Rock's Cheapo Theatre of the Damned

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I see Private Lessons is on Tubi. Can anyone vouch for that one?

Is that the one withHoward Hessman?

If so, not so good. But I was also probably 10 when I saw it so it's cinematic nuances may have been lost on me

You should give it another chance. It's strong to the finish.
It seemed to blow its wad in the opening credits. (Didn't he also kung-fu Father Merrin?) I'll give it a good will shot if I find an acceptable copy. The one I saw looked like someone placed a VHS camera at a 16mm projection, blurry with heads and margins severely cropped and a little crooked.

I see Private Lessons is on Tubi. Can anyone vouch for that one?
I prefered My Tutor, but they're both trash. Maybe try Class instead, which is still trash, but Jacqueline Bisset has an amazing orgasm.

Soldier Blue (Nelson, 1970)

I consider myself a pretty hardened viewer when it comes to onscreen violence. It would be pretty hard to sustain an interest in horror and exploitation were I squeamish. But Soldier Blue bothered me in this respect. I mean this in a good way. This is a movie about the Sand Creek massacre, and the climax depicts the event in unflinching detail. The opening scene, where the Cheyenne attack a paymaster's escort, hints at the level of violence to come, but doesn't fully prepare us for the bracing impact of the massacre. Certainly, I can't think of a movie where this many women and children are murdered, and in such nauseating detail, being subject to headshots, decapitations and disembowelments, which the camera captures with perfect clarity. (The handsome cinematography makes the violence more startling as well. One would normally expect such gruesome images in a dingier presentation.) One might take issue with the splatter movie gusto with which this is delivered, but I think there's a certain integrity here, matching horrific events with horrific images. I understand the version released into theatres had twenty minutes of even more gruesome violence cut out. From the sounds of it, it would have made the movie play like Cannibal Ferox and the like. Would it have been too much? Perhaps for most viewers, but I can respect when a movie goes all out.

Outside these scenes however, the movie fumbles. Now, I don't expect a fifty year old Hollywood movie to measure up to modern notions of onscreen representation, and I do think there's a way to make a movie about historical injustices towards Native Americans framed through a white perspective. (I know there's been a lot of discussion in recent years about who should be allowed to tell what stories. It's a tricky subject, and I'm sympathetic to arguments on different sides of the debate, but I do find it sometimes gets conflated with the subject of representation in front of and behind the camera.) The bigger problem here is that there are none of the Native Americans in the movie are actual characters. We're supposed to feel for their plight, but the movie never bothers to engage with them as actual human beings, just plot points and ultimately victims. The final scenes are ugly and unpleasant enough that they make the point the movie pushes, but the surrounding film doesn't do much of the heavy lifting, and I can see why some found the movie ultimately dehumanizing. (While I alluded to this debate being somewhat modern, it was interesting to see that Ebert had the same criticisms in his review.) This movie was intended as an allegory for the Vietnam War, and specifically evokes the My Lai Massacre, but its distance makes this dimension ring hollow as well. (In contrast, I think of The Beast of War, an underrated war movie about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and how that movie functions as a Vietnam allegory by having us directly identify both with Afghans, with their dialogue entirely in Pashto, and the Soviet aggressors, even as they commit war crimes.)

In between the violence of the opening and climactic scenes, the follows two white survivors from the opening attack: a greenhorn Union soldier played by Peter Strauss and a woman played by Candice Bergen who was formerly married to a Cheyenne leader. The tone of their scenes is oddly humorous, like the dynamic between Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in Barefoot in the Park. I like that movie, and I didn't find these scenes entirely uninvolving, but they strained the movie's credibility. Bergen gives speech after speech about injustices towards Native Americans (again, in place of us spending much time with any of them), and her overall vibe is that of a hippie chick, not someone who may have plausibly lived in the 1860s. Meanwhile, Strauss is so inept and clumsy that it's hard to buy him as a soldier, even an inexperienced one. One would have guessed he'd shot his foot off in basic training or something, and Bergen spends the majority of the movie saving his ass in all manner of situations. (Of course they get at least one extremely '70s-style montage.) It's worth noting that all of this is exquisitely shot by Robert B. Hauser, who until this point had mostly worked in television. (The following year he would work on Le Mans, the Steve McQueen movie which translated a Formula 1 race into pure feeling.) Anyway, it's a shame that the movie is largely a mess, because it is fairly well intentioned despite its failings, and worth seeing on the strength of the climax.

