Tag Archives: Richard Donner

The Omen (1976, Richard Donner)

The Omen is a terrible bit of cinema. It’s a long bit, almost two hours, filled with Jerry Goldsmith’s–shockingly Oscar-winning–chant filled “scare” score. It doesn’t scare. It annoys, which just makes everything go on longer. Director Donner certainly doesn’t help with it. He drags things out too. Like anyone needs more scenes of Gregory Peck failing to feign emotion.

When the movie starts, Peck is the U.S. ambassador to Italy. It’s important because Peck has to be both rich and powerful. He seems to be an ineffective ambassador, who’s just there because his college roommate is now President of the United States. Probably Yale. Plantation Owner’s Tech and all.

Anyway. Peck’s married to Lee Remick, who’s just given birth. Only the baby dies and they call to tell Peck before they tell Remick. Because, even though Peck’s incapable of emoting, failed man emoting is more important in The Omen than any womanly emotion. The film shafts Remick on her part, which is something of a blessing because it means she gets to do fewer terrible scenes. Only a mysterious priest offers Peck a new baby, which Peck accepts, deciding to never tell Remick because ladies are fragile.

Five years later, The Omen occurs. An incredibly public suicide is the single event in the film qualifying as an omen. It’s a very loud omen. A mysterious nanny joins the Peck-Remick household, played by Billie Whitelaw. Maybe when it becomes obvious David Seltzer’s script is going to be really stupid and when no one is going to care–not Donner, not Peck–is when Whitelaw just appears to care for the child without being hired. When confronted, she has the flimiest story–oh, right, the action has moved to England now. Peck got a promotion because his friend is president.

Until Whitelaw shows up, it seems like there might be some chance the film’s going to work out. Sure, Peck and Remick entirely ignore their son–now played by Harvey Stephens, who maybe has four lines and two of them are just “Daddy”–but they’re still beautiful and still getting it on in the middle of the day. Although Peck does look a little like he should be playing grandpa; he’s twenty years older than Remick.

Then there’s a priest (Patrick Troughton) who shows up to tell Peck his son’s actually the antichrist. And photographer David Warner who knows something weird is going on. The film sort of mocks Troughton and idealizes Warner; neither deserve the treatment. Warner’s better at the start than the finish. Peck’s kind of better at the finish, the material’s just far worse.

After Goldsmith’s silly score, Gilbert Taylor’s photography is the biggest technical problem. The action leaves England for Peck and Warner to travel Europe looking for answers and mixes a lot of soundstages and locations. Taylor can’t match them at all. The first action set piece–the wind attacking Troughton–is all right. It’s too long, it’s got lousy music, but it’s ambitious. The rest are either on soundstage made up to be exteriors or just plain interiors. Taylor and Donner butcher the last set piece, when Peck has to try to beat up Whitelaw. Donner’s real bad at the scene. Not even editor Stuart Baird, who does the only consistently solid work in the film, can save it.

The biggest offender isn’t Peck, isn’t even Goldsmith. It’s writer Seltzer. The Omen has a crappy script. It has crappy dialogue, crappy characters, crappy everything.

The film gets unbearable before the halfway point and then it’s just all downhill until the end. It’s like the movie is punishing you for watching it. How ominous.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Donner; written by David Seltzer; director of photography, Gilbert Taylor; edited by Stuart Baird; music by Jerry Goldsmith; produced by Harvey Bernhard; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Gregory Peck (Robert Thorn), Lee Remick (Katherine Thorn), David Warner (Jennings), Billie Whitelaw (Mrs. Baylock), Patrick Troughton (Father Brennan), Martin Benson (Father Spiletto), and Harvey Stephens (Damien).


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Ladyhawke (1985, Richard Donner)

Two things about Ladyhawke without getting to the script or some of the acting. First, Andrew Powell’s music. It’s godawful; it’s stunning to see a director as competent as Richard Donner put something so godawful in a film. Intentionally put it in a film. It’s silly. It sounds like a disco cover of the “Dallas” theme song at its best and it tends to get much, much worse from that low peak.

Second, Vittorio Storaro’s photography. Not all of it, but the day for night stuff is terrible. Again, it seems like Donner and Storaro should know better, especially since there’s actual fine nighttime photography in other parts. Just not when the film needs it to visually make sense.

Now for the script. The film’s about Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer. They were carefree young lovers in Northern Italy after the Crusades, even though lots of people have French names, which gets confusing. I don’t think the location really matters. The evil bishop of this castle and settlement–John Wood in a really lame performance–curses them because he’s a Catholic bishop in the Middle Ages so he’s perving after Pfeiffer. By day, she lives as hawk. By night, he lives as a wolf. Both animals mate for life, something it seems unlikely anyone would know about in the Middle Ages, but the occasionally lamer than it needs to be script feels the need to point out.

