Tuesday, August 03, 2004

black sunday [not to be confused with the Mario Bava horror classic]

I'm on a John Frankenheimer trip [see also: The Manchurian Candidate, Seconds]. This flick helps me close the lid on all the film adaptations of Thomas Harris novels (all of which I own as well). It's interesting that someone who wrote a book like this (which seemed ominous back then given the events at the Munich Olympics, and even more now given the 9/11 tragedy) made a transition to writing a well-begun ill-terminated trilogy of books about a super-smart cannibal. The film itself boasts good performances from Robert Shaw (what is it with him and characters with interesting accents) and Bruce Dern, a good pace (aided by a tight script bearing the name of Ernest "North by Northwest" Lehman), and a lot of Frankenheimer trademarks (low-angle shots, medium shots, interesting framing). However, given the enormity of the task undertaken by the villain, the filmmakers had no choice but to resort to SFX, and thus, the climax is both predictable and unsatisfyingly specious. This limits the film to being an above-average thriller, but not a very great Frankenheimer flick. What redeems the film are the strictly-grey characters of Capt. Michael J Lander (Bruce Dern) and Major David Kabakov (Robert Shaw). Their motivations and actions are enough to twist the notions of good and evil, of right and wrong.

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