La Femme-Object (Mulot, 1981)

Hey, let me ask you a question. You like that movie Frankenstein? (Or book, whatever, nobody likes a smartass.) You do, do you? How about if Dr. Frankenstein made the monster so he could have sex with him? Would you like it then? Would you like it if Colin Clive did the horizontal mambo with Boris Karloff in monster make-up? No? Not even if it was captured in stunning German expressionist inspired cinematography? No?!? What if it was shot in colour and Frankenstein's monster was a good looking lady? Now that I've subjected to all these guiding questions (would you like if the monster was sleazy and demure?), if that last scenario is something that tickles your fancy, do I have the movie for you. It's called La Femme-Objet, also known by titles such as Programmed for Pleasure and, in a German Blu-ray release, Science Fiction Lady, which one is only allowed to say in a Jerry Lewis voice.

The plot concerns a science fiction author played by Richard Allan whose sexual appetite so voracious that it presents him with a distinct problem: he keeps wearing his partners out. (Allan resembles a bearded Ringo Starr; I understand there's a new Beatles documentary, so if you're looking for some complementary programming, this is one option. It's also worth noting that he has amazing fashion sense. It's probably a good indication of where my head is at these days when I was more intrigued in one scene by the texture of his sportcoat and the reverse pleats on his trousers than the fact that he was jacking off.) His girlfriend at first seems cool with it, until he starts ****ing her while he's doing the dishes. (It's a miracle she doesn't drop any.) He then hires a secretary, who seemingly quits after a day, during which he subjects her to hourly trips to Bonetown (population: you and me, baby!). After starting work on a film adaptation of his book, he gets a brilliant idea: why doesn't he just create a robot to fulfill his sexual needs? And of course, after having somehow picked up the necessary brain genius knowledge, he ends up bringing to life a sexy female robot played by Marilyn Jess who is perpetually DTF. Yet it's only a matter of time until the tables are turned...

This is a movie from Alpha France, the big French porn studio at the time. I'd previously seen a few productions and had found myself left a bit cold by most of them. Part of this is because I'd watched subpar transfers with dubbing, which likely hampered by enjoyment. And there's the fact that I don't have the same context for classic French porn that I do for the American Golden Age, where seeing certain performers brings me an innate amount of joy and the creative influences I find easier to engage with. But there's also a certain condescension I've found with most of these Alpha France movies (and granted, I've only seen a handful), where the movies seem to pursue viewer enjoyment at the expense of the characters. (The most egregious was Indecencies 1930, which played an extended sexual assault for lowbrow laughs.) La Femme-Objet is directed by Claude Mulot, whose Belles D'Un Soir I'd previously seen, and both films deal with subverting fantasy scenarios. That movie dealt with a bunch of bored housewives pursuing sexual freedom from their inattentive husbands and having the plan go hilariously sideways, while this deals with a hero completely beholden to his appetites.

More than most vintage pornos I've seen, this movie is pretty much wall-to-wall sex (and primarily with just one male performer), with the scenarios almost uniformly off-the-cuff. The effect is a little monotonous (even well filmed hardcore ****ing carries only so much inherent interest, and when it's pretty much nonstop, one's mind can wander), but intentionally so. While the hero is creative enough to invent a ****-robot (and the movie satirizes the process with cheaply stylized mise en scene), his erotic imagination remains pointedly limited, and there's a certain poetic justice with the ending. Allan and Jess play their roles with relative magnetism (I'm not sure how good an actress the latter is, but she nails the role of a hot lady sexbot), but the former's one track mind and the latter's lack of humanity result in a certain hollowness that made it hard for me to really be moved by the conclusion. All that being said, this is executed with a decent amount of style, thanks to the attractive decor, handsome cinematography (the Pulse Video blu-ray is stunning and renders vividly the rich colours on display) and a soundtrack that sounds like if Kraftwerk scored a porno.

High School U.S.A. (Amateau, 1983)

I recently revisited John Hughes' Sixteen Candles. It's a movie that has certain, uh, problems (*cough*racism*cough*date rape*cough*). But it's also grounded in a certain emotional reality with respect to high school life. The moments that feel more artificial, like the presence of the "Peter Gunn" theme on the soundtrack, feel more cohesive than the musical interludes in Hughes' later The Breakfast Club, as the movie convinces you that this is a song that would be playing in the heads of its most hopelessly geeky yet supremely confident character. And with a couple of extremely winning central performances from Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall, the overall experience is warm and affable enough to make it a pretty engaging watch despite its flaws.

