The Other Robert Wise Movie from 1951: The House on Telegraph Hill

There have been many instances where a famous director has two films released in the same year, with one becoming famous while the other exists in its shadow, half-remembered and never glorified.  It’s happened enough times that I could probably make a whole post out of it and maybe one day I will.  There was John Huston who, in 1951, released The African Queen and The Red Badge of Courage.  One of those, The African Queen, became an instant classic.  The other, The Red Badge of Courage, was hacked to bits by the studio and still managed to be superb.  If you get a chance to watch it, you won’t be disappointed.   Then there was Francis Ford Coppola who, in 1974, gave the world The Godfather, Part II and The Conversation.  I don’t think I have to tell you what happened with the first.  A ton of Oscars and a regular spot on the Sight and Sound poll.  The Conversation?  Praised by many as the better film but, oddly, not a standard of Sight and Sound at all.   And then there’s Robert Wise, discussed on these pages many times and who, in 1951, thrust The Day the Earth Stood Still upon the world.  With a flying saucer in the nation’s capital, an unstoppable robot and the legendary directive, “Klaatu barada nikto,” it’s a hard film to steal the spotlight from if you’re the second film on the bill.  But it just so happens that as much as I love sci-fi and Gort, I like the second film better.  It’s The House on Telegraph Hill and it’s Robert Wise’s other film from 1951.

House on Telegraph Hill 001

The House on Telegraph Hill plays in flashback though, structurally, there’s absolutely no reason for it.   The flashback, as it were, exists only because the movie opens with a shot of the titular house itself in the present while Victoria Kowelska (Valentina Cortese) narrates about her house in Warsaw “eleven years earlier and 7,000 miles away” (in 1939) and how it was destroyed by the Germans.  They also killed her husband and she ended up in Belsen (aka, the notorious Bergen-Belsen), herded in with thousands of the dead and dying.  As the “flashback” starts here and works its way linearly straight through to the end without interruption by a return to the present, there is absolutely no reason for the flashback outside of the opportunity to have Cortese, and her wonderful voice, narrate the film but even that is abandoned early on.   Call it the laziest flashback in movie history but the movie doesn’t suffer for it.

Instead, the story takes an intriguing turn early on.   Victoria’s friend in Belsen, Karin Dernakova (Natasha Lytess), had an infant son, Chris, smuggled out of Poland in 1939 to her wealthy Aunt Sophie in San Francisco.  Victoria helps Karin all she can but Karin is sick and getting worse by the day.  She tells Victoria that when they are liberated she will take Victoria to America with her and they will both live with her aunt, who hasn’t seen Karin since she was a little girl.  Just days before liberation, Karin dies and Victoria, distraught at both the loss of her friend and her chance for a better life, decides to become Karin.  After all, Karin’s son was only an infant when he was smuggled out so it would be impossible for him to recognize her and even Karin’s Aunt Sophie would have no idea what Karin looked like as an adult (besides, Karin and Victoria had similar builds and faces).  With the temptation too great to resist, Victoria becomes Karin and the dead woman on the floor of Belsen becomes Victoria.

The plan seems like a good one until after the camp is liberated (when she meets Major Bennett, played by William Lundigan, who will pop up later in the movie) and Victoria/Karin writes to Sophie only to receive a letter back saying Sophie has died and that there are no living relatives left.  You see, it has also been reported that Karin died so Victoria is suspected of being an imposter which, of course, she is.  Determined to keep the legacy of Karin alive and care for her son (as well as live the good life), Victoria presses on and four years later, in 1949, she finally gets a place on a refugee ship and heads for America.  She heads straight for the lawyers handling the estate and goes head to head with Alan Spender (Richard Basehart), related to Sophie by marriage, who has been made the guardian of Karin’s son, Chris.  She convinces Alan that she is, indeed, Karin and the two begin a relationship which quickly leads to marriage.

House on Telegraph Hill 002

The two leave New York and head back to the house on Telegraph Hill where Karin/Victoria meets Chris, who believes she is his mother, and Margaret (Fay Baker), the governess Alan has hired to do the actual child-rearing.   The four live together in an uneasy mix that has Karin/Victoria suspicious that Alan and Margaret are in love and that Chris is in danger.   When she discovers an old playhouse of Chris’ that has been severely damaged by an explosion, her suspicions deepen.  Other accidents happen until Karin/Victoria believes she is the next victim but is it real or is she imagining the whole thing?  Is Alan out to kill her or is Margaret?  Or both?  Or perhaps neither and Karin/Victoria is simply paranoid.    As the evidence mounts, Karin/Victoria has to figure out a way to save herself and Chris, if they’re really in any danger at all.

