is a bored child of privilege who serves as his girlfriend and accomplice.