WB Top 100: Best & Worst So Far, Part 2

After another 25 movies, it is time to look back at the second quarter of this overall list and do some comparisons and ranking. For our previous “Best & Worst”, click here.

As a reminder, here are the 25 movies we watched:


My Top 5

#5: What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962) – “I finally found out, and it was a terrible, horrible, thrilling story.

#4: A Star Is Born (1954) – “I didn’t expect much, but what I got had me tearing up in the end. Always swim with a lifeguard, kids.”

#3: The Dirty Dozen (1967) – “Strangely funny and endearing, this is that every dude movie should dream of being.”

#2: A Face in the Crowd (1957) – “Powerful from beginning to end. This has made me rethink Andy Griffith the actor, a staple of my childhood, and wish more people watched this film for it’s haunting reflection of modern politics.”

#1: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) – “It was hard to pick this over my #2 choice, but Bogart’s descent into madness from his greed will forever stay with me.”


Diane’s Top 5

#5: A Star Is Born (1954) – “Solid movie despite the racist song and missing scenes (included in our version as stills).”

#4: What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962) – “Nice to see two stars channeling their real life hatred in such a productive way.”

#3: The Dirty Dozen (1967) – “I bet my dad watched this movie so many times.”

#2: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) – “Finally, a Bogart movie we actually enjoyed.”

#1: A Face in the Crowd (1957) – “I’ve never watched “The Andy Griffith Show” and now because of this movie I never will be able to.


Our Worst 5 (Combined)

#5 (Combined): Bullitt (1968) – We forgot too much about this boring film to come up with a good quote. Car chase, maybe?

#4 (Me): Around the World in 80 Days (1956) – “QUOTE.”

#4 (Diane): How the West Was Won (1962) – “QUOTE.”

#3 (Me): Viva Las Vegas (1964) – “It never decided what kind of film it wanted to be.”

#3 (Diane): Around the World in 80 Days (1956) – “QUOTE.”

#2 (Me): How the West Was Won (1962) – “QUOTE.”

#2 (Diane): Viva Las Vegas (1964) – “QUOTE.”

#1 (Combined): Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) – “When people think of a musical where women get kidnapped and develop Stockholm Syndrome they usually think of Beauty and the Beast when they should really be thinking about Seven Brides for Seven Brothers“.

WB Top 100: Bullitt (1968)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


We both have heard of Steve McQueen – thank you Pixar – but neither of us had ever seen any of his movies. I had expected an action-packed adventure. And, though I am sure it got pulses racing in 1968, “Bullitt” played more akin to a Film Noir movie than anything with any real action.

McQueen plays Lt. Frank Bullitt, a renowned San Francisco police officer. He and his men are entrusted with protecting a key witness for an upcoming Senate subcommittee hearing by a senator (Robert Vaughn) with eyes on a bigger office. So far, so good (for an action movie plot).

“Bullitt” isn’t an action movie, however; it is a fairly by-the-books police procedural. There is nothing wrong with that, but I found the film to be painfully slow. The long, drawn out moments of suspense were about as suspenseful as driving over a suspension bridge. That is to say, only if you try holding your breath because you will likely run out of air before anything happens.

Even the movie’s renowned car chase sequence was a letdown. Sure, it is shot great and took real talent to pull off, but flying through the deserted (huh?) mid-day streets of San Francisco either means lots of uphills or downhills. Once they got out of the city to straighter roads and they had to weave through traffic, it got exciting, but then it ended on the forever cheesy trope of “running over something explosive and dying horribly”.

The problem with a movie like “Bullitt” is that it’s kind have not aged well. More realistic portrayals of police procedures and the inside of an emergency room help, but Law & Order does that even better these days and you can watch it all day long when you visit your parents/grandparents. Plus, each episode is a tight 45 minutes (forgetting the commercials).

That’s not to say it was a bad film, just one I didn’t enjoy. The shots of San Francisco and the cinematography are all fantastic. I can buy into Steve McQueen as a cool dude too. I also loved that we got some actual blood and gore for a change. It made me realize we are getting closer and closer to the modern era after all.

I am sure this film is a favorite for a lot of dads and granddads out there, but film and television have done everything “Bullitt” does better and more often. Appearances from Robert Duvall and Stanley from Three’s Company couldn’t even save it. I would turn on whatever channel in your country marathons Law & Order or its international sibling and take a great nap.

