A Movie A Day: Quint on CAST A GIANT SHADOW (1966)
Hey, don't leave me here! I'm anti-Semitic!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Composer Elmer Bernstein bridges us from yesterday’s MEATBALLS to a slightly… um… different story, 1966’s CAST A GIANT SHADOW, starring Kirk Douglas, Yul Brenner, Frank Sinatra, Senta Berger, Angie Dickinson and John Wayne.
What you have here is a story about the state of Israel putting its foot down and demanding to be recognized as a political power while taking back Palestine and Jerusalem from the Muslims. Shoulda double featured this one with KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, no?
It’s an exciting story, an important political story and you can tell by the sheer level of talent in the film that it’s a story that a lot people wanted to tell. Too bad it’s a mess of a movie.
I was actually a little shocked to see Melville Shavelson’s filmography and see he was behind the much loved HOUSEBOAT and the original YOURS, MINE AND OURS. I was sure that it was a first time filmmaker or a TV filmmaker jumping headfirst into a movie too big for him. The first act is almost all ADR, bad ADR… take-you-out-of-the-movie-because-the-lip-sync-is-so-bad-ADR.
The editing is bizarre. Shots hold for too long in some scenes, cut too early in others. Amateur hour all the way.
That said, the second half of the movie feels much better. It’s not a drastic improvement, but it reaches competence. And the actors are all trying their best.
Kirk Douglas is approached at the beginning of the movie to come lead the Israeli effort. Douglas is a war hero, having seen the atrocities of WW2 with his own eyes and is a lapsed Jew on top of it. But that’s not why helps. His character, based on the real life hero of the time, Mickey Marcus, knows war. He needs war and despite his lovely wife (the gorgeous mid-‘60s Angie Dickinson) he agrees to help and ends up not only an instrumental military strategist, but also middle-man between Israel and Washington, leading to America taking the lead in supporting the new Israel.
While fighting he has an affair with the lavishing Senta Berger (who you should remember from the awesome QUILLER MEMORANDUM if you’ve gotten a chance to check that movie out).
The movie is noted for the extended cameos of John Wayne playing a Patton-ish General and Douglas’ main supporter in the hierarchy, Yul Brenner as Asher, the lead Israeli military mind before Douglas shows up and Frank Sinatra as a mercenary pilot hired to help the Israeli effort.
Sinatra has the least screentime of the three, but boy I wish he was in the movie more. His character is a little like a more dickish precursor to Han Solo. He’s always a smartass and clearly only in it for the money. They don’t even really try to give him a moment of realization. He’s a good guy, but he doesn’t believe in the cause any more than the next guy.
He has a great line when they’re planning on holding off a line of tanks (when the Israeli army have none) and he’s given a plane full of seltzer bottles to drop on the tanks (the idea is to fool the enemy into thinking they’re real bombs). The Israeli army is so poor that often these guys are going into battle without guns, just guts and fists, so forget about bombs.
These seltzer bottles have a hook on the top and Sinatra asks what they are. “Those will make it scream on the way down.” Sinatra says, “Yeah, the both of us.”
Sinatra’s character also gives the line I use in the subhead.
But for a movie about such an important moment in history, a moment that we’re still feeling the effects of to this day, and such a good cast it really is a let down. Shavelson obviously knows what he’s doing… I just don’t know why it feels like the flick is cobbled together from a student filmmaker’s first attempt at making a movie.
The rumor is that Douglas and Shavelson clashed a lot on set, causing the other to walk off at different times. That might explain things a little more.
Final Thoughts: I wouldn’t call this film a must see, but if you get on a John Wayne or Kirk Douglas kick and check it out it won’t make you want to tear your eyes out. Hell, you might like it more than I did, but I doubt you’ll feel it capitalized on the rich drama, suspense and just plain interesting true story.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Wednesday, July 23rd: OUT OF THE PAST (1947)
Thursday, July 24th: THE BIG STEAL (1949)
Friday, July 25th: WHERE DANGER LIVES (1950)
Saturday, July 26th: CROSSFIRE (1947)
Sunday, July 27th: RICCO, THE MEAN MACHINE (1973)
Monday, July 28th: IN HARM’S WAY (1965)
Tuesday, July 29th: FIRECREEK (1968)
Tomorrow we hit OUT OF THE PAST, following Kirk Douglas back nearly 20 years. Can’t wait. That flick starts off a Robert Mitchum run that I’m dying to get to. See you folks tomorrow!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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July 22, 2008, 3:14 p.m. CST
July 22, 2008, 3:17 p.m. CST
sorry big guy, hope you're still on the mend :)
July 22, 2008, 3:17 p.m. CST
Best chin ever, and I bet he could still whup Michael's ass.
July 22, 2008, 3:30 p.m. CST
by Speed Fricassee
I'm surprised this article series has lasted THIS long. Hey Quint, you should look up Intrada's re-issue soundtracks... lots of rare stuff out there that you might like.
