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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2005 2:04 pm 
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There are a couple of good articles on Lumet and his career that have come out in the last few days, including one in The Independent by David Thomson (http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/film/features/story.jsp?story=610687) and Manohla Dargis in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/13/movies/oscars/13darg.html?oscars=&pagewanted=print&position=). Apparently, Lumet will be getting an honorary Oscar from the Academy this year (to make up for never getting one, I guess) and it got me thinking about his career.

He certainly has dabbled in a wide variety of genres (from Running on Empty to The Verdict) and made his share of turkeys (Gloria) but he's also made some classics too (Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network to name just three).

For me, the films of his I really dig are his crime/police thrillers. Prince of the City (why hasn't this been released on DVD?!), Q&A and Night Falls on Manhattan. Looking at these movies and it makes me wonder if NYPD Blue and Law and Order would have been possible without Lumet's influence. In particular, L&O, every episode feels like a mini-Lumet movie with its examinations of crimes and the nitty-gritty procedural details of police work and the court system that Lumet explores so well in the aforementioned movies.

However, I think that Lumet's films explore in more detail and with more skill the grey areas between criminals and the police, in particular the whole notion of police corruption. Nothing ever seems clear cut in Lumet's crime films with such complex, fascinating characters as Nick Nolte's in Q&A or Treat Williams' cop in Prince of the City.

I'm intrigued by the description of his new film, Find Me Guilty, which will star Vin Diesel (maybe this will finally capitalize on the promise he showed early on in Pitch Black).

From the IMDB:

Quote:
A drama based on the longest Mafia trial in U.S. history, mobster Jack DiNorscio (Diesel), faced with a series of charges, decides to stand trial instead of ratting out his family and associates. A wrench is thrown into the system when DiNorscio opts to defend himself.


At any rate, what does everyone else think of Lumet's body of work? Favourite films?


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2005 2:47 pm 
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I really like his run he did in the 1970s, from Serpico through Network and up near The Wiz. Before that he was a strong director with actors, but his cool Lumet style wasn't fully sharpened.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2005 4:19 pm 
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Looking through Lumet's filmography, I didn't realize before how prolific he is. I haven't seen even close to half his films.
No one's mentioned Long Day's Journey Into Night, which is expertly directed and featuring outstanding performances (as usual) from Katharine Hepburn and Jason Robards. I waited for a DVD of this for a long time and when it finally came out it was pan & scan. :evil:
I was bowled over by Fail-Safe. I don't hear it discussed much, and when it is, people usually say they prefer Dr. Strangelove, but it's not a comparison that says much. Even though they share a premise, they work in completely different ways. I watched it at at time when I hadn't seen Dr. Strangelove for at least a few months and found it to be very effective. Some have pointed out that its criticism of nuclear weapons is too limited: just that they can malfunction. I took it to be saying something much broader about indiscriminate violence and the threat of violence on a mass scale. The malfunction is only one scenario through which these ideas are explored, but I never forgot the human qualities -- malice, pride, dishonesty, myopia -- that in the first place allowed that particular technology to be put in a position where malfunction was one possible outcome.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2005 5:45 pm 
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Here's a nice overview on Lumet's career on the FilmForce website:

http://filmforce.ign.com/articles/307/307220p1.html


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2005 8:37 pm 

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Mr. Lumet is responsible for one of the greatest films of the 70's- Dog Day Afternoon- as well as the 80's- Prince of the city.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 7:34 am 
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He's a lot like John Frankenheimer, both highly talented Directors who have a long list of excellent work, but who tend to get ignored or, at best, underappreciated, in these sorts of discussions.

Maybe it's not developing a public persona or just not being particularly vocal, seeming to prefer to let the work speak for itself. All I can say is that both have careers that place them very, very high in the pantheon.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 10:05 am 
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Polybius wrote:
He's a lot like John Frankenheimer, both highly talented Directors who have a long list of excellent work, but who tend to get ignored or, at best, underappreciated, in these sorts of discussions.

Maybe it's not developing a public persona or just not being particularly vocal, seeming to prefer to let the work speak for itself. All I can say is that both have careers that place them very, very high in the pantheon.


I think that it is also that they don't have a flashy style of directing like, say, Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, and so on that people would notice and talk about a lot so they tend to get ignored by a lot of film aficianados.