For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


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Like so many fans of film, I consider myself a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s work. Whereas many of the films on this list thus far have been described as varying degrees of “fun”, Kubrick’s movies are rarely anything of the sort. I have looked forward to rewatching his work and seeing his movies with fresher eyes or hearing what Diane has to say as she has only seen “The Shining”. Perhaps most of all, I had looked forward to seeing 1968’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, a Kubrick film I always managed to miss. After seeing it though, it is now my least favorite example of his work.

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Some of you may recall that I enjoy reading science fiction novels. Though I have slowed dramatically in recent years, when I was a teenager, I swore I would read every Hugo Award winner for Best Novel. As such, Arthur C. Clarke (the film’s co-writer and the writer of the short story that inspired it) is not an unfamiliar name to me and I could feel his fingerprints, and the fingerprints of the sci-fi genre at the time, all over “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Married with Kubrick’s vision and imagery, it should’ve been a hit for me, but I felt even more adrift than any of the film’s many spaceships.

Since the film’s release, the only thing I knew about it was an astronaut named Dave who has to contend in some way with an artificial intelligence named HAL. Unfortunately, the peak of their conflict occurs in the back half of the film and encompasses all of about five minutes. For a film that wants to flirt with things beyond human comprehension, it spends its precious few lines of dialogue humanizing a malfunctioning AI, makes him a fixture of pop culture history forever, and instantly jets off to a literal kaleidoscope of psychedelic imagery that has not aged well.

It’s all a shame too because so much of “2001” is timeless in its execution despite being a reflection of a future of buttons and vending machines and stewardesses. The depiction of early man as yet-to-be evolved apes visited by a strange alien monolith and discovering how to make weapons was strange but a startling way to open. From there, we move to the best retro-future vision ever set to film (this is a positive: I love the future as mankind saw it in the 50’s and 60’s).

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In discussing the film afterward for this review, I realized “2001: A Space Odyssey” seemed to me to be a past generation’s “The Matrix” or even “Inception”. Kubrick threw out every script we have seen before on this list and gave us all a wholly unique vision. One of the best things about older movies is I get to say, “How the hell did they do that?” For the first two acts of “2001”, I never stopped asking that question.

Unfortunately, with so much of the philosophy of the film wrapped up in depicting, but not showing, extraterrestrials too incomprehensible to show, I am reminded only of the acid burnout stories that plague so many classic science fiction writers I have read. While neat in idea and likely revolutionary and inspirational for the time, “2001: A Space Odyssey” fell victim to smoking its own self-image, a hallucinogenic thing short on substance. To me, as technically amazing and truly brave as this film was, it felt more akin to something like “Cloud Atlas” with a lot to say and no real way of saying it that felt impactful.

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None of this is to say “2001: A Space Odyssey” is a bad film. It is not. It was revolutionary, but as necessary as revolutions are, I’d never ask to live in the middle of one. It would be unfair to say that I was not let down at least somewhat by what I perceived the film to be before seeing it. I expected a horror film, better than “The Shining”, about man versus machine. As I said before, that part of the film, as memorable and terrifying and tense as it was, was also too brief. The bulk of the film is spent on a soundscape both pretentious and genius, that conveys the uncaring nature of space, and fills the rest with equally uncaring humans pretending their way to an unknowable enlightenment for the benefit of no one.

Art at its best and its worse, “2001: A Space Odyssey” is an experience worth having once.

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For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: Cool Hand Luke (1967)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


There’s something impossibly cool about Paul Newman. He oozes a quiet kind of masculinity born not from his bravado or might, but his charm and confidence. Likewise, his 1967 movie, “Cool Hand Luke” has ample charm and confidence. Unfortunately, unlike Newman, we thought the movie was much ado about not really anything.

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Newman plays Lucas Jackson, a new prisoner in a Florida chain gang. Despite being a decorated veteran of World War II, he ends up being arrested for cutting down parking meters while intoxicated. There appears to be no reason for this behavior.

The film plays out as he first joins the chain gang and follows some of his early trials and tribulations. Diane called it a “prison slice of life” movie and I do not disagree. 

Some scenes are funny. For instance, Luke says he can eat fifty eggs in an hour, to which the fellow prisoners make bets over. It is a wonderful scene that shows just how he manages to win over the affection of his fellow inmates. Along with an earlier fight where he refused to back down to Dragline, played by George Kennedy (who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role), the prisoners revere “Cool Hand” Luke as a reverential figure. The egg eating scene even ends with a bloated Luke lying down on the table in a pose reminiscent of Christ on the cross.

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Other scenes, such as the car washing scene where a large-breasted woman washes a car for a very, very long time in the most provocative way possible are crass and a waste of time.