July 22, 2008, 3:39 p.m. CST
by Dick Bahls
...."AICN PRESENTS: THE LAST DATE OF YOUR LIFE". The biggest fanboy nerd gets a date with one of those smoking hot latino chicks in the ad. This will of course be his last date ever as a): he couldn't get one on his own if his life depended on it & b): he will probably die of heart failure just being in the same room as one of thoses hotties.
July 22, 2008, 3:42 p.m. CST
All the different uniforms make it look like a time travel movie.
July 22, 2008, 3:43 p.m. CST
July 22, 2008, 3:48 p.m. CST
i heard that whenever the person dies, natalie's friend/family will reveal the person who was her rapist. time will only tell when kirk has kicked it...
July 22, 2008, 3:49 p.m. CST
some great performances, sets and music... but the unbelievably poor direction (for what was regarded as a prestige pic), weird pacing issues and hamfisted script (from Dalton FUCKIN Trumbo, for God's sake!) made it a painful experience. Along with Sal Mineo's "acting". <p> It's always disappointing when highly regarded, "important" movies like this end up being overblown, mediocre fare.
July 22, 2008, 3:53 p.m. CST
Jonathan Hart or the Man with the plan?
July 22, 2008, 3:54 p.m. CST
Where the hell are these stories?! http://www.nukedthefridge.com/
July 22, 2008, 3:56 p.m. CST
in my humble opinion, it's a schizo movie with some poor story choices - it's almost a propaganda film that tries to stay relatively true to the history, yet they cut corners in the strangest places, like inventing an adultery storyline to saddle on the protagonist (and he cuckolds Angie Dickinson in her prime, no less). <p> That's not the problem, but more emblematic of taking a real story and trying to spice it up with poetic license but being afraid to deviate too far from recent history (unless you're Oliver Stone). You're better going completely off the rails on accuracy and really make it really compelling, a la Braveheart, although to be fair it's not like there were Scotsmen walking around when that came out who could say I was there and it wasn't like that at all...
July 22, 2008, 4:01 p.m. CST
I can understand that. I myself am a lapsed African-American. Gotta go - my Starbucks double-mocha caramel latte is ready.
July 22, 2008, 4:09 p.m. CST
nuke the fridge = new coke
July 22, 2008, 4:10 p.m. CST
by Speed Fricassee
That's exactly why I watch nothing before 1973 (sans Kurosawa). Overblown, mediocre fare indeed.
July 22, 2008, 4:11 p.m. CST
Wait til ya see her, Quint. Sweet Momma - that was one fine lookin woman. Can't remember actresses name but shes my fave femme fatale - even more so than Fiorentino in Last Seduction.
July 22, 2008, 4:14 p.m. CST
There's the definition of "idiotic blanket statement"
July 22, 2008, 4:19 p.m. CST
by Speed Fricassee
Ha! Go ahead and defend something. Pack it all in - Hitchcock, Coppola, Lang, Leone... go ahead... please.
July 22, 2008, 4:32 p.m. CST
does anyone think the American Government was correct in stealing the land and the genocide of the Native Americans? i am still amazed people turn a blind eye to Palesetine. they are kicking people out of their houses, and then setting up a drastic APARTHEID. the quicker we have a FREE and EQUAL Palestine, the quicker the world can ease into PEACE and PROSPERITY for all. i am sick of PROPAGANDIST media and film telling us how israel needed to 'take back' Palestine. enough of this garbage. i vote for a FREE PALESTINE with EAUALITY for ALL. i vote for PEACE.
July 22, 2008, 4:59 p.m. CST
by vic twenty
Superman was on a quest for peace. Look what happened to him.
July 22, 2008, 5:06 p.m. CST
...of the extremist arguments of either 'the poor Israelis being subjegated' arguements VS the 'poor, innocent arabs being subjegated' arguements. Remember the great saying...There's 3 sides to every story..."yours, mine and the TRUTH". Can we all just have some beers and watch some movies?
July 22, 2008, 5:14 p.m. CST
..I'm making a list with these movies. When I get a better internet connection, I'll get these movies (yeah, I admit it! Can't afford to buy so much DVDs!)
July 22, 2008, 5:42 p.m. CST
Jul 22 1946 <p>91 people are killed in Jerusalem, when the Jewish terror group Irgun bombs the British administrative headquarters, located in the King David Hotel.
July 22, 2008, 5:43 p.m. CST
Batman croaked Stallones mom?
July 22, 2008, 5:56 p.m. CST
The Palestinians have a home. they are from Jordan. Their "Arab brothers" have been using them as a political pawn for half a century in order to stick it to Israel rather than face the reality or offer up some of their oil billions to set up a place for them. Theyseem to think it is much better to set up funds for the families of suicide bombers who kill innocent Israelis. <P> It should be noted there were 400,000 'displaced" Palestinians in 1947 and the world screamed genocide. now there are 4 million Palestinians. Some genocidal maniacs those Jews are, no?