But, Hauer’s not the lead and neither is Pfeiffer. Instead, it’s Matthew Broderick. He plays a young thief who escapes Wood’s prison and finds himself basically squiring for Hauer’s knight. He meets Pfeiffer and soon learns their tragic fate. The script doesn’t give anyone enough to do–except Wood and he’s got too much to do given his performance–but there’s a lot of trying. Broderick tries, Hauer tries, Pfeiffer tries. Pfeiffer’s the most successful, not because the writing is better for her, but because the plotting isn’t as bad for her scenes. Just the day for night photography. Hauer has it the worst. Any time he starts to show personality, it’s nightfall and he disappears for a bit.

The music and photography mess up quite a bit of what otherwise seems like a good production. There’s some wonky editing from Stuart Baird, like Donner didn’t get enough coverage, which isn’t a surprise, but it’s mostly fine. It’s not great, but it’s fine.

Leo McKern is all right as the disgraced priest who has the plan to reunite the lovers. Ken Hutchison’s kind of okay as Wood’s henchman. Better than Wood anyway, even if his part’s lame.

Even without the terrible music and the problematic photography, Ladyhawke would still have that script. All it’s got going for it is likability, which Broderick, Hauer and Pfeiffer all have; Donner just doesn’t utilize it. Instead, he relies on the script, the music, the photography and Ladyhawke’s… well, it’s too lukewarm to be a disaster. It should be a disappointment, but there’s not enough wasted potential to be one.

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Donner; screenplay by Edward Khmara, Michael Thomas and Tom Mankiewicz, based on a story by Khmara; director of photography, Vittorio Storaro; edited by Stuart Baird; music by Andrew Powell; production designer, Wolf Kroeger; produced by Donner and Lauren Shuler Donner; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Matthew Broderick (Gaston), Rutger Hauer (Navarre), Michelle Pfeiffer (Isabeau), Leo McKern (Imperius), Ken Hutchison (Marquet), Alfred Molina (Cezar) and John Wood (The Bishop).


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Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963, Richard Donner)

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet races. Director Donner and writer Richard Matheson pace out the episode perfectly–though it being a “Twilight Zone” episode means they can also utilize some of the series’s credit formula to great effect.

The episode has a few phases. Introducing William Shatner and Christine White (they’re married, he’s just recovering from his mental breakdown while on an airplane), putting Shatner in the window seat, him seeing the gremlin. Those events all happen in the first phase. Second is him trying to get help with the gremlin, third is him taking it into his own hands. These phases take place inside a three act structure. It’s an intense story, made more intense through the direction and then Shatner’s performance.

Shatner does fantastic work, as the viewer has to believe they’re going crazy with him. There’s a hesitation; Shatner, Matheson and Donner make sure the viewer gets past.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Donner; written by Richard Matheson; “The Twilight Zone” created by Rod Serling; director of photography, Robert Pittack; edited by Thomas Scott; produced by Bert Granet; aired by the CBS Television Network.

Starring William Shatner (Bob Wilson), Christine White (Julia Wilson), Asa Maynor (Stewardess) and Ed Kemmer (Flight Engineer).



amoktime

THIS POST IS PART OF THE FAVOURITE TV SHOW EPISODE BLOGATHON HOSTED BY TERENCE TOWLES CANOTE OF A SHROUD OF THOUGHTS


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Lethal Weapon (1987, Richard Donner)

One of the more impressive things about Lethal Weapon is Danny Glover convincingly playing a fifty year-old at, approximately, the age of forty. It’s never a problem in a film rife with problems.

First, Lethal Weapon‘s plot doesn’t really make any sense. There are huge jumps in logic as Glover and Mel Gibson’s “investigation” proceeds. The problem with making a high profile action movie, ostensibly for somewhat thinking adults, is the film’s never believable as a police procedural. Shouldn’t Glover have been taken off the case when it’s revealed the victim died because her father contacted him?

Worse is the change in Gibson’s character–for the first twenty-five or so minutes, he’s supposed to be a suicidal nutcase, then the film realizes it’s a lot more funny to have him and Glover bicker in as heterosexual life partners. And they do have some great scenes together, but it makes all the references to the previously essayed suicidal nutcase moments fail miserably… especially the nonsensical ending.

There’s also the big fight scene between Gary Busey and Gibson, which is ludicrous (it’s also never believable Gibson was ever going to kill a defenseless Busey so including it was just a way to tread some running time water).

The big loud music from Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton doesn’t work overall. At times it’s as bad as smooth jazz on a gum commercial.

Donner’s got some great, discrete moments as a director here; he’s unappreciated.

It’s fine–engaging and icon-making.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Donner; written by Shane Black; director of photography, Stephen Goldblatt; edited by Stuart Baird; music by Michael Kamen and Eric Clapton; production designer, J. Michael Riva; produced by Donner and Joel Silver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Mel Gibson (Sergeant Martin Riggs), Danny Glover (Sergeant Roger Murtaugh), Gary Busey (Mr. Joshua), Mitch Ryan (General Peter McAllister), Tom Atkins (Michael Hunsaker), Darlene Love (Trish Murtaugh), Traci Wolfe (Rianne Murtaugh), Jackie Swanson (Amanda Hunsaker), Damon Hines (Nick Murtaugh), Ebonie Smith (Carrie Murtaugh) and Lycia Naff (Dixie).


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