High School U.S.A. is similar in that it contains some pretty endearing performances, but differs in that seems divorced from any realistic sense of high school life. The movie takes place in a high school that's seemingly run by the school bully. I don't mean in the figurative sense where all the other kids are afraid of him. Here the bully is obscenely wealthy (yet his parents are never seen; is he a self-made man?) and seems to control the administrative side of the school as well. You see, he dangles his wealth over the teachers with a promise of a $10,000 cash prize and a trip to Europe in order to get them to do his bidding. This is also a movie where the hero, despite not living with his parents (or any adults) and seemingly being destitute, somehow lives in a comfortable suburban home. And when the hero challenges the bully to a dangerous, ill-advised race, the adults around him (including the principal) cheer him on, instead of trying to smack some sense into him like any sane adult in a movie even close to real life would. Like the vigilante genre slid into the unreal and hyperbolic during this time, so did the high school movie extract its tropes from the plane of reality and launch them into the realm of fantasy.

The most notable thing about the movie is the cast. A pre-Back to the Future Michael J. Fox plays the hero, and displays some of the same liveliness and star quality he would show in his breakout movie. A pre-Revenge of the Nerds Anthony Edwards plays the villain, and given how good he is at playing nice guys, it's pretty novel to see him as a preppy *******. There's also an especially dweeby Crispin Glover, seemingly playing the even lamer brother of his Jimmy "Dead ****" Patrick character. Truth be told, there are probably too many characters, and the movie shuffles through them like throwaway gags on a sitcom, a feeling enhanced by the television background of many of its stars. Why does Todd Bridges invent a robot ready for space travel and then bring it to the prom? Why are the two nerdy girls trying to get a picture of Anthony Edwards' ass (a nice, gender-bending twist on the usual horndog antics in these movies)? Why does Michael J. Fox fake an accident involving Bob Denver's brand new sportscar? These are questions that High School U.S.A. raises without answering with much satisfaction, but the vibes were good enough for me to let it slide.

The Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher (Steckler, 1979)

Ray Dennis Steckler had been making slasher-esque movies since the early '70s, but by the time the slasher wave actually arrived, it's interesting how out of time his efforts felt. Take The Hollywood Strangler Meets the Skid Row Slasher, which follows two parallel killing sprees by the eponymous murderers. The Hollywood Strangler is played by Pierre Agostino, who perfectly embodies the kind of person you'd cross the street to avoid and usually looks like he's bitten into a lemon. (He also wears a Canadian tuxedo, which I maintain can be a great look in the right hands. These are the wrong hands.) Over the course of the movie, he books model after model for a number of racy photoshoots, only to be repulsed by (in his esteem) their tawdry nature and therefore feeling the need to strangle them to death. (One wonders if this isn't a self fulfilling prophecy, given that he's setting up the shoots. A bit of a hypocrite on top of being a murderous lunatic, if you ask me. Also worth noting that one of the models pokes her breast and goes "Boop!", and folks, I laughed.) Meanwhile, the proprietor of a pornographic bookstore, played by Steckler's ex-wife Carolyn Brandt, goes around stabbing hobos to death, an act usually captured with a barrage of shadowy, canted angles. (I did notice one shot where her switchblade had blood before she'd stuck her victim. Sticklers for technical proficiency are best to steer clear of the director's work. No sticklers for Steckler, is what I'm saying.)

Brandt is a reliably cheerful presence in Steckler's movies, but here she looks surly, which is perhaps in character but still dampens the proceedings noticeably. What happened to the actress who danced so joyously with Rat Pfink, Boo Boo and the gorilla in Rat Pfink a Boo Boo, or who made time to play catch with a briefcase full of heroin in Body Fever? One wonders if the years spent helping Ray on his pornos, including doing porno dialogue over narration in Red Heat, didn't take its toll. This borrows that movie's structure with its parallel murder/crime stories, but perhaps due to the absence of the obligatory sex scenes, it holds together a bit better. Like that movie, there's a fair bit of padding with Vegas street footage, but this one finds more squalid locations to complement the bright lights, giving the whole thing a seedy atmosphere, a tour of Vegas' B-sides, the parts the tourism board doesn't want you to see. (Yes, I realize Hollywood is right there in the title, but there's a good amount of Vegas in the finished product.)