Maybe it’s a failure to communicate or maybe it’s a failure to understand, but neither of us “got” the fuss. The acting, cinematography, and soundtrack are all superb, but the movie either has nothing to say or doesn’t know how to say it. Another review I saw referred to Newman’s Luke as an “existential Jesus figure”. Sure, that’s probably true, but other than some clever allusions, the script doesn’t seem to say a whole lot about why I should care about “existential Jesus figures” or how stories about them ought to enrich or entertain me.

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And that’s a shame because beyond everything else being so right, I loved the atmosphere. I didn’t really understand the time period or that we were in Florida, but it felt like the South all the same. I could almost smell the heat, humidity, sweat, and cut grass – all things I heavily associate with the South (and hate).

If “Cool Hand Luke” is little more than a movie about standing up to authority figures, then I echo its premise in this review. To all the movie authorities out there, “Cool Hand Luke” is okay. Not bad, not great, but enough to pass the time.

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For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: The Dirty Dozen (1967)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


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1967’s “The Dirty Dozen” balances the line between dark comedy, war film, and action thriller. It immediately became one of our top films in this set, recent or otherwise, and will likely have to contend with “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” when we do another summary review of the last 25 films in the set we watched (which is coming up soon).

“The Dirty Dozen” tells the story of an eponymous group of American soldiers and war criminals who are given a second chance with a suicide mission. The movie follows Lee Marvin as Maj. John Reisman, a maverick in his own right, who “volunteers” to train and lead the mission.

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The film does a fantastic job of balancing itself. Most action movies and war films tend to be nonstop and relentless. Instead, we have a slow and steady build as we get to know and eventually care about our band of twelve murderers and other criminals (including at least one rapist). In some respects, it plays very similar to sports movies like “The Mighty Ducks” or “The Replacements”: the characters come from all backgrounds and don’t like each other very much but learn to get along. The difference here are the stakes: if anyone talks about their secret mission to anyone else or tries to escape, then all of them will be sent back and their sentences (for many: hanging) will be carried out immediately.

It helps that the film is wonderfully performed. Lee Marvin’s Maj. Reisman is perfect casting. He has a quiet intensity and older look. He reminds me of older combat veterans I have met in my lifetime, perhaps because he actually served in World War II.

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The rest of the so-called Dirty Dozen are equally amazing. Standouts include John Cassavetes as Franko, the group’s lead dissenter who ends up rallying them together. Telly Savalas’s Maggot, a rapist and all-around horrible person. I remember Savalas from the Twilight Zone episode about living dolls. That man played creep almost too well.

An incredibly young Jim Brown, the NFL great, plays Robert T. Jefferson. It was only after the film, when Diane was reading up on it, that I learned this was the Jim Brown. I was surprised to learn that he had any kind of movie career. He was absolutely fantastic in his role. In terms of this list, he has the distinction of being the first African American character that wasn’t a slave or the help. Shame he had to be a war criminal, but at least his crimes are justified within the plot (he killed two white men that tried to castrate him, or something like that). They also pair him with Wladislaw, played by the perpetually disturbed looking Charles Bronson. His character too has a sympathetic backstory and is faced with racism from some of the other men, so it is an interesting pairing with a lot of chemistry.

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Finally, I’d hate to miss mentioning Donald Sutherland as Pinkley. It’s a minor part, especially for an actor still going, but neat seeing his younger self in a classic film. He lacked all of the intensity his older appearance has given him, though that could just be his acting. For all I know, he has always been an intense old man!

If there are any complaints to be had, it’s the deaths. Not that they happened, mind you, just that they were all performed terribly. Outside the lack of swearing, this film could’ve been shot in any decade since, but it’s the way characters die that ages it the most. From over-the-top screams to the always terrible “dies and falls forward through a window”, it’s a real mess and detracts when the deaths are most plentiful: the film’s incredibly tense final act.

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Of all the movies in this list thus far, “The Dirty Dozen” earns one of the rarest distinctions of being a film I would happily watch again. Diane and I both loved it. From start to finish, it was entertaining. Somehow, someway, this movie made us forget what these men were convicted of doing and wish they are all survive. The exception of course, Maggot, because fuck that guy!

If you haven’t seen it, see it. It is really just that simple.

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For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


If the earlier part of our list was plagued by life-spanning epics, then this part is overrun with adapted stage plays. As yet another example, 1966’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is daring film that redefines the definition of obscene. It introduces to this list new swearing (that still holds up by modern standards) and an open sexuality. It’s a shame that, like most films adapted from the stage, it is nothing but a series of well-acted speeches in a single house – though with one notable exception – with nowhere else to go.

