Films featuring
Theodore Bikel

The African Queen

John Huston’s classic film had the unusual distinction of being the last film from the American Film Institute’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list to appear on DVD in the United States, not bowing on that format until March of 2010, well into the Blu-ray/Netflix streaming era. You could find it overseas, but only if you had a “region-free” player, and those copies were made from prints that were, to be polite, pieces of mule dung. Yeah, you should have heard the less polite version of that sentence.

Having seen Paramount’s new release, on Blu-ray of course, I have to say it was worth waiting for the studio to sort out who had the rights to The African Queen, find a half-way decent copy, and then take the time to restore the film to something quite near its original glory.

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The Enemy Below

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Often imitated, this movie practically drew the blueprint for the World War II submarine movie. This lean, efficient story of the hunter and the hunted rises above the pack, courtesy of a pair of superb performances in the roles of two crisply drawn antagonists. Some elements of the film seem conspicuously dated, especially the scenes aboard the American destroyer that don’t involve Robert Mitchum hunting the submarine, but when the action is joined, the forced, stilted dialog disappears like it never existed.

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The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming!

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Those of us who grew up during the Cold War and remember it as a time of very real suspicion and fear probably look fondly upon this lightweight but not unsophisticated farce. It’s message that “Russians are people, too” probably seems a little simplistic to those too young to remember the times in which it takes place, but in its day, the concept was sufficiently radical to make an impact in the box office. It was, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the most popular American films behind the Iron Curtain.

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