Probably the most intriguing reading of this movie is through the lends of Steckler's relationship with Brandt. Agostino's character is reeling from his ex-wife having left him, and the connective tissue between the two plot threads is provided by Brandt catching Agostino's eye and Agostino then trying to work up the courage to ask her out (more or less). One wonders if between takes, Steckler didn't nudge Brandt here and there, suggesting that the two of them made such a great team that maybe it'd be nice to get back together, completely oblivious to any signals she's sending to the contrary. Perhaps that's why Brandt spends the whole movie frowning. I assumed the divorce was amicable, but also suspect the goodwill had started to run out.

While it's probably not appropriate for me to speculate on the status of Steckler and Brandt's relationship, one must note that she did not return for the follow-up, Las Vegas Serial Killer. This one brings back Agostino (now with a much more unpleasant speaking voice) and replaces Brandt with two guys in black shirts who make untoward comments about women and occasionally try to rob them. There's a half hearted attempt to cast Agostino as a Richard Speck analogue, as well as some references to the movie star Cash Flagg, which was a pseudonym Steckler used as an actor. Brandt's absence is definitely felt, and this one has even more Vegas street footage (but without the dingier locations for atmosphere), but shares an intriguing sense of narrative drift in light of the maddeningly uneventful proceedings. (Like Blood Shack, we even take a trip to the rodeo.) Both movies have soundtracks that are chintzy but sometimes atmospheric, at least when the synths start droning, and at a time when the slasher genre had become increasingly codified, their conceptual and structural crudeness give them a strangely archaeological quality. Truth be told, I wasn't concentrating too closely when I watched these, but found them strangely engaging on that level. Had I tried to pay full attention, I suspect my brain would be leaking out of my ears.

I think Steckler might end up being my most watched director this year, heh.

An interesting selection of films.

Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago - The Ultimate Director's Cut (Stallone, 2021)

This review contains spoilers.

In The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe invokes the concept of single combat, a duel between two individual warriors duel representing opposing armies, in depicting the space race. In Rocky IV: Rocky vs. Drago, Carl Weathers' Apollo Creed does so as well when proposing a match between himself and Dolph Lundgren's Soviet super-boxer Ivan Drago. This is a new cut of Sylvester Stallone's oft-beloved and oft-mocked 1985 sequel that's rightfully remembered as the most propagandistic entry in the Rocky series. The original was imbued with a distinctly sparse feeling, its underdog story pitched somewhere between neorealist drama and fable, a quality which had been shed over the subsequent entries. Rocky III saw its hero having grown complacent in light of the excess of the decade, and only by going back to the basics (training under his rival Creed in a black gym, which provides Burt Young's Paulie plenty of opportunities to be racially insensitive, to put it lightly) could he overcome his opponent. Rocky IV felt like a full on embrace of that excess the hero had ostensibly rejected only a moment before. It's not a movie I remembered fondly, having found it montaged away any human interest, and had held off of revisiting it for some time. Yet through some combination of Stallone's different choices this time around (compellingly ruminated in a YouTube documentary released at the same time) and my longing for the familiar, I found myself completely enthralled this time around. This is a great movie.

Stallone wisely places a greater emphasis on characterization this time around, and Creed's self-serving appeal to the idea of single combat helps temper the film's jingoism. It's a concern that also characterizes the Rambo series, which while having a similar reputation for propaganda, is perhaps not given enough credit for the tension between its hero's motives and those of the state. The first has him facing an unwelcome return home, the second has him betrayed by bureaucrats, the thirdhas him drawn into the Soviet-Afghan conflict only after his friend had been captured, and the fourth has him completely disillusioned by his role as a puppet for America's foreign policy aims. Stallone pointedly frames Creed's conflation of his personal motivations (wanting to recapture the thrill of being at the top) with his patriotism (wanting to defend America's honour from Soviet insults), giving a more tragic dimension to his death at Drago's hands. This also ends up humanizing Drago, a man shaped by the full weight of the Soviet state to be a perfect instrument of (recreational) violence yet barely able to emote. (And who's also responsible for some of the most ice cold **** any mother****er has ever said on screen: "If he dies, he dies.") While Lundgren was not an especially refined actor at this point, there is real dramatic potency to the reactive quality of his performance, like his deadpan expression during the flamboyant pre-game festivities courtesy of James Brown, or when he pauses for a second too soon before answering a question from the press. (Creed II nicely provides the character with a similar poignancy, showing him to have been cast off in shame after his defeat and hollowed out by the experience.) Only after Drago loses the support of the Russian audience in the climax does he feel freed, and finds a mutual respect with Rocky. The movie bears no ill will for the Russian people, just the Soviet leadership, and ends with an impassioned plea to end the Cold War with an appeal to Rocky's own arc, so long as the Soviet's recognize America's superiority, in boxing and elsewhere.

