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Brian S. Meredith "Brian"

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Pitfall [DVD] [1948] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Pitfall [DVD] [1948] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by RAREWAVES USA
Price: £6.97

5.0 out of 5 stars First Division Film Noir!, 19 May 2016
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Hollywood made hundreds of film noir like this in the forties and fifties. Many were dreadful, others were run of the mill, OK to while away an hour or so, while a few were quite superb. Most of the last group are justly famous, eg. The Blue Dahlia, Double Indemnity, Touch of Evil etc. But there are some terrific movies which seem to have somehow never achieved quite the fame they deserve.

Pitfall is definitely one of these. Everything about this movie works - the plot, the script, acting performances - are all completely engaging and convincing. Dick Powell stars as John Forbes, a middle manager in a large LA insurance firm who has become bored with the predictability of his daily routine and lack of adventure in his life. He seems to have everything – a well paid job with status, a loving wife who is pretty, intelligent and witty (the lovely Jane Wyatt), a spacious suburban home in the hills above the city and a young son who worships him. So what could possibly make him risk all that? The answer is Lizabeth Scott, a heartbreakingly beautiful woman he meets one afternoon spent out from the office. She is lonely because her man is in jail and his head is ready to be turned. He is immediately filled with remorse and comes to his senses, but their brief affair sets off a chain of events which ends up with two people dead and one heading for the electric chair.
Lizabeth Scott plays a women who has never set out to be a femme fatale. She seems quite guileless but just happens to attract the attention of men without really trying, unfortunately often the wrong men. Her performance is quite wonderful, effortlessly painting a portrait of a woman with a past filled with misfortune and disappointment but who has neither lost her moral compass nor completely given up all hope of happiness. It's a touching portrayal.
The principle fly in the ointment is a sinister, private detective, who has himself become utterly obsessed with Scott, played by the utterly dependable Raymond Burr, an actor who spent over a decade playing various nasty heavies before becoming Perry Mason. Burr's barely contained but relentless menace gives powerful hints of his character's underlying psychopathy.
The script is wonderful, full of details which help us understand both the characters and the plot, Jane Wyatt's witty banter with husband Powell reveal a woman who is more intelligent than him and this makes her pragmatic response to the eventual outcome entirely credible. Raymond Burr's first line in the whole movie has him unashamedly asking for praise and appreciation from Powell, almost like a child demanding approval, showing right from the start how, under all the toughness and violence, his character is insecure and emotionally needful.
There are many such little glimpses throughout this film, which is why the movie deserves to take its place among the first division of forties movies.


The Chief Culprit: Stalin's Grand Design to Start World War II
The Chief Culprit: Stalin's Grand Design to Start World War II
by Viktor Suvorov
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.95

5.0 out of 5 stars This is an extraordinary book. It not only contradicts ..., 17 Mar. 2016
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This is an extraordinary book. It not only contradicts just about every historical account of the war between Germany and Russia, both with regard their causes and the subsequent prosecution, it answers the one question no other write has been able to explain. Just why was Hitler crazy enough to even think of attacking the Soviet Union with its almost finite resources for war, both human and material. None of the standard explanations ever quite make sense, historians often relying on Hitler's supposed insanity as their ultimate joker card, to be played when when logic and facts run out. When you read Viktor Suvorov's detailed and widely researched account of Stalin's deployment of his vast Red Army in the years leading up to the Second World War, it all makes sense without the need for such devices. He also dismisses all the long-held assumptions we have had about the supposedly inferior military technology of the Soviets compared with the much vaunted Wehrmacht and explains why it is that we believe the things we do. Essential reading, but only if you're prepared to put to one side what you think you know and look at these things again. Before he defected from the Soviet Union, Viktor Suvorov's (not his real name) job was a military intelligence analyst and in this book he uses facts and logic to make his case.


Inside Llewyn Davis [DVD] [2014]
Inside Llewyn Davis [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Oscar Isaac
Price: £5.89

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I wanted so much to enjoy this film., 2 Feb. 2016
I was really keen to see this movie. As a teenager who bought Bob Dylan's first album way back in 1962, I spent many hours scouring every magazine shop †
I came across for rare, imported copies of Hootenanny magazine. I tried hard to immerse myself in as much of that Greenwich Village milieu as was possible from 5,000 miles away in England. So when I heard the Coen brothers had a movie about that whole scene I was excited. Maybe I was about to see in Technicolor a now-vanished world of which I had only been able to get brief glimpses fifty years ago. Anticipating a movie this much can be a big mistake, it often leads to disappointment.

And so it is with this film. The film disappoints on every level. In fact it's debatable whether there's really a movie here at all. It's as if the Coens wanted to make a film about this subject but didn't really have a film to make. But they went ahead anyway. The result is plotless and unengaging. The only films which can afford to skimp on plot are action movies and this film has neither, but it is big on clichés. The first cliché is the cinematography. In order to hammer home the cold, bleak mood of the film the visuals are processed into that depressing artificial colour space which reduces everything to either a cold steely grey or a shade of brown. This gives it an instant-nostalgia look because after a couple of decades of being subjected to this facile technique, audiences now quite falsely associate the period with drabness. This is a fiction, see the album cover of Freewheelin' to confirm that blue jeans really were blue in those days, even on snowy days. Gosh who'd have thought it?

A movie with neither plot nor action needs well drawn, engaging and believable characters, if it is to mean anything. Oh dear. Our hero is a folk singer wannabe with insufficient talent to be successful. He's demanding of everyone around him, constantly scrounging food, cigarettes and somewhere in the Village to sleep. He's arrogant and precious about his supposed gifts and ungrateful to the point of cruelty to those good hearted souls who do go out of their way to support him. It's a tribute to Oscar Isaac's acting that he makes his character seem bearable to be with at all. Next there's the wife of a fellow folk singer whom he may have got pregnant and who demands that he find the money for her abortion. For 1961 she seems to swear rather too profusely and shamelessly to be convincing as an educated young woman whose real ambition we are told is to move to suburbia with her husband and start a family. The full volume emphatic f-word in every sentence is a much more recent phenomenon for middle class college girls like her. Next there's the shared car ride from hell, with a tortured beat poet and a cartoonish bad-mouthed heroin-addicted jazz musician. This sequence feels like a page torn out at random from a Kerouac novel and pasted in for effect. It does at least provide some comic relief - of a kind. The dependable John Goodman has a whale of a time with his part, clearly enjoying the opportunity to go right over the top and all the way down the sides. LLewyn is travelling to Chicago in order to meet yet another one dimensional character, a Mr. Big-time music promoter with no discernible human characteristics who, naturally turns him down flat. The character's name is Grossman which is a bit unfair on Albert Grossman, who became Dylan's manager. Obviously many will conflate the two but if you've seen Don't Look Back (and I'm sure you have) you'll know he was nothing like this guy. By now the movie is lurching from one cliché to another, so it's off to visit his father who is in a care home. Since our hero is only in his twenties, just how old is his old man meant to be? Late forties? Fifties? Well in this wilfully depressing version of the world he couldn't possibly be anything less than a full- blown uncommunicative, dementia-racked, incontinent husk of a man, could he? Add in almost mythically mysterious figure dressed in black who turns up out of the shadows in the alley behind the folk club to beat Llewyn up on a couple of occasions and that's about it.

I'll give it one star because he does appear to care about cats. It's his one saving grace. The problem is that it's the movie's only saving grace too.


War And Peace [DVD]
War And Peace [DVD]
Dvd ~ Andrei Bolkonsky

13 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Please Read The Book!, 30 Jun. 2015
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This review is from: War And Peace [DVD] (DVD)
This film is enormous. In all the wrong ways. Bloated in fact. Weighed down by its sense of its own importance it can barely drag itself along on its knuckles. By contrast the novel, despite being around 1200 pages, doesn't waste a single page and flies effortlessly like a bird. My fear is that people who are unsure about reading such a mighty book might be inclined to watch this film first to get an idea of what they are in for. This film will give you absolutely no idea of the treasure that is contained in Tolstoy's masterpiece. If I'd seen this film first I'd never have picked up the book. And that's the movie's geat disservice to Tolstoy.

The film is a travesty, obsessed with huge balls and spectacular (and interminable) battle scenes which make absolutely no sense after the first five minutes, but they just go on and on and on. There's no clear sense of what's happening just an incoherent montage of groups of soldiers, many on horseback, charging around in all directions, going this way and that. Tolstoy's incomparable powers of description convey very vividly what it was like to be there, both before the fighting, during and after, but the film does not. Between these huge set pieces, which are clearly the only bits Bondarchuk is really interested in, many of the key psychological moments in the novel are merely sketched in so dismissively that if you haven't read the book their significance will simply not register. And there are whole subplots and pivotal scenes simply missing from this film. If he hadn't wasted so much time and money on the set pieces there would have been ample scope to include these. And the ending is inexplicable, if you've read the book you'll be amazed at the abrupt way the film just seems to lose interest and give up. Possibly because at the point the director has realised that there are no more big battles or cities left to burn so the film just gives up and goes home (and they all lived happily ever after - roll credits).
If you really have to see a dramatisation before reading the book, get the incomparably better BBC-TV serialisation with Anthony Hopkins as Pierre. Yes the battle and fire of Moscow scenes are small and low budget by comparison but that's of no matter. This novel is really about people and the characterisations both in the script and the superb performances by the flawlessly cast actors are so much closer to the novel. The novel gives a sense of having met and become involved with real people and the BBC version achieves that too.

But most of all, read the book
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 17, 2016 3:19 PM GMT


Solo Guitar
Solo Guitar
Price: £23.12

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful music from a master of his instrument, 12 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Solo Guitar (Audio CD)
Beautiful music from a master of his instrument. He should be as well known as the other great jazz guitarists, like Joe Pass, Kenny Burrell etc. but I understand he didn't seek fame and fortune. My only two regrets are that there aren't more albums by Ted Greene and that this one is relatively short. All the more reason to treasure what we have though I guess. If you want to see Ted playing, go to YouTube. There's video of a class he taught at a music college where he talks to the students plays his guitar at the same time. It's tempting to observe that playing the guitar seems effortless to him, but of course that ignores all the hard work that goes into getting to that place.


Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions
Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions
by Diana Johnstone
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you think you know about Yugoslavia, you need to read this book., 1 Aug. 2014
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Excellent book exposing what must be the most extraordinarily successful campaign of deception and disinformation in recent years. The western media's portrayal of the Yugoslav civil war as an act of aggression by Serbs against their innocent neighbours, who were saved from the attempted genocide only by the selfless and timely intervention of NATO. That's the plot of the movie we watched on TV news, night after night and read about in the press. But in fact almost everything you think you know about the Yugoslavian conflict is untrue. Diana Johnstone painstakingly unravels this tangled web of misinformation, half truths and outright lies to reveal a sordid clandestine war waged with both words and bombs by NATO on behalf of the US and the EU against the state of Yugoslavia. If you have any interest at all in what really happened, you need to read this book.

And the real value of a history book like this is if it also encourages everyone to be a bit more discriminating about how other conflict zones are reported, such as Ukraine.


Vertigo [Blu-ray] [1958] [Region Free]
Vertigo [Blu-ray] [1958] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ James Stewart
Price: £6.00

1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice photography, 7 April 2014
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The three stars of this film are James Stewart, Kim Novak and San Francisco and they are all captured in the most luscious Technicolor photography which the Blu-ray release does full justice to. This movie looks good enough to eat. So why only two stars? Because the plot which ambles along tantalisingly for about an hour, suddenly leaves the road and drops off a cliff. It becomes so utterly implausible that the whole movie falls apart before your eyes. Intrigue and mystery turn sour as disappointment and disbelief take over and worst of all there's a whole second hour of this nonsense. This is Hitchcock trying to be so clever that the movie ends up in knots. The biggest mystery of all must be how it seems to have managed to leapfrog Citizen Kane as the critics' choice of best movie of all time.


Young Stalin
Young Stalin
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Ripping Yarn!, 30 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Young Stalin (Kindle Edition)
Rarely can a factual history book have been quite so beguiling as this. Without ever losing the impartiality required of a serious historian Simon Sebag Montefiore presents an action packed tale of how one man overcame the humblest and most disadvantaged start in life. Through the seemingly irresistible power of his personality combined with an unwavering ruthlessness he not only survived the most dangerous and unstable political environment but ultimately triumphed. It's not a pretty tale - even in this early years account the body count is worryingly high and Montefiore never makes excuses for Stalin. But what makes this story essential reading is that it actually happened. If all history books were this gripping there'd be no need for anyone to waste their time reading historical fiction.


Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image
Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image
by David Greenberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.45

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Faulty Central Thesis, 1 Nov. 2013
As has been noted elsewhere in these reviews this is a work of considerable scholarship. Unfortunately despite all the good things in it and it is very well written, the book is undermined by being built on a shaky foundation. The central assertion that Nixon was the first American president to be preoccupied with his image and by implication therefore that the current obsession with image making in presidential politics is Nixon's toxic legacy and his alone. Greenberg actually describes him as "uniquely image-conscious among post-war politicians". This is a fallacy, Nixon's concern for his image was neither unique nor even unusual.
Perhaps the greatest irony is that it was actually Nixon's nemesis Kennedy who narrowly won the presidential election in 1960 largely on his image, notably after the infamous TV debates where Nixon's sweaty top lip lost him the approval of middle America. And yet, even in the face of such unimpeachable evidence to the contrary as this, the book doggedly maintains the fiction that it was only Nixon and his presidential ambitions which relied on creating a favourable image. In fact the press and TV grovelled incessantly to Kennedy, even attributing to his time in the White House the aura of a magical kingdom. If you think I'm exaggerating, remember all that sycophantic fawning about 'Camelot'. Unsurprisingly the public lapped it up. And therein lies the real difference between Kennedy and Nixon. The relentless adulation of JFK by the media resulted in a public believing in Kennedy's image and as a result they failed to recognise it for the spin it was. How could they? The Kennedy ship was watertight. Like the best advertising, truly effective image-making goes unnoticed and thus remains unremarked upon. So powerful and successful was this campaign that fifty years later, even after many of the grubby details of the Kennedy years have bubbled to the surface, the fantasy remains virtually intact. It was an extraordinary achievement and is a phenomenon we are unlikely to see repeated in today's anarchic media free for all.
In complete contrast, like a bunch of claqueurs noisily exposing the secrets of a conjurer's tricks from the vantage point of the upper circle, the contemporary media took great delight in constantly puncturing Nixon's attempts to match his erstwhile rival in popularity. The inevitable result was that the public were always kept aware of the processes involved and were therefore never convinced by it.
The cover blurb proclaims the book as "thoroughly fair-minded" but this is a quotation from Bob Woodward, surely nobody's idea of impartiality where Nixon is concerned. It is written with great care to appear unbiased but it's clear that the purpose of the book is to help perpetuate the stereotype of Nixon as the uniquely obsessional American president.


Touchez Pas Au Grisbi [1956] [DVD] [1954]
Touchez Pas Au Grisbi [1956] [DVD] [1954]
Dvd ~ Jean Gabin
Price: £10.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Très Noir!, 20 Sept. 2013
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Touchez Pas au Grisbee is a classic tale involving rival gangs squabbling over a haul of loot which ageing gangster Jean Gabin, who wants to get out of the crime business, has stashed away as a pension for him and his careless and slightly accident-prone partner in crime. As always Gabin moves effortlessly from ruthless to charming and back again in the blink of an eye. Gabin must be the ultimate filmstar seducer. Whether he's playing a deserter (Quai des Brumes) or a layabout criminal (Pepe le Moko) he always manages to charm the audience right out of their seats. There are no good guys in this film, this is Paris picking itself up from the floor in the aftermath of WWII and the police have no real control over what happens on the streets and night clubs. Although the recent war is not mentioned overtly, the dark shadow cast by Nazi occupation hangs over this movie. The scenes where a callow young gang member is tortured in a basement closet recall horribly what must have been the experience of many of Paris' citizens during the occupation. And the use of machine guns and hand grenades may seem a little far-fetched until you realise how much of that stuff must have been left behind in a hurry by a retreating Wehrmacht and snapped up on the black market by these ruthless gangsters. But for all that 'noirness' the film is still an enjoyable piece of escapism. Largely thanks to Jean Gabin together with an early turn by Lino Ventura as his nemesis, this dark film is an exciting and engaging tale of how crime might be an easy business to get into, but it's not so easy to get out.


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