Of course, I’ve only brought you up to speed on the first developments of the movie.  Where it goes after that I won’t say as The House on Telegraph Hill is a film with surprising and satisfying plot turns that I’d rather not reveal to the inaugural viewer.   I also like it better than The Day the Earth Stood Still.  More importantly than that, I think it’s the better movie of the two.  Certainly Richard Basehart’s performance alone is worth big points right there but the casting of Valentina Cortese is also inspired.  Her beautiful and wonderful voice makes every line she utters stick and she plays a calculating imposter with such genuine kindness and sympathy that you never dislike her or root against her for a moment.   The Day the Earth Stood Still also has two great leads in Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal so I’m not trying to compare apples to oranges here (and really, the two movies couldn’t be more different), simply to say that I like The House on Telegraph Hill better for what it is, a noir thriller, than The Day the Earth Stood Still for what it is, a cerebral sci-fi morality tale.   But we all know which movie won that battle.

House on Telegraph Hill 003

Throughout Hollywood history, directors have had some movies achieve great success while another movie, made at roughly the same time, disappears over the horizon.    Time usually cements such choices into place.   Some directors, like Steven Spielberg, seem immune to the problem.  He released both Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park in the same year and one swept the Oscars while the other swept the box office.  But he’s an exception.  In many other cases, one movie gets catapulted to the top while the other gets shoved into its shadow.  That happened with Robert Wise in 1951 and while I certainly wouldn’t shove The Day the Earth Stood Still in any movie’s shadow, I think The House on Telegraph Hill deserves a little more light than it’s gotten.

0 Response The Other Robert Wise Movie from 1951: The House on Telegraph Hill
Posted By Peter Nellhaus : December 5, 2012 11:54 am

You actually could have devoted a piece on several years where Robert Wise had two films. Two forgotten films in 1957 followed by two hits in 1958, or the years he had three releases, one of which usually is best remembered. While I have a few gaps in Wise’s filmography, I think his two Oscar winning films are the least interesting of his work.

Posted By Peter Nellhaus : December 5, 2012 11:54 am

You actually could have devoted a piece on several years where Robert Wise had two films. Two forgotten films in 1957 followed by two hits in 1958, or the years he had three releases, one of which usually is best remembered. While I have a few gaps in Wise’s filmography, I think his two Oscar winning films are the least interesting of his work.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 5, 2012 12:00 pm

Peter, I agree. West Side Story and The Sound of Music have many good things but they’re not even close to the best of Robert Wise. Honestly, my favorite film of his is The Andromeda Strain

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 5, 2012 12:00 pm

Peter, I agree. West Side Story and The Sound of Music have many good things but they’re not even close to the best of Robert Wise. Honestly, my favorite film of his is The Andromeda Strain

Posted By Kingrat : December 5, 2012 1:58 pm

Greg, thanks for bringing attention to a fine film. Robert Wise is an undervalued director because he did not want to make the same film over again. Is it too fanciful to suggest that Wise sought a Zen-like obliteration of his personality to let the story and the genre shine through?

Posted By Kingrat : December 5, 2012 1:58 pm

Greg, thanks for bringing attention to a fine film. Robert Wise is an undervalued director because he did not want to make the same film over again. Is it too fanciful to suggest that Wise sought a Zen-like obliteration of his personality to let the story and the genre shine through?

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 5, 2012 2:00 pm

Kingrat, I’ve come down hard on Robert Wise before, right here on these pages, for having a non-style style. Problem is, he’s done a lot mediocre films but also a lot of terrific ones and the non-style bothered me until I started to think about all the films of his I enjoy, from Executive Suite to Run Silent, Run Deep to The Haunting. I’m definitely warming up to him.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 5, 2012 2:00 pm

Kingrat, I’ve come down hard on Robert Wise before, right here on these pages, for having a non-style style. Problem is, he’s done a lot mediocre films but also a lot of terrific ones and the non-style bothered me until I started to think about all the films of his I enjoy, from Executive Suite to Run Silent, Run Deep to The Haunting. I’m definitely warming up to him.

Posted By Emgee : December 5, 2012 4:49 pm

I recently bought the dvd, partly cause i’m a noir addict and because noir pundit Eddie Muller is such a joy to listen to giving his expert knowledge in such an entertaining way.

Having said that, i wish i could wax as lyrical about this movie as you can. I liked it, but didn’t love it. Valentina Cortese carries most of this movie admirably, but i think the story has borrowed too heavily from Suspicion and Rebecca.

Surprising and satisfying plot? I just can’t see it that way, it pretty much played out as i expected. So my vote goes to That Other Movie,but yeah, I think The House on Telegraph Hill deserves a little more light than it’s gotten. A little.

Posted By Emgee : December 5, 2012 4:49 pm

I recently bought the dvd, partly cause i’m a noir addict and because noir pundit Eddie Muller is such a joy to listen to giving his expert knowledge in such an entertaining way.

Having said that, i wish i could wax as lyrical about this movie as you can. I liked it, but didn’t love it. Valentina Cortese carries most of this movie admirably, but i think the story has borrowed too heavily from Suspicion and Rebecca.

Surprising and satisfying plot? I just can’t see it that way, it pretty much played out as i expected. So my vote goes to That Other Movie,but yeah, I think The House on Telegraph Hill deserves a little more light than it’s gotten. A little.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 5, 2012 5:00 pm

Emgee, no argument that it borrows from Rebecca and Suspicion, in fact, it’s kind of a combination of the two, if you took the Cary Grant husband and the Mrs Danvers and put them together. But I liked that and thought they did a good job with it.

Perhaps it’s because I went into it with absolutely no expectations. I had never seen it nor heard anything about it and was pleasantly surprised. I especially pegged Margaret differently than she turned out. I also thought Richard Basehart did an excellent job.

Now, The Day the Earth Stood Still is a movie I’ve always liked a bit less than my fellow sci-fi fans. I think the “make peace or we’ll kill you” aspect has always bothered me a bit but on the whole, I like it. I just like Hill better for what it is than Still for what it is.

And hey, talk about a blog post – movies some people love that others hate, or just don’t like as much. I’ve rarely come upon a film that everyone can agree on.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 5, 2012 5:00 pm

Emgee, no argument that it borrows from Rebecca and Suspicion, in fact, it’s kind of a combination of the two, if you took the Cary Grant husband and the Mrs Danvers and put them together. But I liked that and thought they did a good job with it.

Perhaps it’s because I went into it with absolutely no expectations. I had never seen it nor heard anything about it and was pleasantly surprised. I especially pegged Margaret differently than she turned out. I also thought Richard Basehart did an excellent job.

Now, The Day the Earth Stood Still is a movie I’ve always liked a bit less than my fellow sci-fi fans. I think the “make peace or we’ll kill you” aspect has always bothered me a bit but on the whole, I like it. I just like Hill better for what it is than Still for what it is.

And hey, talk about a blog post – movies some people love that others hate, or just don’t like as much. I’ve rarely come upon a film that everyone can agree on.

Posted By Jenni : December 5, 2012 5:30 pm

I haven’t heard of House on Telegraph Hill before. Thanks for the info. I’m hoping it’s either on Netflix or TCM will plan to air it. I saw Basehart in Fellini’s movie La Strada, he gave a great performance in that. You’ve made me curious to see his acting efforts in Wise’s movie.

Posted By Jenni : December 5, 2012 5:30 pm

I haven’t heard of House on Telegraph Hill before. Thanks for the info. I’m hoping it’s either on Netflix or TCM will plan to air it. I saw Basehart in Fellini’s movie La Strada, he gave a great performance in that. You’ve made me curious to see his acting efforts in Wise’s movie.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 5, 2012 5:35 pm

Jenni, it’s on Netflix. That’s how I came to watch it. I was just scrolling through the “Classics” section on Instant and when I saw it I stopped scrolling and started watching. Hope you like it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 5, 2012 5:35 pm

Jenni, it’s on Netflix. That’s how I came to watch it. I was just scrolling through the “Classics” section on Instant and when I saw it I stopped scrolling and started watching. Hope you like it.

Posted By Gene : December 5, 2012 5:40 pm

I really like your point as to the conundrum that some film makers face. There are so many overlooked films and too many overly praised ones. If more people followed directors like people follow actors or musicians, these unsung films might have more of a chance to be in the spotlight.

As to the films themselves I must admit I like The former over the latter. The noir film has its moments and is worth viewing but it just isn’t as good of a film. What’s interesting is to see what a truly versatile and skilled director Wise was. It may seem easy to dismiss him because of West Side Story and The Sound of Music (both perhaps overly praised but they were box office smashes and both are beautifully made). He doesn’t get the attention he deserves.

As to a lesser film being better I firmly agree that The Conversation is not only better than Godfather II but definitely at the top of what Coppola has achieved. It certainly warrants greater attention than it gets.

Posted By Gene : December 5, 2012 5:40 pm

I really like your point as to the conundrum that some film makers face. There are so many overlooked films and too many overly praised ones. If more people followed directors like people follow actors or musicians, these unsung films might have more of a chance to be in the spotlight.

As to the films themselves I must admit I like The former over the latter. The noir film has its moments and is worth viewing but it just isn’t as good of a film. What’s interesting is to see what a truly versatile and skilled director Wise was. It may seem easy to dismiss him because of West Side Story and The Sound of Music (both perhaps overly praised but they were box office smashes and both are beautifully made). He doesn’t get the attention he deserves.