Now, a lot of the changes are small and will likely not stick out unless you watch the accompanying documentary, but the most publicized would be the removal of Paulie's robot. On one hand, that's certainly one of the more memorable scenes from the original version and one which seems to perfectly encapsulate the overall goofiness of the affair. On the other hand, Rocky represents the human spirit while Drago represents technological innovation, so it's perhaps dramatically appropriate to remove a plot point that has Rocky and Paulie embrace the marvels of science. Ideological consistency is important in these things. (Interestingly, Stallone depicts the Soviets in almost futuristic terms, when one might think the natural choice during the materialistic Reagan years would be to opt for joyless greys to evoke their economic inferiority. I suppose you can't have an underdog story where the opponent is broke.) Of course, whatever flamboyance Rocky himself lacks is certainly found in the film's style, which is perhaps a touch more deliberate than I remember the theatrical version being but still is full of glossy, exclamatory visuals assembled with machine gun editing and paired with rousing music to match the kineticism of the images. If Eisenstein had Prokofiev, then Stallone has Vince DiCola and James Brown, whose "Living in America" I once listened to on repeat for most of a workday and whose performance provides both an unapologetic ode to and a sly parody of American iconography. (There's even a electronic update to Bill Conti's famous theme for the original, proving that we've truly arrived in the '80s.) The movie knows it's ridiculous, but doesn't care. Neither should you.

Red Desert (Antonioni, 1964)

Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse ended on a strangely apocalyptic note, with its almost futuristic environment having consumed the protagonists during its final few minutes, free of any trace of humanity. In that sense, Red Desert represents a vision of the post-apocalypse. The opening images frame the characters against the cold, unfeeling architecture of a factory, and within a few minutes, the smoke being billowed out from one of factory's many orifices eventually covers the bulk of the screen, going from a point of concern to negative space. Modern technology and industrialization have taken over - how do we live now? Antonioni apparently was not a technophobe or luddite, and the framing of the question here is key. His concern is not whether modernity has a positive or negative effect, but how we go about navigating it. In that sense, it's appropriate that it trades the finality of L'Eclisse for a certain unresolved feeling. The closing images here have the effect of a shrug, where acceptance of this world is the best possible outcome, emotionally speaking.

This was Antonioni's first film in colour, but the result is nowhere near as boisterous as that might suggest, at least if most other directors were involved. Much of the film plays almost in monochrome, resulting in an environment that perhaps has a certain beauty if you look at it in the right way (most evident in a scene where the heroine is framed against what looks at first to be floral arrangement, but when the camera changes focus turns out to be an arrangement of different-coloured barrels), but not one which is welcoming or warm. Certainly his attention to architecture and design plays a role here; consider two shots where the camera observes mechanical children's toys, or another of an array of glass globes. One of the more striking uses of colour comes at the midpoint, when a ship is seen raising a yellow flag indicating diseased onboard. The yellow is hardly a different shade from the other colours in the frame, suggesting that a level of disease is perhaps normal and not limited to the ship's passengers. Yellow is seen again in the poisonous smoke emitted by the factories, one of the film's closing images, suggesting that perhaps this level of pollution and rot is here to stay. The strongest, most incongruous colour here is, as the title suggests, red, which Antonioni deploys to charged, disorienting effect. And there is of course the scene involving the girl on the beach and its disarmingly lush hues, which may provide the key to the heroine's psyche.

I mentioned that Antonioni is interested in how one emotionally navigates the modern world, and this is a story of someone who does so poorly. I think the first word that comes to mind when discussing Antonioni's work is "ennui", but I don't think that really describes what's happening here. Giuliana, played by Monica Vitti, is affluent like the protagonists of his earlier movies (including ones she portrayed), but the source of her spiritual ailment is less emotional detachment than an inability to adjust to the world around her. In that sense she's quite a bit more sympathetic than Vittoria, the character Vitti played in L'Eclisse, who seemed to actively encourage her own emotional alienation and was characterized by a certain callousness. You get the sense that Giuliana is really trying, which makes it sting more when those around her seem to push her away (one notable scene has her gobble down quail eggs after being told they're an aphrodisiac and then getting brushed off by her putz of a husband when she tells him she wants to make love). I can't say I'm exactly like Giuliana (if I were, I would have better hair), but the feelings she's going through are not completely alien to me. Antonioni doesn't shape her story too distinctly into an arc, but prefers to let us bask in those same feelings, by drawing scenes out and letting his colours set the mood, rightly assuming that our emotional investment would come from Vitti's tremendously empathetic performance.

