Films featuring
William Holden

The Bridge on the River Kwai

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Even before its classic final scene, the subject of madness runs under this particular bridge, as all three of the main characters have their sanity questioned at some point and the chief questioner, played by William Holden, jokingly questions his own mental state. For all its vast scale, The Bridge on the River Kwai remains an indelible and intimate portrait of fanaticism fatally clashing with fanaticism.

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The Towering Inferno

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I suppose it’s just coincidence that this film wrapped 27 years to the day before 9/11, but in the wake of those terrorist attacks, and the ultimate sacrifice of hundreds of rescue personnel, this film carries a level of grim irony. Beyond that, however, Irwin Allen’s clichéd, overblown disaster spectacle offers little in the way of significance.

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Network

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Sometime during the last thirty years, Network has gone from an outrageous, absurdist comedy to almost a documentary. Almost. While some of its points about reality television, media consolidation and news-as-entertainment seem eerily prescient, fortunately not all of it has come true. Dan Rather was not gunned down during his last broadcast and, to the best of my knowledge, the Communist Party never had its own network series.

Even after three decades, this movie is still one of the most intelligent, biting indictments of television excess ever produced. The sharp, literate, Oscar-winning script by Paddy Chayefsky still has the power to stoke your anger even while it sends you dashing off to find a thesaurus.

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The Wild Bunch

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It’s interesting to think that 1969 saw two landmark westerns that covered much the same territory in vastly different ways. They were both set against the twilight of the old west and both dealt with train robbers for whom time had fatally passed them by. While Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was a breezy, nostalgic comedy, The Wild Bunch is a mostly somber contemplation of violence and mortality.

Sam Peckinpah‘s signature film may have been shockingly violent for its day, but its actually fairly tame in that department compared to modern action movies like Die Hard. However, if the graphicness of the violence is not up to modern standards, the sheer body count of this picture, as well as the callous randomness of the death, is still capable of shocking.

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Stalag 17

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Stalag 17 would have been a tight little World War II adventure if the writers had show more restraint in using their poor man’s version of Martin and Lewis (Harvey Lembeck and Robert Strauss).

Never having seen the play, I can’t say for certain if they’re hijinks are faithful to the original material, but I’d guess that they are. However, one part of adapting material from another medium to film is removing or changing the things that don’t work on screen. The antics of Shapiro and “Animal” should have been cut or sharply curtailed. Unfortunately, I think producer/director Billy Wilder probably felt some obligation to carry over Strauss and Lembeck from the original Broadway production of the play.

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Sunset Boulevard

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Billy Wilder‘s poison-pen valentine to Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard, could easily be made today without much modification. There’s always another generation of former stars clinging to their lost fame and a new generation on the make. Instead of simply pining her years away awash in faded glory, Norma Desmond might be doing info-mercials at two in the morning, but the basic story could be reused today.

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