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“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” stars Elizabeth Taylor as Martha, the daughter of a university president, and George, played by Richard Burton, an associate professor in the university’s history department. They are joined late one evening after a party by two newcomers to campus: the young, fit, and handsome George Segal as Nick, a professor in the biology department, and his hipless wife Honey (Sandy Dennis).

All four are phenomenal in their roles. Taylor’s Martha is bitter and hateful of her husband, but oozes a cougar-like sexuality (especially toward Nick). Nick, in turn, manages to keep up, but I thought he was the weakest of the four, though that opinion shifted throughout the film as I learned to better appreciate Dennis’s performance as Honey.

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Initially, Honey seemed very over-the-top and we found her to be a bit grating in comparison to everyone else’s intensity. As the movie deepens into its own madness, she fits better and provides some of the only real levity.

Richard Burton, as cliche as it sounds, was a revelation. This was our first exposure to him, and, for me at least, he made the whole movie. At first, his George seems quite timid and meek, but as the film progresses, you see that he is anything but. In keeping with the theme of “truth and illusion”, George has simultaneously the most well-defined and least well-defined backstory. Was he the childhood friend of a kid who accidentally killed his parents? Was he the killer? Did he kill them intentionally and get away with it? Did he marry the university president’s daughter to become the next in line for his job? Is he content just being an associate professor?

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When it comes to George, like the entire rest of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, there are only illusions. The things that are intended to be true only seem true, and the story does a good job of making even things that seem true also seem false.

As a philosophical exploration of absurdism accompanied with compelling performances from great actors, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is perfect. Unfortunately, perfection in certain respects does not mean perfection in all respects.

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As a film, it sails comfortably along on its intensity (which is fantastic) and its mystery (which is great), but it doesn’t really end in a satisfactory way. The film’s revelations feel as empty as its character’s lives. Though likely intentional and the point, that doesn’t mean the point was worth making in the first place. The aftermath of seeing the film was and remains a very strange experience. I can recognize the power of it. Acted fantastically, its message feels like a waste of its players.

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For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: Doctor Zhivago (1965)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


I heard of “Doctor Zhivago” once before. It was coming up next on Turner Classic Movies one time I was flipping channels. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is a) not a sappy romance movie and b) about Russia during World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution. My post-Cold War education largely skipped over Russia beyond its involvement in World War II and our rivalry during the Space Race. Most of my knowledge comes from movies and other pop culture, and, by that, I mean only the 1997 animated classic “Anastasia”, any Russian levels in Call of Duty or Medal of Honor games, and Anthony Burgess’s “A Clockwork Orange”. 1965’s “Doctor Zhivago” helped fill in even more gaps!

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The story of “Doctor Zhivago” is told by Yevgraf Zhivago (played by Alec Guinness or Obi-Wan) who is the half-brother of Yuri Zhivago (Omar Sharif). Yevgraf has been looking for his lost niece and the late Yuri’s daughter. When he finds her, he tells her parent’s life stories, largely centering on Yuri, but also involving Lara Antipova (Julie Christie).

Like the book “A Clockwork Orange”, I have a hard time following any Russian words and names. To make matters worse, everyone in “Doctor Zhivago” has a nickname that may or may not sound like their actual name, and we almost always are treated to mixed use of each character’s full name, just their surname, or just their first name. It is a real headache!

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Despite being filmed in Spain, “Doctor Zhivago” feels like Russia in the 1900s. The level of detail adds a lot to reel you in, especially the Russian text used throughout the film or the occasional Russian word used in dialogue. It doesn’t always look as cold as I imagine Moscow or the rest of Russia, and the British accents are not at all appropriate, but it’s the kind of immersion I have come to expect from a really good movie.

And, for the most part, “Doctor Zhivago” is really good. Like so many films we’ve seen on this list, it is overly long and likes to meander. It also straddles the line between having an unlikable protagonist (Yuri is a cheater and Lara seems to totally abandon her first child throughout the film) without much motivation and trying to force the audience to like him because of circumstances. It is a bit wishy-washy and lost in translation, but all of the characterization issues are offset by the solid acting, gorgeous cinematography, a beautiful score, and a setting that is sadly underexplored by Western media (and in our classrooms).