As to a lesser film being better I firmly agree that The Conversation is not only better than Godfather II but definitely at the top of what Coppola has achieved. It certainly warrants greater attention than it gets.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 5, 2012 6:00 pm

Gene, see my comment to Emgee. Like I say in the piece, I like Telegraph Hill better than The Day the Earth Stood Still but I hope I don’t come off as over-selling it. I definitely like it, though, no question.

And like I said earlier in this thread, I’m warming up to Wise. He really was one of the most genre-diverse directors out there and he was pretty good at all of them.

Now The Conversation I do give the hard sell to because it’s superb in every way. For several years in the late seventies into the eighties, I routinely heard people describe it as Coppola’s true greatest work and then, by the nineties, all the attention shifted to The Godfather I & II and Apocalypse Now. It’s time for more attention to go to The Conversation once again.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 5, 2012 6:00 pm

Gene, see my comment to Emgee. Like I say in the piece, I like Telegraph Hill better than The Day the Earth Stood Still but I hope I don’t come off as over-selling it. I definitely like it, though, no question.

And like I said earlier in this thread, I’m warming up to Wise. He really was one of the most genre-diverse directors out there and he was pretty good at all of them.

Now The Conversation I do give the hard sell to because it’s superb in every way. For several years in the late seventies into the eighties, I routinely heard people describe it as Coppola’s true greatest work and then, by the nineties, all the attention shifted to The Godfather I & II and Apocalypse Now. It’s time for more attention to go to The Conversation once again.

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : December 6, 2012 8:57 am

From RICHARD BASEHART: WAS HE AMERICA’S GREATEST ACTOR? by Herbert Shadrak (from Cinema Retro)
http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.php?/archives/4265-RICHARD-BASEHART-WAS-HE-AMERICAS-GREATEST-ACTOR.html

After Basehart’s wife died suddenly of a brain tumor, a shattered Basehart – ever the consummate professional – completed work on Fourteen Hours and then co-starred with the ravishing Valentina Cortese in The House on Telegraph Hill, a superb noir directed by Robert Wise at 20th Century Fox, in which Basehart played a charming yet increasingly enigmatic estate trustee trying to murder Cortese for horning in on the action. Despite the on-screen histrionics, Basehart and Cortese fell in love and were married in 1951. The two attractive thespians then left the United States, moving to Italy where Basehart spent much of the 1950s, often appearing in obscure European films such as Jons und Erdme (with Giulietta Masina) and L’Ambitieuse/The Climbers (with Edmond O’Brien), but also turning up in movie classics, notably Federico Fellini’s La Strada (as a gentle clown and acrobat) and John Huston’s Moby Dick (as Ishmael, the sailor-narrator and sole survivor of the Pequod).

Posted By Harvey Chartrand : December 6, 2012 8:57 am

From RICHARD BASEHART: WAS HE AMERICA’S GREATEST ACTOR? by Herbert Shadrak (from Cinema Retro)
http://www.cinemaretro.com/index.php?/archives/4265-RICHARD-BASEHART-WAS-HE-AMERICAS-GREATEST-ACTOR.html

After Basehart’s wife died suddenly of a brain tumor, a shattered Basehart – ever the consummate professional – completed work on Fourteen Hours and then co-starred with the ravishing Valentina Cortese in The House on Telegraph Hill, a superb noir directed by Robert Wise at 20th Century Fox, in which Basehart played a charming yet increasingly enigmatic estate trustee trying to murder Cortese for horning in on the action. Despite the on-screen histrionics, Basehart and Cortese fell in love and were married in 1951. The two attractive thespians then left the United States, moving to Italy where Basehart spent much of the 1950s, often appearing in obscure European films such as Jons und Erdme (with Giulietta Masina) and L’Ambitieuse/The Climbers (with Edmond O’Brien), but also turning up in movie classics, notably Federico Fellini’s La Strada (as a gentle clown and acrobat) and John Huston’s Moby Dick (as Ishmael, the sailor-narrator and sole survivor of the Pequod).

Posted By swac44 : December 6, 2012 9:46 am

I’ve always loved the fact that Wise, best known for those two musicals, really excelled at portraying the darker side of things in his Val Lewton films and noirs like this one, Born to Kill, The Set-Up and Odds Against Tomorrow. Then again, this was a guy who asked to watch a real execution so he could stage a fake one for I Want to Live!. Was he an exacting perfectionist or a bit of a ghoul? Maybe a bit of both?

Looking forward to The Andromeda Strain, I DVR’d it off TCM recently, and watched its striking opening credits (I always do this, to make sure I’ve actually recorded what I thought I’d recorded), and can’t wait to delve further in the next couple of days.

Posted By swac44 : December 6, 2012 9:46 am

I’ve always loved the fact that Wise, best known for those two musicals, really excelled at portraying the darker side of things in his Val Lewton films and noirs like this one, Born to Kill, The Set-Up and Odds Against Tomorrow. Then again, this was a guy who asked to watch a real execution so he could stage a fake one for I Want to Live!. Was he an exacting perfectionist or a bit of a ghoul? Maybe a bit of both?

Looking forward to The Andromeda Strain, I DVR’d it off TCM recently, and watched its striking opening credits (I always do this, to make sure I’ve actually recorded what I thought I’d recorded), and can’t wait to delve further in the next couple of days.

Posted By Kingrat : December 6, 2012 2:58 pm

What’s interesting about Wise’s noirs (I share swac44′s fondness for them) is that they don’t look much like each other stylistically. THE SET-UP has the low budget, gritty look with lots of close-ups; THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL is “femme noir,” and you’ve noted some of the films it resembles; BORN TO KILL is more straightforward stylistically, with a psycho gangster at the center; and ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW is a group heist film with a very active directorial approach, with many stunning individual moments. Each film seems to have the right approach for its material.

If you’re admiring Wise for EXECUTIVE SUITE, THE HAUNTING, and RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP, those are good places to start.

So maybe I shouldn’t admit that I just can’t stand THE CONVERSATION, though the acting is all right? To me it’s an overlong, ploddingly paced, misogynistic ripoff of BLOW-UP with the brown/green cinematography which, alas, was so popular at the time it was made.

Posted By Kingrat : December 6, 2012 2:58 pm

What’s interesting about Wise’s noirs (I share swac44′s fondness for them) is that they don’t look much like each other stylistically. THE SET-UP has the low budget, gritty look with lots of close-ups; THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL is “femme noir,” and you’ve noted some of the films it resembles; BORN TO KILL is more straightforward stylistically, with a psycho gangster at the center; and ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW is a group heist film with a very active directorial approach, with many stunning individual moments. Each film seems to have the right approach for its material.

If you’re admiring Wise for EXECUTIVE SUITE, THE HAUNTING, and RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP, those are good places to start.

So maybe I shouldn’t admit that I just can’t stand THE CONVERSATION, though the acting is all right? To me it’s an overlong, ploddingly paced, misogynistic ripoff of BLOW-UP with the brown/green cinematography which, alas, was so popular at the time it was made.

Posted By robbushblog : December 6, 2012 3:24 pm

This is a less than bashy critique of Robert Wise from you than I am used to, Greg. You did get to take a shot at The Sound of Music though. I love The Day the Earth Stood Still. Being a fan of noir, I will have to check this movie out, as I have intended to do for some time (there’s just so much to watch!), but it will have to be fantastic to surpass TDTESS in my mind.

Posted By robbushblog : December 6, 2012 3:24 pm

This is a less than bashy critique of Robert Wise from you than I am used to, Greg. You did get to take a shot at The Sound of Music though. I love The Day the Earth Stood Still. Being a fan of noir, I will have to check this movie out, as I have intended to do for some time (there’s just so much to watch!), but it will have to be fantastic to surpass TDTESS in my mind.

Posted By Emgee : December 6, 2012 4:36 pm

Didn’t Coppola agree to do The Godfather on the condition he could do The Conversation afterwards?

Two other Wise films i’d like to recommend are Somebody Up There Likes Me, with Paul Newman as Rocky Graziano, and Executive Suite, a starstudded boardroom drama. The man sure had range.

Posted By Emgee : December 6, 2012 4:36 pm

Didn’t Coppola agree to do The Godfather on the condition he could do The Conversation afterwards?

Two other Wise films i’d like to recommend are Somebody Up There Likes Me, with Paul Newman as Rocky Graziano, and Executive Suite, a starstudded boardroom drama. The man sure had range.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 12:02 am

swac, Andromeda Strain is a procedural like Contagion and has striking visuals throughout. I hope you like it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 12:02 am

swac, Andromeda Strain is a procedural like Contagion and has striking visuals throughout. I hope you like it.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 12:07 am

So maybe I shouldn’t admit that I just can’t stand THE CONVERSATION, though the acting is all right? To me it’s an overlong, ploddingly paced, misogynistic ripoff of BLOW-UP with the brown/green cinematography which, alas, was so popular at the time it was made.

So, um… I, uh… We’ll just agree to disagree. I say dislike any movie but tell me why and you did so I can’t argue with someone’s valid reasons for disliking a movie. Personally, I think Gene Hackman was great in it, not just okay, but he’s great in everything.

Run Silent, Run Deep was the first movie of his I think I saw that wasn’t Sound of Music or West Side Story and I was surprised because I thought big musicals was all he did. Like someone only familiar with David Lean’s epics suddenly discovering the treasure trove of great dramas that preceded that period.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 12:07 am

So maybe I shouldn’t admit that I just can’t stand THE CONVERSATION, though the acting is all right? To me it’s an overlong, ploddingly paced, misogynistic ripoff of BLOW-UP with the brown/green cinematography which, alas, was so popular at the time it was made.