I've increasingly been thinking about the idea of spending time in movies, and this is one where I find the concept quite rewarding. The unresolved feeling I referred to earlier had left me cold when I first saw it, but is also one of the reasons I keep returning to this, perhaps because it poses something of a challenge, perhaps because I just want to wallow. With a few more viewings, will the movie's arc finally conclude? Will Monica Vitti finally find happiness? Will she not make the wrong turn when trying to drive away from the shack? Or at least buy a sandwich that someone hasn't bitten into? 'Scuse me while I pop in the disc and hit play one more time.

They Fought for Their Motherland (Bondarchuk, 1975)

For a few minutes there, They Fought for Their Motherland had me fooled that it would be a conventional war movie. Consider the first battle scene, marked by close-ups of its Russian heroes as they face an oncoming advance of German tanks and infantry. The cutting pattern appears deceptively normal, as do the shot choices. But it isn't long before the mask is lifted, and we're hit with a shot of a windmill on fire that looks like something out of a nightmare. At this point, it should sink in that this is directed by Sergey Bondarchuk, whose War and Peace was characterized by a similar stylistic abandon that lent a dreamy, almost psychedelic flavour to its epic battle scenes. (This is Sergeant York's brain on drugs.) I imagine hallucinogens were a big no-no in the Soviet Union, but perhaps viewers in other circumstances might find them appropriate accompaniment to the proceedings. I watched this sober as I do most things, because the PSAs worked too well on me.

This story of a Russian platoon defending against the advancing German offensive is apparently based on a novel (which I have not read), but plays like a near plotless progression of battle scenes, punctuated by Bondarchuk's off-kilter stylistic flourishes and scenes of camaraderie during what little downtime they have. The most immediate contrast this has with War and Peace and Waterloo is the size of the production and the aspect ratio. While I wouldn't call this a small-scale production, it doesn't have the mind boggling grandeur of the other two, particularly War and Peace, which felt like it had the full resources of the Soviet state at its disposal. In contrast, this feels more intimate, helped by the heavier reliance on close-ups, and as a result almost evokes the heroes' wartime experience as an abstracted feeling. The full frame aspect ratio, rather than the scope compositions of the earlier movies, lends itself well to this, but the movie also finds ways to use the height of the ratio to play with the scale, emphasizing the heroes' smallness with the amount of sky in the frame, or showing flames and smoke rising to a terrifying height. Like those earlier movies, this uses the landscape as an evolving compositional element, like a shot where a series of explosions rapidly approaches the camera brings to mind a similar image in Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk. And there's a certain horrible poetry captured in moments like one where a German tank razes a burning farmhouse, or a shot of the Russian army retreating that looks like an image straight from hell, pitch black with the ground on fire.

Where the movie suffers is with its characters. War and Peace benefited from the source material, but also captured a sense of three distinct characters being caught in a historical moment, providing us with a clear vantage point to the proceedings. The heroes here are seen more as a collective rather than individuals, which makes sense for the movie's propagandistic aims but makes for less successful drama. As someone not super well versed in Soviet cinema, I will concede that I didn't share the same appreciation for its stars that the original audience may have, but despite Bondarchuk and his War and Peace co-star Vyacheslav Tikhonov playing roles, the only character I found had much personality was the one played by Vasiliy Shukshin, who when not killing Germans to defend his homeland spends his downtime trying to get with, uh, big boned women. I didn't find the scenes of camaraderie between the soldiers uninvolving (and the humour was bawdier than I expected), but despite playing one of the characters, I never got the sense Bondarchuk identified with them very much (certainly less so than the protagonists of those earlier movies). And because the final stretch is mostly this stuff and not so much warfare, I thought it didn't end on the best note, but still found this quite worthwhile for its thrilling and disarmingly weird battle scenes.

lol somebody did a comparison of this scene between the two cuts