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In many respects, this is a Russian “Gone with the Wind”. Unfortunately, that means in addition to a sweeping view of a significant historical period from a particular group’s perspective, too much time is spent on the less interesting romantic plot. I do wish more of the film had explored the history, psychology, or the philosophy of the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War. There is some mention of the “death of the personal life” and Yuri’s family, who were affluent prior to the revolution, are forced to give up their status, possessions, and wealth to the newly-formed state. But since Yuri is so often forced to serve the Red Army as a doctor or he is otherwise abandoning his family to see Lara, their struggle is poorly reflected by the overall plot.

We both agreed that “Doctor Zhivago” would’ve been better if it were a series or mini-series. It’s an interesting enough story and a great bit of history to explore. After reading how the book compares to the film and ruminating on the plot some more, I am not sure if it is a story I would personally revisit. More about the Russian Revolution though please!

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For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: Viva Las Vegas (1964)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


“Viva Las Vegas” is a resoundingly fun Elvis Presley vehicle. Referenced countless times, it is, to me, a musical personification of the city. Despite overuse, I still feel it stands up to this day. However, “Viva Las Vegas” the song stands in sharp contrast to the movie for which it was birthed. The movie, also starring the vocals of Elvis Presley and celebrating the wiles of Las Vegas, does not stand up.

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On our DVD copy of 1964’s “Viva Las Vegas”, the disc opens with three back-to-back-to-back trailers for other Elvis movies. I get no vote of confidence when a movie (in a collection, may I remind you, that opens with zero other trailers on any of the other discs) goes out of its way to remind me that I could be watching other movies instead. Worse, showcasing the acting chops of Elvis in rapid succession does the man no favors, especially when he plays the same Elvis-adjacent character in every film, only with a change of occupation (like a male Barbie). You’ve never seen Elvis, but you will in “TICKLE ME”!

Elvis was not a bad actor, but because he was such a charismatic singer and performer, there was no point in trying to make a good movie around him. Sadly, with time, Elvis is more an idea in pop culture than a man, and one long tired by parody and homage to the point that there’s little buy-in from someone like me for a movie such as this.

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“Viva Las Vegas” starts off surprisingly strong. In the opening act, we are introduced to Lucky Jackson (Elvis Presley), a talented young race car driver in need of money for a motor to participate in the Las Vegas Grand Prix. We meet his rival in the race, Italian racer Count Elmo Mancini (played by Cesare Danova, an actual Italian). Finally, we meet Ann-Margret’s Rusty, a woman.

That last one was a bit of a joke. Rusty is by no means a bad idea for a character, especially in the first act of the movie where she has some agency, but she is ruined by the latter half of the film. There, Rusty bounces around with no real character progression and a mood that changes faster than the racers can drive.  I think she is mad at Elvis’s Lucky Jackson because he won’t give up racing for her, but he liked racing before he met her and they don’t even bother showing him racing, but its too dangerous, to setup that tension. Much like the plot of this movie, it is dumb, and I am dumber for watching it.

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That said, this is a watchable film. Mostly due to Elvis and his performances which are, as you can imagine, pretty spot on. I genuinely enjoyed the song, “The Lady Loves Me”, and I loved the chemistry in the back-and-forth between Elvis and Ann-Margret. Some of Ann-Margret’s dance sequences are especially “Caucasian” by modern standards, so they have an unintended laugh-out-loud charm to them. The film is also shot competently, including gorgeous shots of Las Vegas, and a great race sequence in the movie’s climax.

Of all the movies we’ve seen in this grouping, “Viva Las Vegas” is the weakest yet. Culturally, I am grateful for its inclusion since Elvis was such a major milestone. As a fan of movies looking to expand my movie IQ, I don’t feel any smarter knowing this one existed. By no means bad, it is far from good.

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For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


Culture has a kind of osmosis. In this case, in my younger years, through channel surfing and TV guide, I learned the names of many classic movies. Some of those titles, either through their peculiarity or provocativeness, stuck with me. One such, 1962’s “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”, asks a question I could not have possibly guessed the answer to. Thankfully, I now know.

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“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” stars Bette Davis as Jane Hudson, a melting wax candle of a woman whose light (as the eponymous Baby Jane, a child star) has long since gone out. She is joined by Joan Crawford as Blanche Hudson, her more successful and more famous sister. After an accident, Blanche is left crippled from the waist down and her sister Jane looks after her, together alone in a Hollywood mansion.

