Dark Of The Sun
As of writing, the tough as nails action flick Dark Of The Sun is still not available in the U.S. on DVD. To see it at home you have to endure an old pan n’ scan VHS edition, which is reportedly edited (for violence) from the original cut that graced cinemas in the late '60s. Also known as The Mercenaries, even with the low quality options, it’s worth watching. Filled with spectacular African locations, cool action, solid performances, and, most importantly, a wildly inventive score by the French composer Jacques Loussier, Dark of The Sun is a lost gem that deserves to be rediscovered.
Less preachy in its mission than more recent films like Blood Diamond, the social statements about race and economic exploitation of Africa are there, but Dark Of The Sun is more concerned with action. Ultra-cool Rod Taylor (The Birds) plays Captain Bruce Curry, a mercenary in the Congo. He is hired to retrieve a load of diamonds deep in the mountains and, while there, rescue a group of white company workers about to be attacked by rebel soldiers (Simbas). Aided by his top man, Sergeant Ruffo (American football star Jim Brown), and a drunken British doctor Wreid (Kenneth More), they put together a team of Congolese soldiers led by a nasty German Nazi officer, Henlein (Peter Carsten). Along the way they pick up a saucy Belgian care worker, Claire, who has some obvious chemistry with Curry (Yvette Mimieux, Taylor’s love interest a decade earlier in The Time Machine) and fight though UN roadblocks, rebel soldiers, and airplanes.Continue Reading
In a Lonely Place
Humphrey Bogart remains to be remembered for characters with a lethal trigger finger and an equally lethal tongue. Films like The Maltese Falcon exemplify not only the height of his merits as an actor, but continue to be incomparable relics in the world of Noir.
Many of his works, most notably Casablanca, have an intrinsic outline - a gloomy skeleton harnessing unrequited love. Alas, they usually finish on a somewhat heroic note as the character must sacrifice his love with the understanding that his lifestyle simply has no place for it. One can only wonder how much of that resembled Bogart's experiences in life. He had four wives and a few fall outs with friends.Continue Reading
John Huston’s massive career as a director spanned almost fifty years (1941-1987) and it’s full of classics and misfires, ranging from the high of his genre masterpiece, The Maltese Falcon (his first in '41), to the bizarrely unwatchable psycho-thriller, Phobia, in '80 (starring Paul Michael Glaser!?). Today he is mostly revered for his WWII docs and some of his work with Humphrey Bogart (Falcon, Key Largo, The Treasure of The Sierra Madre and The African Queen), while The Asphalt Jungle, The Misfits, Under The Volcano, Prizzi’s Honor and many more have their champions. The main body of his work is mostly made up of imperfect but ambitious exercises in different styles, Moby Dick, Freud, Reflections in The Golden Eye being just a couple of examples. But without a doubt his mostly fascinating, not perfect, but utterly unique film might be his biography of the disfigured French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Moulin Rouge. Released in '52, it's a sorta lost classic (not to be confused with Australian director Baz Luhmann’s hyperactive exercise in ear drum damage).
Respected Puerto Rican born actor José Ferrer, fresh off his Oscar winning performance in '50 for playing Cyrano de Bergerac, takes on the role of the painter who is remembered just as well for the childhood accident that stopped his legs from growing as he is for his post-impressionism painting of the seedier side of the decadence of Paris’s colorful nightclub world of dancers, outcasts and prostitutes at the Moulin Rouge. Filmed with a colorful “Technicolor” style to match the painting of Toulouse-Lautrec (with echoing tilted angles to match other '50s visionaries like Nicholas Ray), Huston and dynamic cinematographer Oswald Morris (Sleuth, Lolita, The Spy Who Came in From The Cold, etc. etc.) use every trick in the Wellesian book to tell their story (flashbacks, shooting through mirrors, every color carefully placed) and are aided by the vivid sets and costumes by Marcel Vertès, who won two Oscars for the film.Continue Reading