So, um… I, uh… We’ll just agree to disagree. I say dislike any movie but tell me why and you did so I can’t argue with someone’s valid reasons for disliking a movie. Personally, I think Gene Hackman was great in it, not just okay, but he’s great in everything.

Run Silent, Run Deep was the first movie of his I think I saw that wasn’t Sound of Music or West Side Story and I was surprised because I thought big musicals was all he did. Like someone only familiar with David Lean’s epics suddenly discovering the treasure trove of great dramas that preceded that period.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 12:10 am

Rob, no shot at Sound of Music, I even said it has a lot of good stuff just that it’s not his best. And he’s definitely growing on me. Now, I wouldn’t call Telegraph Hill fantastic and that may be some confusion here. I like it and like it better than Day the Earth Stood Still but I admit, I’m in the minority on this one. Still, I hope you like it for what it is.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 12:10 am

Rob, no shot at Sound of Music, I even said it has a lot of good stuff just that it’s not his best. And he’s definitely growing on me. Now, I wouldn’t call Telegraph Hill fantastic and that may be some confusion here. I like it and like it better than Day the Earth Stood Still but I admit, I’m in the minority on this one. Still, I hope you like it for what it is.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 12:12 am

Emgee, yes, I’ve heard that, too. I believe he fought against another Godfather movie until he was guaranteed financing for The Conversation. Then, years later, he turned to the Godfather saga again and never made another movie like The Conversation. Maybe its lack of success bothered him.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 12:12 am

Emgee, yes, I’ve heard that, too. I believe he fought against another Godfather movie until he was guaranteed financing for The Conversation. Then, years later, he turned to the Godfather saga again and never made another movie like The Conversation. Maybe its lack of success bothered him.

Posted By robbushblog : December 7, 2012 1:04 am

What has he made since The Godfather Part III? Dracula. Eh. Jack? I WISH I could forget that garbage. Tetro. I have no idea what it’s about. And some other movie which the title of eludes me. Maybe he should go back and make another movie like The Conversation.

On a side note: How much was Hackman’s character in Enemy of the State copied from The Conversation, and was that intentional? Was he signed before they wrote the script?

Posted By robbushblog : December 7, 2012 1:04 am

What has he made since The Godfather Part III? Dracula. Eh. Jack? I WISH I could forget that garbage. Tetro. I have no idea what it’s about. And some other movie which the title of eludes me. Maybe he should go back and make another movie like The Conversation.

On a side note: How much was Hackman’s character in Enemy of the State copied from The Conversation, and was that intentional? Was he signed before they wrote the script?

Posted By Tom S : December 7, 2012 2:41 am

Coppola was pretty open about Godfather III being a cash grab- I think he was having serious money troubles at the time (as usual) and it was the best option available for something seriously profitable. He’s made a fair number of interesting movies that are experimental and personal post The Conversation, though- Tucker, Rumble Fish, Dracula (which I love), Youth Without Youth. They’re not as artistically successful as The Conversation for the most part, but I do think he’s tried to make movies like that quite a few times since.

With respect to The Conversation feeling like a rip off of Blow Up- it does consciously reference it in a few places, but Coppola’s movie is much more a character study and not really the travelogue through an alienated culture that Antonioni’s is. Also- I can’t really see the misogynistic charge, unless it’s the misogyny of having almost no prominent female characters. Certainly, Antonioni seems consistently much more misogynistic than Coppola (who wrote a couple of great women’s roles into the Godfather, which could easily have had zero, and a fantastic one in his earlier The Rain People.)

Posted By Tom S : December 7, 2012 2:41 am

Coppola was pretty open about Godfather III being a cash grab- I think he was having serious money troubles at the time (as usual) and it was the best option available for something seriously profitable. He’s made a fair number of interesting movies that are experimental and personal post The Conversation, though- Tucker, Rumble Fish, Dracula (which I love), Youth Without Youth. They’re not as artistically successful as The Conversation for the most part, but I do think he’s tried to make movies like that quite a few times since.

With respect to The Conversation feeling like a rip off of Blow Up- it does consciously reference it in a few places, but Coppola’s movie is much more a character study and not really the travelogue through an alienated culture that Antonioni’s is. Also- I can’t really see the misogynistic charge, unless it’s the misogyny of having almost no prominent female characters. Certainly, Antonioni seems consistently much more misogynistic than Coppola (who wrote a couple of great women’s roles into the Godfather, which could easily have had zero, and a fantastic one in his earlier The Rain People.)

Posted By Tom S : December 7, 2012 2:44 am

Duke, if you need someone to bash The Sound of Music, I can get on that for you. It’s not hard.

Wise is one of those directors who’s made probably half a dozen movies I really love but never seems to have much of a directorial stamp, to me. Sadly, the first thing that always comes to mind when his name is mentioned isn’t anything he made, it’s the mangling of Magnificent Amberson that he had a part in (though it’s far from fair to blame him.) He did make Curse of the Cat People, though, which is probably the most extreme of the ‘great movie, terrible name’ streak from Val Lewton.

Posted By Tom S : December 7, 2012 2:44 am

Duke, if you need someone to bash The Sound of Music, I can get on that for you. It’s not hard.

Wise is one of those directors who’s made probably half a dozen movies I really love but never seems to have much of a directorial stamp, to me. Sadly, the first thing that always comes to mind when his name is mentioned isn’t anything he made, it’s the mangling of Magnificent Amberson that he had a part in (though it’s far from fair to blame him.) He did make Curse of the Cat People, though, which is probably the most extreme of the ‘great movie, terrible name’ streak from Val Lewton.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 7:34 am

Rob, I have no idea if the character in Enemy of the State was written with Hackman in mind or not but it’s a good use of him regardless. Kind of like The Rock being interpreted as being in an alternate fictional universe where James Bond was imprisoned all those years ago.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 7:34 am

Rob, I have no idea if the character in Enemy of the State was written with Hackman in mind or not but it’s a good use of him regardless. Kind of like The Rock being interpreted as being in an alternate fictional universe where James Bond was imprisoned all those years ago.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 7:38 am

Tom, like I said, Wise has a no-style style that makes it impossible to look at a film he did without knowing it’s his and recognizing his hand. It’s why he was all over the place with genres, he just ably directed whatever script he was given and didn’t screw up (that’s not a put-down either, it’s easy to screw up a movie by meddling too much).

And, yes, Tucker! I love that movie, actually. It’s one of my favorites from the eighties. At the time of its release it was a big deal but has since kind of disappeared into the woodworks. Too bad, it’s worth watching.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 7:38 am

Tom, like I said, Wise has a no-style style that makes it impossible to look at a film he did without knowing it’s his and recognizing his hand. It’s why he was all over the place with genres, he just ably directed whatever script he was given and didn’t screw up (that’s not a put-down either, it’s easy to screw up a movie by meddling too much).

And, yes, Tucker! I love that movie, actually. It’s one of my favorites from the eighties. At the time of its release it was a big deal but has since kind of disappeared into the woodworks. Too bad, it’s worth watching.

Posted By robbushblog : December 7, 2012 10:39 am

Tom! My old nemesis! It’s good to see you back, boy. Yes, I know how much you love The Sound of Music too.

Ya’ll are right about Wise not having a stamp though. He was the anti-auteur. He was just a totally capable director with, I think, a lot of great credits on his resume.

I had forgotten all about Tucker. I did rather like that one. And Dracula was okay. Some things were great, but the casting choices sunk it for me overall and the lovesick Drac is something I don’t care for.

Posted By robbushblog : December 7, 2012 10:39 am

Tom! My old nemesis! It’s good to see you back, boy. Yes, I know how much you love The Sound of Music too.

Ya’ll are right about Wise not having a stamp though. He was the anti-auteur. He was just a totally capable director with, I think, a lot of great credits on his resume.

I had forgotten all about Tucker. I did rather like that one. And Dracula was okay. Some things were great, but the casting choices sunk it for me overall and the lovesick Drac is something I don’t care for.

Posted By swac44 : December 7, 2012 11:00 am

Coppola’s Dracula looks great, but there’s some serious miscasting going on (although Sadie Frost sure gives the movie a much needed charge), and surely the aforementioned Jack is the nadir of his filmography. But I have to say I enjoyed his adaptation of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker, which is saying a lot for someone who’s not a fan of Grisham or most of the other movies based on his work (I may give The Gingerbread Man another shot one of these days).

And don’t forget another year with two Coppolas, 1986, which gave us Peggy Sue Got Married and…uh, Captain Eo. Did I say 1986? I meant to say 1983, and The Outsiders and Rumble Fish.

Posted By swac44 : December 7, 2012 11:00 am

Coppola’s Dracula looks great, but there’s some serious miscasting going on (although Sadie Frost sure gives the movie a much needed charge), and surely the aforementioned Jack is the nadir of his filmography. But I have to say I enjoyed his adaptation of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker, which is saying a lot for someone who’s not a fan of Grisham or most of the other movies based on his work (I may give The Gingerbread Man another shot one of these days).

And don’t forget another year with two Coppolas, 1986, which gave us Peggy Sue Got Married and…uh, Captain Eo. Did I say 1986? I meant to say 1983, and The Outsiders and Rumble Fish.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 1:58 pm

I like a lot of both The Outsiders and Rumblefish but both feel rushed, as in scenes play out very quickly, like he was trying to get too much into the short running time he had.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 7, 2012 1:58 pm

I like a lot of both The Outsiders and Rumblefish but both feel rushed, as in scenes play out very quickly, like he was trying to get too much into the short running time he had.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : December 7, 2012 2:52 pm

Love this film. I think it’s one of the great “San Francisco Movies” and one of Wise’s best and I say this as someone who calls Wise one of her favorite filmmakers. One of Wise’s best qualities that is way too often overlooked was his ability to create and maintain suspense. His films like TELEGRAPH HILL, CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE, THE BODY SNATCHER, DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW, THE HAUNTING and THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN beautifully illustrate this. Even THE SAND PEBBLES (another fave Wise effort) has great suspenseful moments as well as THE HINDENBURG. I can’t imagine anyone watching all these films back to back and overlooking the threads that connect them. The size and scope of his filmography makes him difficult to pigeonhole but their are elements that tie his work together. Hell, even THE SOUND OF MUSIC and WEST SIDE STORY have one or two tense moments.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : December 7, 2012 2:52 pm

Love this film. I think it’s one of the great “San Francisco Movies” and one of Wise’s best and I say this as someone who calls Wise one of her favorite filmmakers. One of Wise’s best qualities that is way too often overlooked was his ability to create and maintain suspense. His films like TELEGRAPH HILL, CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE, THE BODY SNATCHER, DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW, THE HAUNTING and THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN beautifully illustrate this. Even THE SAND PEBBLES (another fave Wise effort) has great suspenseful moments as well as THE HINDENBURG. I can’t imagine anyone watching all these films back to back and overlooking the threads that connect them. The size and scope of his filmography makes him difficult to pigeonhole but their are elements that tie his work together. Hell, even THE SOUND OF MUSIC and WEST SIDE STORY have one or two tense moments.

Posted By Emgee : December 7, 2012 4:56 pm

Those looking for a real misogynistic take on Blow-Out should check out Blow-Out by Copycat King Brian De Palma. Dear oh dear…

About Coppola: i think the traumatic making of Apocalypse Now took a lot out of him, including a lot of creative drive.
I’m sure everyone here has seen Hearts of Darkness, which i actually prefer to the finished film. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself, (and Coppola) to see it.

Posted By Emgee : December 7, 2012 4:56 pm

Those looking for a real misogynistic take on Blow-Out should check out Blow-Out by Copycat King Brian De Palma. Dear oh dear…

About Coppola: i think the traumatic making of Apocalypse Now took a lot out of him, including a lot of creative drive.
I’m sure everyone here has seen Hearts of Darkness, which i actually prefer to the finished film. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself, (and Coppola) to see it.

Posted By Emgee : December 7, 2012 4:57 pm

That’s a take on Blow-up, was what i meant to type…….

Posted By Emgee : December 7, 2012 4:57 pm

That’s a take on Blow-up, was what i meant to type…….

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2012 1:30 am

Kimberly, it is a great San Francisco movie. I only know San Fran from brief stays (our son goes to Humboldt Univ in Arcata and we spend a few hours in San Fran when we go see him) but this film still felt very familiar to me.

And concerning what you said about The Sound of Music, you’re right. When Rolfe spots them escaping and you don’t know if he will alert everyone to their presence or not, that’s a very tense moment right there.

Posted By Greg Ferrara : December 9, 2012 1:30 am

Kimberly, it is a great San Francisco movie. I only know San Fran from brief stays (our son goes to Humboldt Univ in Arcata and we spend a few hours in San Fran when we go see him) but this film still felt very familiar to me.

And concerning what you said about The Sound of Music, you’re right. When Rolfe spots them escaping and you don’t know if he will alert everyone to their presence or not, that’s a very tense moment right there.

Posted By jim` : December 9, 2012 2:15 pm

Greg, enjoyed the analysis (as always). Recently watched House again on Netflix and forgotten how much I liked it. Of course, I lived in San Fran for a decade, so part of the fun is the city itself. If I’m not mistaken, _The Conversation_ was recently dropped form Netflix Instant — and I had it in my queue! Just love that film, too. As an aside, why didn’t Hackman do more comedy? He was good at it.

Just because I can, I’ll ask, “Why no mention of _Star Trek: The Motion Picture_?” Better left unsaid? Thanks again.

Posted By jim` : December 9, 2012 2:15 pm

Greg, enjoyed the analysis (as always). Recently watched House again on Netflix and forgotten how much I liked it. Of course, I lived in San Fran for a decade, so part of the fun is the city itself. If I’m not mistaken, _The Conversation_ was recently dropped form Netflix Instant — and I had it in my queue! Just love that film, too. As an aside, why didn’t Hackman do more comedy? He was good at it.

Just because I can, I’ll ask, “Why no mention of _Star Trek: The Motion Picture_?” Better left unsaid? Thanks again.

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