I am unsure to call this one a thriller or a horror film. I suppose it depends on the story’s impact and this one packs a wallop. The two sisters are ever at odds with one another. The penitent Blanche plays the face to Jane’s heel. Blanche intends to sell the mansion and move in with her maid, Elvira (Madie Norman), but isn’t ready to have Jane committed for her psychological hang-ups and alcoholism. Jane, forever jealous of her sister, finds out about the betrayal and is plotting to hold her sister hostage for her money which she gains access to via faking her sister’s signature or pretending to be her over the phone.

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It is a disturbing movie. Bette Davis transitions from a look of abject scorn and derision to that of the child star she once was, a switch done so seamlessly as to reinforce with certainty the devastation of adult Jane’s mind. She begins to torture her sister, at first by killing and later serving on a lunch platter her pet bird and later by serving her a dead rat. That’s not to mention the isolation (cutting her sister off from fan mail or a neighbor’s flowers) or her dismissal of Elvira on her sister’s behalf. Jane Hudson is one of cinema’s best villains.

And Jane’s redemption never really comes. She drifts, and eventually falls into madness. The cunning cruelty she exhibits early in the film melts away as she retreats into herself after murdering Elvira to protect her secret. After dumping the body, she flings herself on a restrained Blanche who has been denied any real food and begs for her sister to help her. When the horror she has inflicted is discovered, Jane runs away with Blanche to the beach to watch the sunset. Blanche, dying, admits to Jane that the accident was anything but, and that she had intentionally tried to run over Jane in a rage only to miss and snap her own spine. Too late, Jane dances on the beach as a crowd gathers around her when the police identify who she is and what she is wanted for.

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Culture may have a kind of osmosis, but whereas so many other critical scenes, characters, lines, and moments filter their way through various homages and parodies, it is amazing that it has kept hidden the answer to the question, “What ever happened to Baby Jane?” so well. More people should know. Words do little justice and I recommend seeing this film to really understand how good it (still) is. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford are amazing in their respective roles. The film is shot beautifully, and the score elevates its emotional impact at every turn.

 At times, I did feel it dragged and went overlong, but it never failed to hold my attention. And, despite being a black and white movie, it feels more modern than many of the other films of the same time with its lack of an overture, intermission, and its playing of the credits at the end. It also escapes that “filmed on a stage” feel of similar dramatic pictures since it was shot in an actual house, in an actual neighborhood, and has many establishing shots of the city nearby.

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“What ever happened to Baby Jane,” they asked. “Who the hell is Baby Jane”, someone responded. 

A woman trapped in purgatory.

For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.

WB Top 100: How the West Was Won (1962)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


I never expected music. In its opening minutes, “How the West Was Won” offers a sprawling tour of 19th century American folk music. It is the opening salvo in the great whitening of the American west and a romantic call to “remember when”. With music, comes Lillith Prescott (played by Debbie Reynolds), a musician and performer, as the Prescott family frames the tale of the taming of the wild west.

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Shot and scored beautifully, “How the West Was Won” must have been a dream come true for the marketing department. Beyond Debbie Reynolds, other players include: James Stewart, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Gregory Peck, and more! Of course, they combine for around 20% of the total runtime (around 164 minutes) – only 5% if you exclude Debbie Reynolds.

Spanning multiple locations over multiple years, “How the West Was Won” is even more patriotic than “Yankee Doodle Dandy” but not as much fun. The film looks and sounds great. Several of the more action-packed sequences are top notch. Style cannot save it from aging out of being patriotic and aging into being a tame, whitewashing of American history though. This was a boring movie to sit through and, outside of what amounted to be cameos, the story, acting, and dialogue all felt especially hokey. They do that thing where everyone feels the need to yell in platitudes at one another. It is terrible.

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If you are interested in seeing this film, stay for a few of the musical bits (featuring Debbie Reynolds), the buffalo stampede scene, and Gregory Peck playing an opposite Atticus Finch. Otherwise, be prepared to only hear about how white settlers made America great and set the stage for it to be made great again in 2016 or something. It’s a bunch of nonsense really.

As a greatest hits of Western films, “How the West Was Won” did little to win us over. Somehow more regressive than “Cimarron”, a movie that featured a Black child as a ceiling fan, the film celebrates the heroism of white people and their bravery for conquering someone else’s empire. There are white characters that are presented as sympathetic to Native American concerns, but that somehow makes it worse. Despite a few sequences and an excellent score, this is the kind of movie that reels you in with notions of Gregory Peck, James Stewart, and John Wayne, and gives you Hannibal from television’s the A-Team instead. Blegh.

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For other reviews, make sure to check out the Warner Brother’s Top 100 Film’s page.