So, I’m not much of a movie watcher these days, much less a reviewer. But I’ve started keeping a journal of books read and movies watched, by month. (Got this idea from Rachel!) This month’s been particularly good, so I thought I’d share a few quick recommendations:
Dad’s Army (TV, 1968–1977)
This comedy is set in WWII and follows a group of Home Guard soldiers in an English town named Walmington-on-Sea. Their leader, Captain Mainwaring, manages a bank by day and serves as an officer by night. He takes the whole thing very seriously, determined to transform his ragtag followers – butcher, undertaker, spoiled boy, and all – into a force capable of defending against an invasion.
If you enjoy British humor, this show is likely to appeal to you. It combines several different types of comedy, including dry humor and slapstick, into a coherent medley of laugh-out-loud moments. My favorite thing about it is the ensemble of characters. They’re each quirky, unique, aggravating, and ultimately endearing.
The Scarlet and the Black (1983) – Heard about this one from Stephen
Based on a real-life historical figure, this movie stars Gregory Peck as Hugh O’Flaherty, an Irish priest living in the Vatican who saved thousands of people from the Nazis during WWII. Christopher Plummer plays Herbert Kappler, the SS official in charge of occupied Rome. His orders are to catch any POWs trying to find refuge in the Vatican, and he is prepared to do so by cruel force, twisting Rome into a police state and hounding the “white line” which separates Vatican jurisdiction from the rest of the city.
It is weird watching Plummer, our beloved Captain von Trapp, playing the enemy here. He does an excellent job of it – better at his German accent than Peck is at his Irish. Nonetheless, Peck does what he is best at, and that’s expressing the essence of the character. The self-conflict, humor, anger, and fear are each embodied in O’Flaherty, a very human character. Fans of Gregory Peck and history won’t be disappointed.
Overall, though I like a long historical drama, this one felt a bit too drawn out. I felt the second half was very strong; just the first half was slow. Still one of the best bio-pics I’ve seen.
The Wreck of the Mary Deare (1959) – Heard about this one from Elisabeth
Charlton Heston and Gary Cooper… *mic drop*
Ok, let me try that again. Charlton Heston and Gary Cooper star in this 50s thriller about a ghost ship, the Mary Deare. (Fun fact: Hitchcock considered directing this movie, but decided to work on North by Northwest instead…a film I saw last year and despised. Moving on…) Captain Patch (Cooper) is the only one on the ship. Salvager John Sands (Heston) thinks there’s something fishy about Patch and his story about dynamite, fire, and the crew abandoning the vessel. When Sands and Patch finally make it to shore, other people think it’s fishy, too, and the drama escalates from there.
This story reminded me an awful lot of Joseph Conrad (Lord Jim and The Shadow-Line especially.) Unfortunately, compared to those two, this story is a bit of a letdown. It starts out with an utterly chilling opener, then takes some up-and-downs until the finale, which is fairly pedestrian.
It’s a real shame, because of the cast. Heston is great here as a reluctant hero (definitely a precursor for Chris Pratt’s Jurassic role). Cooper is fine, too, though the role is far from his best. We even get a small appearance by John Le Mesurier, who plays Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army.
Overall, Mary Deare is an ok movie. Speaking of Lord Jim…I would say Mary Deare is way better than Lord Jim (1965) starring Peter O’Toole. But neither one really packs the same punch as an actual Conrad novel.