Martin Landau: 1928 – 2017

Not a good day for losing icons. Legendary actor Martin Landau passed away at age 89. Landau made his film debut as a henchmen in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest, and was a regular presence on both the big screen and the small screen thereafter massing a huge body of work from wide-screen epics Cleopatra and the Greatest Story Ever Told, to Mission:Impossible, Columbo and Space 1999 on the boobtube.

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He was especially beloved for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s masterpiece, Ed Wood, and went on to work with Burton a few more times (doing voice work in Frankenweenie) and uncredited in Sleepy Hollow. His wicked smile, could shift on a dime to a long intimidating face, which allowed the actor equal comfort as the villain or the hero, and later on (see his Judge character in poker drama, Rounders) a father figure. In real life, he also offered his services as an acting coach and played some part in training Jack Nicholson, Harry Dean Stanton (who is a couple years older than Landau) and Angelica Huston among others.

As a young man, he hung out with James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, and as an older gentlemen, he remained working right up until his recent passing. His career had ups and downs, but he never faded away, and was one of those A-list character actors that are rare these days.

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Blu-Ray Review: Crimes and Misdemeanors

Director: Woody Allen
Screenplay: Woody Allen
Starring: Martin Landau, Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Mia Farrow, Anjelica Huston
Country: USA
Running Time: 89 min
Year: 1989
BBFC Certificate: 15


What’s been great about reviewing a handful of Arrow’s re-releases of Woody Allen’s back catalogue is that it’s made me realise how much I love his work. I’ve largely been cherry-picking supposed ‘on-form’ Allen movies, but they’ve never failed to impress or entertain me. I watched Cafe Society the other week and was less enamoured by it, but perhaps watching all of these upper tier Allen titles mere days previously raised my standards a little too high. It certainly didn’t put me off exploring more unwatched titles from his hefty filmography though. Crimes and Misdemeanors was next up and I’d heard very good things about it, so expectations were high.

Crimes and Misdemeanors tells two stories. One sees happily married ophthalmologist Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau) tormented by threats from his mistress Dolores Paley (Anjelica Huston) to tell his wife about their affair. Judah has grown weary of Dolores and realised he loves his wife Miriam (Claire Bloom), so he doesn’t want her to be hurt and leave him. When it all gets too much for Judah and the threats get more serious, the solution suggested by his mobster brother Jack (Jerry Orbach) is to have Dolores killed. The film’s second central story is that of Cliff Stern (Allen himself). He’s an unhappily married, unsuccessful documentary filmmaker who’s offered a chance to make some money making a film about his successful TV comedy writer brother-in-law Lester (Alan Alda). He hates the job, but is consoled by the fact that he meets a woman he falls madly in love with, Halley Reed (Mia Farrow). Having recently got divorced, she’s reluctant to start another relationship though. Undeterred, Cliff stays close to her as a friend and gets her involved with the more respectable documentary he’s trying to produce on the side, with the hope that she’d be swayed eventually into his arms.

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Review: Lovely, Still

 

Ever see a film that is so sweet that it passes beyond your instrinsic gag reflex and makes you love it despite any misgivings from the brain? From sheer force of screen presence and chemistry Martin Landau and (positively radiant) Ellen Burstyn manage to hold the film on the rails and stabilize it amongst a young directors (first timer Nicholas Fackler) need to inject jittery gimmickry into the narrative. It is perhaps one of the first films about December-December romance that will possibly appeal to the younger se. That is if there were any way for a multiplex crowd to see it – its current release in Canada seems to be a single theatre, with no advertising support, and on top of it a Christmas movie released in mid October. Sheesh) With Lovely, Still it is as if Fackler decided to make his own Away From Her through the editing rhythms of Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream. Where Sarah Polly had the prose of Alice Munroe as a starting point and captured her story in a straightforward manner, Fackler aims for M. Night Shyamalan, which slightly hurts and cheapens the film in the final act. This film could have been an honest contender for the type of annual Christmas ritual-viewing along the lines of It’s A Wonderful Life (which not-surprisingly is watched at one point in the film) or A Christmas Story until the rushed final moments. Nevertheless, it is still quite lovely.

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