Massacre in Rome
The main idea of structure is perfectly reflected in Burton’s characterization of Col. Kappler, the point is that careful attention to every detail yields a very exact picture.
Mastroianni has the key scene, an outburst of sanity decrying all this political madness that has reached such a point.
These two considerations of the film define its essence, it is painstakingly clear in every one of its aspects, and critics have not noticed this.
Some have noticed the minutiŠ of hostage lists typed or handwritten, of a partisan bomb in the making and the loading of Mauser pistols, this sort of thing.
The Cassandra Crossing
The film is properly prophetic, as the title indicates, and knowingly so. The structural premise is laid on the fatal compromise involved in bacteriological weapons, that is the basis of a string of metaphors comprising the train ride from Geneva past Basel toward a camp in Poland, over a certain bridge.
Losey’s The Romantic Englishwoman has the drug mule, here the lady is American and married to an arms manufacturer, she recognizes the product in one scene.
The celebrated doctor and his best-seller ex-wife are a Taylor-Burton joke, wedded and unwedded thrice.
Terrorists in the “Swedish Peace Movement” play their hand, precipitating the crisis by accidentally liberating pneumonic plague, the chain of command runs down to a U.S. Army colonel in military intelligence, measures are taken.
Wise’s The Andromeda Strain is the critical element of the one joke at the center of the picture, which typically has more than one aspect. The virulence of the germ is severely limited and shortly dissipates like a passing bug. The hierarchy proceed as if that did not matter and knowing that the bridge of the title is long-disused and badly out of repair.
An intricate understanding intricately filmed but “profoundly, offensively stupid” to Richard Eder of the New York Times, “tired, hokey” to Variety, “unbelievable tosh” to Tom Milne (Time Out Film Guide).
Halliwell’s Film Guide observes “no observable filmmaking technique.”
Escape to Athena
The Greek resistance in 1944 is headquartered at a whorehouse, naturally, one that serves the Germans because “Greeks don’t pay.”
Stalag VII Z is an “archŠological reclamation unit” run by a crooked Viennese art dealer. The prisoners take over, break out and join the resistance to destroy a submarine fuel depot in the island harbor, ahead of the Allied invasion, then it’s a question of liberating the monastery treasures on Mt. Athena, high above the town.
It will be noted that William Holden’s cameo is structural.
Amid the many citations (The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, Operation Crossbow, Billion Dollar Brain, etc.) and the rich complexity of the filming all on Rhodes, Variety saw “a joke-up wartime action retread” that Time Out Film Guide says is “awful.”
Halliwell reports the actors as “tediously typecast” and considers the script “uninventive”. He gives the Monthly Film Bulletin’s deprecation in a few words on stuntmen who “dominate the action”, with main reference to a brilliant motorcycle chase through the town’s ancient angular narrow streets.
Rambo: First Blood Part II
The original was played to great effect by Ted Kotcheff as the setup to a scene of inchoate weeping and complaint, which is all that was required in the face of the situation described.
Cosmatos is also a master of understatement, and here there is a similar structure giving definition to an untenable state of affairs. The functionary whose job is to obfuscate the truth into nonexistence is by now a matter of course, but the film is still shocking in its blatancy.
And still there is the situation on the ground, far removed from and directly dependent on such powers and principalities. Rambo is set to parachute in at night from a small jet at 250 feet over the jungle (intensifying the jump in Sturges’ Never So Few), he quietly looks down, “within himself” on board for the jump, then stares with controlled emotions as he waits for the signal.
It’s reported that the POV footage from his night jump is not in the theatrical release, which shows how economical somebody’s plan for the editing was.
The conclusion is a much more tempered expression of the situation, yet uncompromising in its absolute conviction. “Things change,” sneers the villain. “Some people,” says Rambo, not paying any attention whatsoever.
The New York Times review showed an inability to distinguish fiction from reality that might have alarmed someone on the staff, except that faulty criticism still leads some people to think Don Siegel’s Dirty Harry is “authoritarian.” Lt. Cobretti in his denims and long coat and sunglasses and souped-up car is a comic book character (not to put too fine a point on it) and a nicely-judged performance by Stallone, who may be said to have perfected it in another unjustly neglected film, Judge Dredd. A central chase scene (fairly well-described by the Times, be it said) exhibits unusual care and sensitivity in the filming, with interjections of slow motion. Brigitte Nielsen’s makeup is from Jill St. John, and her costume from Patti Hansen in Bogdanovich’s They All Laughed.
Where all this effort leads is the big assault on the motor court from Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde, with the motorcycle gang in balaclavas suggesting The Killer Elite, and the editing a close study of Peckinpah’s. There’s even a little interlude in a citrus grove Ó la Polanski’s Chinatown.
Cobra, then, appears as much as anything to be a stylistic study after such films as Stuart Rosenberg’s great Love and Bullets, for example. And that’s more than enough for New York, which “is not as big a city as it pretends to be,” according to Michael O’Hara.
The best criticism is the work that proceeds from the object contemplated (in this sense, every critique is subject to review). Cosmatos attempts to clarify Alien, principally, and to supply a rationale for the acknowledged model in this genre, Jaws.
He adopts as the visible basis Fleischer’s 20000 Leagues Under the Sea. Miners on the ocean bottom suffer the residue of an abandoned Soviet experiment to develop men adapted to life in the sea. Nyby’s The Thing from Another World is a system of shocks and doubts in a similar vein.
The function is simply to resolve this line of thinking, exactly the function of critique, you might very well say. A modest proposition, an inoffensively equitable trade of emulation and polish.
Three Days of the Condor is cited at the outset, and the climax is an homage to Andy Sidaris. There is an extensive citation of The Third Man and a large allusion to Touch of Evil, the overall structure is significantly indebted to Seven Days in May and Peter R. Hunt’s Assassination, and the motorcycle gag probably reflects Beineix’ Diva (riding down into a subway station). Hitchcock is the presiding spirit, but every aspect of this extraordinary film is juggled by Cosmatos so as to make clear its point beyond all doubt and then allow certain striking images to float through this anti-gravitational style.
Thus, it is plainly evident that the White House Chief of Staff, the Vice-President and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have plotted a coup that requires the assassination of the President, but the scene of their conspiring with its Julius Caesar overtones is matched by the fantastic sight of a Presidential Assistant and a newspaper reporter investigating the White House and then, stymied by security, fleeing to the roof and escaping through the basement (like the ex-Presidents in My Fellow Americans).
The critics made bold to assert that Cosmatos had made a worthless film, but after all, it was made in support of Jefferson’s preference for Newspapers rather than Governments.