Saturday, June 29, 2013

WORLD WAR III (1982)

Tensions between Russia and America are rising thanks to a grain embargo.  And because of the food shortage in Russia, things are getting out of control, so out of control, in fact, that a group of KGB-led soldiers are airdropped into the remote Alaskan wilderness with the intention of taking over a oil pipeline pumping station.  Unfortunately, there's a group of National Groundsmen training in the area...the Russians kill them.  So now, thanks to a massive weather front that's holding back reinforcements, the only thing between the Russians and the pumping station is a second group of poorly armed National Guardsmen lead by David Soul. At the same time, the President has imposed a media blackout and is in talks with the Russian President, but things are not going well.

WORLD WAR III was broadcast as a two-night miniseries back in January 1982, but other than that I really can't find any information about it.  Was it well received by critics?  Did a lot of people watch it?  I have no idea, but I enjoyed it a lot.  As I mentioned, the story is divided into to parts: the leaders trying to come to a diplomatic solution and the troops on the ground fighting it out.  The American president (played wonderfully by Rock Hudson) is predictably portrayed as a sensitive man with a heart of gold who just wants peace, damn it!  And the Russian leadership was, of course, selfish and quick to kill people in order to get what they want.  All of that is to be expected, but still the negotiations between the two are tense.  On the soldier side, you have David Soul as a war-hardened vet rallying his troops in an almost Alamo-like stand against a enemy force that not only outnumbers them but is also better trained and better armed.  I found it very exciting.

Of course, since this was a made for network television movie back in the early 80's, the violence is pretty tame, but still I found the whole thing to be well-written and the pacing to be really good.  It definitely didn't seem like it was 183 minutes long.  I'd gladly watch it again, but then again, I'm just a sucker for 70's/80's TV movies.  Would make a perfect double-feature with THREADS.

Friday, June 28, 2013

MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (1934)

[Update 01/05/2022: Need to redo this review completely. Fix the screenshots also.]

I was a little disappointed in this film. It was alright, but with so much talent in front of the screen (Myrna Loy, Clark Gable, William Powell and Nat Pendleton – who I think was the best part of the whole movie), not to mention behind the camera: W.S. Van Dyke, Joseph L. Mankiewicz and George Cukor I was really expecting more.

The story is your basic Cain and Abel hokum with two orphans growing up as brothers. One goes the straight and narrow to become a prominent political figure and the other the local kingpin of illegal gambling. Throw in the fact that they are both in love with the same woman and you got…well, nothing really. You would expect for there to be fireworks, but the script plays it safe from beginning to end and there’s never any tension or surprise moments.

I love William Powell, but I thought he was kinda weak here. Maybe it was just that the lame script gave him nothing to work with, but whatever the problem was I think Spencer Tracy would have done a much better job in the role of the honest lawyer. Another thing that really bothered me was why didn’t the three main stars ever appear onscreen together at the same time? That's kinda odd.

Oh well, the film is okay, Clark Gable puts in a great performance as does Nat Pendelton who gets a surprising amount of screen time, but other than that this film is just average. A definite watch for classic film lovers, but others would be better off watching ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES since it’s pretty much the same story.

Interesting trivia: John Dillinger was leaving the Biograph Theater in Chicago, Ill. when he was confronted by federal agents and then shot in the back. Here is a picture of the Biograph Theater with MANHATTAN MELODRAMA on the billboard: