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Aldrich, Robert


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#1 clydefro

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Posted 20 March 2011 - 01:04 AM

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Robert Aldrich was a tough guy director, but hardly one-dimensional. Indeed, his affinity for strong male figures actually creates a subtlety of sorts in his treatment, something often misunderstood. His most popular film, The Dirty Dozen, is an indictment of war but was quickly adopted as almost the exact opposite, a reputation it still holds to this day. Had he only made pictures like The Dirty Dozen, Kiss Me Deadly, The Flight of the Phoenix, Vera Cruz, Attack, and so on, his reputation would be secure, but the presence of several strongly female-centered movies in his filmography makes Aldrich a much more versatile director than some might realize. Most famously, there's What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, but also worth noting are its follow-up Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte and, particularly, an earlier Joan Crawford collaboration Autumn Leaves and the underseen The Legend of Lylah Clare starring Kim Novak. Even Aldrich's final film, the women's wrestling picture ...All the Marbles, deserves a fresh look for its treatment of the sexes and, again, a man facing desperation with confidence and little worry.

Especially Recommended:

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Emperor of the North Pole (1973)
Attack (1956)

#2 clydefro

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 11:48 PM

Ulzana's Raid - Surprisingly bloody and violent, this seventies western is most noteworthy for having a reasonably complex view of American Indians. The Apaches are depicted as heartless, monstrous warriors who kill with little reason other than a desire to capture the perceived power of the white man. On its face, such an idea might seem insulting or unfair but the film is somewhat careful to avoid that narrow of a reading. The main protagonist is a scout (Burt Lancaster) who's married to an Indian woman. He is said to understand Apaches much better than most white men so he's sent along on a cavalry mission to find the vicious Apache leader Ulzana. The young officer in charge (Bruce Davison) is befuddled as to why Apaches can act as they do. While Lancaster's character doesn't really try to justify or explain their actions, he does stress that it's basically their way and instead of depicting them as red-skinned boogiemen there's at least some introspection involved. It's not fair, it's not balanced, but there's more beneath the surface. A very interesting film that is ostensibly told from the perspective of the cavalry but nonetheless allows for multiple angles to be considered.

As of now, it's available for streaming (in HD) on Netflix.
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#3 Izo

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 01:42 PM

Clyde (or anyone else), what are your thoughts on Vera Cruz? I just finished it and found it to be pretty good and darker than I was expecting for some reason. I did feel that the movie had a sort of proto-Leone screenplay, making good, knowing use of a lot of standard western cliches. Burt Lancaster was very charismatic, as well. There are some fantastic compositions, such as the army of men on the Mexican fort. Additionally, the scenes (like the shooting match) in the palace struck me as unusually weird. The whole film is very strange and cynical, really.

The pretty mediocre DVD didn't help matters any.

#4 clydefro

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 10:19 PM

Vera Cruz recently got a Blu-ray release, and I should really pick that up and rewatch the film. When I did see it the impression was minimal. Aldrich was just starting out in features when he made Vera Cruz. If it's darker than an expected mid-fifties western then perhaps that's part of the reason for its generally strong reputation. The cynical label also wouldn't be surprising, and is really quite normal for Aldrich's output. I suppose he could mask that to some extent, like with The Dirty Dozen, but usually it's easy enough to absorb.

Has anyone else seen Emperor of the North Pole? It's another I need to add to my DVD collection. After Kiss Me Deadly, it's the Aldrich movie I'd regard as his most interesting.

#5 Izo

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Posted 11 August 2011 - 10:27 PM

Yeah, I had an unusual reaction to the film, because there was so much weirdness about it that I liked, and yet it didn't strike me as anything particularly spectacular or memorable. In the end, I suppose I enjoyed the film and I'll rewatch it at some point.

#6 masterofoneinchpunch

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 03:39 PM

Note: some spoilers on The Grissom Gang, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and Sunset Boulevard

The Grissom Gang (1971):

There are two strong characterizations from this movie: Scott Wilson as Slim and his ma played by Irene Dailey. Both of these performances point to strong (and insane) male and female characters. They are overacted purposefully and played with a mix of backwoods panache and surly intensity.

This has to be one of the sweatiest films of all-time. I would also call it underrated as well. The acting certainly stuck with me, but so did many of the scenes as well.

I mentioned earlier that some of the film was supposedly filmed in Modesto according to IMDB and several sites (I believe the Modesto Commerce also mentions this as well). Most of the outside scenes I recognized was from Placerville (all the scenes with the necklace, which was real, were in Placerville) Modesto is quite flat, though the first scene is possibly from Modesto (I posted this as one of the picture game images).

I watched What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? this weekend and noticed a peculiar use of the zoom. It's been awhile since I've seen The Dirty Dozen, but does he do this in his other films? This has the obvious horror aspects to it, but the peculiars of characters can also easily be seen in the later The Grissom Gang with its family and friends that are about as safe to be around as a drunk Nicky Santoro.

When watching What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? I thought quite a bit of Sunset Boulevard and had a certain pity to all the female leads. You can think the insanity of both main characters can be attributed by the actions of the other main characters (I argue that Norma Desmond's state of sanity could have been helped quite a bit if Joe Gillis was not as cruel and was more understanding, I feel she is more innocent than Baby Jane). Also these actions caused the death of the protagonist as well. Old footage was used in both to cause a fascinating mixture of real and unreal.
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