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  • May 19, 2013

    Best Movies by Farr: The Conversation

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses Francis Ford Coppola’s provoking mystery-thriller starring Gene Hackman.


    The Conversation (1974)

    What It’s About: Detached and distrustful of others, surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a deeply private, virtually friendless man whose life is consumed by his special brand of freelance intelligence work. Hired by corporate director Martin Stett (a young Harrison Ford) to monitor the conversation of a young couple (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest), Caul is troubled by the fragments of talk he illicitly captures on tape and begins obsessively piecing them together, suspecting a murder is in the works.

    Why I Love It:
    Made before he began work on “The Godfather, Part II,” Francis Ford Coppola’s prescient, haunting drama is a brilliant character study that plays out in an atmosphere of intense paranoia. Hackman is the dark heart of the film, playing a profoundly solitary man tortured by guilt, complicity, and his own inability to trust anyone, including girlfriend Amy (Teri Garr). Perhaps Coppola’s most artful film, “The Conversation” is dark, brooding, mysterious, and ultimately, completely unnerving.

    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

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  • May 12, 2013

    Best Movies by Farr: The Big Clock

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses this smart, inventive thriller, starring Charles Laughton and Ray Milland, directed by John Farrow.


    The Big Clock (1948)

    What It’s About:
    George Stroud (Ray Milland), editor of “Crimeways” magazine, works for effete, clock-worshipping publishing magnate Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton), an unpleasant man who for years has denied Stroud a vacation with his wife (Maureen O’ Sullivan). One night, in a fit of rage, Janoth murders his mistress. Hoping to pin the crime on an unknown man she was seen with earlier, Janoth asks Stroud to launch a private manhunt, ostensibly to get a big scoop-unaware that his star editor was the woman’s drinking companion.

    Why I Love It:
    Memorable for its edgy dialogue and tense, sinister atmosphere, director Farrow’s 1948 adaptation of Kenneth Fearing’s novel boasts an ingenious plot device: two characters, one guilty and one innocent, both attempt to “solve” a crime in which they are circumstantially implicated. Milland, solid as ever, anchors the action as the cornered protagonist, while the portly Laughton is sly and superbly loathsome as the controlling, megalomaniac killer. “Clock” also features fine support from an alluring O’Sullivan (then Farrow’s wife), Elsa Lanchester (Laughton’s wife), and Harry Morgan, who’s chilling as Janoth’s mute, gun-toting bodyguard. Incidentally, this smart, inventive thriller was re-made in 1987 as “No Way Out”, with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman.

    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

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  • May 5, 2013

    Best Movies by Farr: Marathon Man

    by John Farr

    Dustin Hoffman was one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the Seventies. John Farr discusses the nail-biting thriller that showcases Hoffman’s talents.


    Marathon Man (1976)

    What It’s About:
    Thomas “Babe” Levy (Dustin Hoffman) is a nerdy New York grad student who finds himself in a nightmare soon after his mysterious older brother Doc (Roy Scheider) pops in to visit. Though Doc betrays precious little to his kid brother, he’s in fact with the CIA, hot on the trail of former Nazi Dr. Christian Szell (Laurence Olivier). When Doc next bursts in to Babe’s apartment mortally wounded, the clueless younger brother is plunged into some deadly international intrigue involving stolen diamonds, and becomes a target of Szell himself.

    Why I Love It:
    Dustin Hoffman re-grouped with “Midnight Cowboy” director Schlesinger for this nerve-jangling thriller based on screenwriter William Goldman’s novel. Some critics fault the movie for loose ends in the plot, but in a thriller of this type, plot logic seems almost secondary. The Oscar-nominated Olivier is chilling as the sadistic Szell, but the resto f the cast id equally fine, including Scheider and William Devane as a corrupt government agent. Twisty and paranoic, “Man” delivers…” Add final sentence: “Is it safe to see this movie? You decide.

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  • May 3, 2013

    Best Movies by Farr: El Cid

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses Charlton Heston’s historical epic, directed by Anthony Mann.


    El Cid (1961)

    What It’s About:
    Disgraced 11th-century Spanish knight Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar (Charlton Heston), dubbed El Cid for his progressive sense of justice, earns the king’s favor when he vanquishes a hostile challenger in a duel to the death. Now the royal defender, El Cid pursues Chimene (Sophia Loren), a gorgeous noblewoman with an ax to grind, and goes on to unite all the warring factions in his home country against Moorish invaders.

    Why I Love It:
    King of psychological westerns and hard-boiled noir films, Anthony Mann turned his attention in 1961 to mounting a widescreen historical epic worthy of Cecil B. DeMille. The effort paid off handsomely: the set pieces are stunning, the orchestration of men, horses, and armies dynamic and thrilling to behold. At the heart of this real-life story of love and adventure is the interplay between Heston, always commanding in large-scale heroic roles, and the luxuriant Loren, playing his nemesis and future wife. Shot on location by DP Robert Krasker, “El Cid” has a grandeur equal in every way to its legendary namesake.

    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

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  • March 24, 2013

    Best Movies by Farr: Pride of the Yankees

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses the baseball classic, directed by Sam Wood.


    Pride of The Yankees (1942)

    What It’s About:
    Biopic of famed New York Yankee Lou Gehrig (Gary Cooper) traces his storied athletic career, as the legendary southpaw ascends to the best team in baseball, while also portraying his romance and eventual marriage to devoted wife Eleanor (Teresa Wright). The movie culminates in his final gallant battle with a rare and fatal disease, soon to bear his name. We watch as Gehrig bears this ultimate challenge with the same grace and finesse he displayed as a ballplayer.

    Why I Love It:
    Potent inspiration for a country newly at war, this sentimental tearjerker still holds up beautifully, with lots of patriotic flavoring and the inspiring atmosphere of a simpler, nobler time. The magnetic Cooper was never better, Wright is radiant as his spouse, and we even get a glimpse of Babe Ruth playing himself. Don’t miss this affecting ode to a long-ago era when our nation’s role models really were heroic.

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