Alfie (1966) Review

2 05 2011

Copyright 1966 Sheldrake Films

★ ★ ★ 1/2

For a long time before seeing this film I had always associated it as a comedy; even IMDB identifies the film as such.  Yet, I didn’t really see this film as a comedy at all.  Not that it didn’t have a few comedic moments, but all in all, this was a very dramatic film.

The film follows cockney cad, Alfie (Michael Caine), as he goes from “bird” to “bird” in the swinging 1960s.  He’s the epitome of a shiesty  playboy, sleeping with other men’s wives, getting women pregnant and not staying with them, having staunchly patriarchal relationships and even sleeping with a good friend’s wife and forcing her to get an abortion.  However, with each mishap and side step, Alfie comes closer to realizing that you can’t find happiness in this manner of life.  He always thought he had it all figured out, but in the end, the question lingers as the title track to Cher’s theme song says, “What’s it going to be, Alfie?”

As with many of the films I’ve seen over the last week or two, this film had some really great moments, but on a whole was a bit long and boring at times.  Lewis Gilbert directed this film and I have always liked his very fluid directing style.  For those of you unfamiliar with Gilbert by name, he directed You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker in the Bond series.

Technically, I think the main flaw with the film is its running time of nearly two hours; the subject matter just peters out after a while.  In my opinion, this is a film that I think I would have much preferred had it only ran for about an hour and a half.  Also, worth noting, is the fact that this film is incredibly British; so, if you aren’t up to speed on 1960s British slang, you might want to have Google open to figure out what’s being said at times.

The best part of the film is probably Michael Caine’s performance.  I won’t say it’s amazing or one of my favorite Caine performances, but it was a breakthrough role for him that made his career. Also, in many ways, this role is very much against type from what we’re used to seeing Caine in these days.  Supporting cast includes Shelley Winters, Millicent Martin and Julia Foster.

Overall, this isn’t a bad film, but has things about it that keep me from giving it a higher rating.  It was remade in 2004 with Jude Law taking the leading role of Alfie.  I haven’t seen the remake, but I’ve heard that it is much worse than the original.  In that case, I think I’ll pass.

Deathtrap (1982) Review

23 04 2011

Copyright 1982 Warner Brothers Pictures

★ ★ ★ 1/2

Much apologies on the long amount of time between posts.  I have to admit that Twin Peaks has taken over my life (for the second time) since its coming onto Netflix Instant Watch.  I am happy to report that Maddie and I are currently on episode 18 or 30, so it will free its hold over me quite soon.  Yesterday, however, I took an evening break from the series with this film.

Last night’s viewing was my second time seeing the movie in addition to having once before seen the stage play many years ago at The Little Theatre in Winston Salem.  Directed by the late Sidney Lumet, this film is based on Ira Levin’s stageplay of the same name.  Washed up playwright, Sidney Bruhl (Michael Caine), hasn’t had a hit in years.  He has had to live off his wealthy wife (Dyan Cannon), who has a heart condition, to survive.  When a spec play entitled Deathtrap comes to his house from a seminar student, Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve), Bruhl realizes an amazing opportunity to make a comeback.  However, is a comeback worth murder?

If you have seen Sleuth (1972), which as a side note is an amazingly good film, then you will like this film.  They share many similarities in, not only character, but also plot twists, reversals, etc.  Being a stage play to begin with, the majority of the plot takes place in one location – Bruhl’s East Hampton estate.  An almost two hour movie being limited to one location can be daunting, but Lumet does a great job at keeping the location interesting with a series of dolly, crane and other camera movements.

All of the actors do a fine job, particularly Caine and Reeve; Cannon can be a bit melodramatic, but it works for the part.  I really can’t say much more without giving certain plot points away and, in honesty, that is why you would want to watch this film.  Everything here is plot centric because of the nature of the work; it is a murder mystery in two acts.

It’s not as good to me as the original (there was a remake with Caine and Jude Law which is average) Sleuth with Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier, but it is a fun watch and keeps you interested.  My only complaint is that it grows a bit long in the second act, but this again I think is due to the complications of adapting from the stage to film.

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