July 22, 2008, 6:41 p.m. CST
WWII was fresh in the minds, and the Israel borders were a little less controversial than now. Once they give back the land seized in 1967 it'll be a good start for a peaceful resolution. Until then, I'm afraid more and more arabs will smok'em while they got'em. Talk about no end in sight.
Summary - As Gotham creeps closer to the edge of chaos, her citizens must decide if they will fight to keep their home, or give in to despair. ACT I - After being hunted for one year, Batman has become a ruthless pessimist. Even those closest to him (Alfred, Fox, Gordon) fear his losing hope. His only achievement; a complex security system that allows the Batman to become 'Big Brother' to Gotham City. But a new criminal has discovered Batman's system, and is attempting to use his genius to crack the system and unlock the mystery of the Batman ACT II - Bruce Wayne is introduced to a beautiful foreign diplomat who hopes to encourage the wealthy and powerful to save their city. Bruce Wayne becomes intrigued by her motives, and sees his lost ideology in this mysterious woman. Meanwhile, his security system is being hacked, with the attacker(s) leaving strange riddles. A jewelry thief dressed as a cat says she wants to help Batman find this 'Riddler', but he doesn't trust her. ACT III - The Riddler unlocks the secrets of the Batman, sabotaging his entire operation. The Batman is forced to retreat to his shelter in the city. He captures the Riddler with the aid of Catwoman. The Riddler refuses to cooperate, but the Batman out-wits him, making him reveal the truth - The Riddler is working for the beautiful foreign diplomat. Batman confronts her and realizes she is the daughter of Ra's al Ghul, who has somehow restored his health and has returned to destroy both Batman and Gotham once and for all. Cast: Batman - Bale Catwoman - Scarlett Johannson Riddler - Hugo Weaving Talia al Ghul - Monica Bellucci Ra's al Ghul - Liam Neeson
Summary - As Gotham creeps closer to the edge of chaos, her citizens must decide if they will fight to keep their home, or give in to despair. <br><br> ACT I - After being hunted for one year, Batman has become a ruthless pessimist. Even those closest to him (Alfred, Fox, Gordon) fear his losing hope. <br><br>His only achievement; a complex security system that allows the Batman to become 'Big Brother' to Gotham City. <br><br> But a new criminal has discovered Batman's system, and is attempting to use his genius to crack the system and unlock the mystery of the Batman.<br><br> ACT II - Bruce Wayne is introduced to a beautiful foreign diplomat who hopes to encourage the wealthy and powerful to save their city. Bruce Wayne becomes intrigued by her motives, and sees his lost ideology in this mysterious woman. <br><br> Meanwhile, his security system is being hacked, with the attacker(s) leaving strange riddles. A jewelry thief dressed as a cat says she wants to help Batman find this 'Riddler', but he doesn't trust her. <br><br> ACT III - The Riddler unlocks the secrets of the Batman, sabotaging his entire operation. The Batman is forced to retreat to his shelter in the city. <br><br> He captures the Riddler with the aid of Catwoman. The Riddler refuses to cooperate, but the Batman out-wits him, making him reveal the truth - The Riddler is working for the beautiful foreign diplomat. <br><br> Batman confronts her and realizes she is the daughter of Ra's al Ghul, who has somehow restored his health and has returned to destroy both Batman and Gotham once and for all. <br><br> Cast: Batman - Bale Catwoman - Scarlett Johannson Riddler - Hugo Weaving Talia al Ghul - Monica Bellucci Ra's al Ghul - Liam Neeson
July 22, 2008, 7:41 p.m. CST
by Napoleon Park
I love the scent a burger in the morning. It smells like... meatballs.
July 22, 2008, 11:26 p.m. CST
and doesnt depend on a bunch of big name actors overacting...watch it
July 22, 2008, 11:30 p.m. CST
do when they got back gaza?? bet you have never been there...i have...beautiful beaches, the homes and neighborhoods looked like any suburb here in america...and israel left everything intact...well, the palestinians stripped everything...and then setup missle launching sites....nice...fuck them being free...hope israel kills every last one of them...then makes a movie of it for harry to trash
July 23, 2008, 3:55 a.m. CST
Those Palestinians living in British Palestine in 1947? Obviously their home is Jordan. The fact that they'd been born in Palestine and their families there for generations a clever smokescreen. The millions of European Jews who took were settled onto their land? OBVIOUSLY natives. Never mind their ancestors had left for Russia, Spain and Eastern Europe hundreds of years before and had never even laid eyes on the land. Up is down, down is up. With that kind of fairminded logic it's a wonder there isn't peace in the middle east. It's good to be God's Chosen, you have a right to do whatever to whomever and feel good about it.
July 23, 2008, 10 a.m. CST
As always, great column. Looking forward to your review of 'Firecreek'. One of my favorite westerns, with a great performance from Jimmy Stewart.
July 23, 2008, 11:37 a.m. CST
Can't stop staring at his jaw. Man, just look at that thing. Could poke someone's eye out with it. I wonder if it has a name.
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