But it is that straight-forward style of Lumet's that make his films so good. It's meat and potatoes filmmaking and he doesn't let the style get in the way of the film's story or its characters, which is why he is always described as an actor's director.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 10:20 am 
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One film of his that I really love and that I often watch is Equus. Brilliant performances throughout by all the actors involved and a riveting story to boot told in a mysterious and engrossing kind of way.

I know that this is a film that gets beaten down by almost everyone I read online about but I feel very strongly about it. Maybe it's the subject matter (psychologically disturbed people have always been a favorite of mine...), but it really succeeds in the end to make an indelible expression on everyone who watches it, always a good sign of great filmmaking, IMO.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 11:08 am 
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I'm not the biggest fan of Serpico for some reason. I used to really like it but I bought the DVD and then found myself disappointed. I felt it moved too fast, didn't build up the main character or the characters around him too well, because in all honesty I caught myself not really caring this time around. Maybe I need a revisit, but I don't think I've ever been so disappointed coming back to a movie after so many years.

But I love his other stuff from that period. Dog Day Afternoon, The Anderson Tapes, Network, and of course Murder on the Orient Express, which I also recently revisited and it's still just as fun as I remember (I think its more Finney, though, than anything else.) But my absolute favourite of his is still 12 Angry Men, I never tire of watching that one. It's the most gripping stage-to-film production I've ever seen. I also have a place in my heart for Deathtrap, and though I'll never own it, I watch it whenever it's on TV.

I'm not too familiar with his new stuff, though. I caught some of Gloria and didn't care for it (never bothered hunting down Cassavetes' version), and never saw Night Falls on Manhattan. The last few movies I saw of his were terrible, though (Guilty as Sin and A Stranger Among Us)

But I still like him. I grew up watching his movies and always grouped him with the likes of Coppola, Scorsese, Kubrick, Friedkin, Polanski and (yes, I dare mention him) Spielberg, because they made some of my favourites while growing up. Of course, like the rest of them, I still prefer his stuff from the 70s/early 80s than the stuff he's made lately.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 3:16 pm 
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cdnchris wrote:
I'm not too familiar with his new stuff, though. I caught some of Gloria and didn't care for it (never bothered hunting down Cassavetes' version), and never saw Night Falls on Manhattan. The last few movies I saw of his were terrible, though (Guilty as Sin and A Stranger Among Us)


I'd say that his strongest films in the past 10-15 years is Q & A and Night Falls on Manhattan. Q & A is driven by a powerful performance by Nick Nolte as a corrupt cop who goes up against Timothy Hutton as an up and coming district attorney. Nolte is fantastic and really makes this movie worth checking out (not to mention the likes of Armand Assante, Luis Guzmán, Charles Dutton, and Paul Calderon).

Night Falls on Manhattan features Andy Garcia as a D.A. who investigates police corruption and finds out that his father may be involved. Garcia is not quite up to the material but fortunately he's supported by the likes of Ian Holm, James Gandolfini, Richard Dreyfuss and Dominic Chianese. It's quite good.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 6:23 pm 
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Polybius wrote:
He's a lot like John Frankenheimer, both highly talented Directors who have a long list of excellent work, but who tend to get ignored or, at best, underappreciated, in these sorts of discussions.

Maybe it's not developing a public persona or just not being particularly vocal, seeming to prefer to let the work speak for itself. All I can say is that both have careers that place them very, very high in the pantheon.


I'd add Jewison, Pollack, and Pakula to that list as well.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 9:42 pm 
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^ And maybe John Schlesinger. I think of them all in the same vein.

Funny how some of these more craftsman like guys had longer and better careers than seeming up and comers from the era like Lucas or Michael Cimino.

I don't think it's been mentioned, but my absolute favorite of Lumet's many films is The Hill. It's my favorite Connery performance (they also did the excellent The Offence and The Anderson Tapes together), and it's been on my mind lately in the wake of Ossie Davis' death.

One of the best final scenes in any film.

"No! We've won, don't you see! You'll muck it all up!"


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 10:24 am 

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Back in the sixties when I came of age, The Hill made a phenomenal impression mostly because of Ossie Davis.

But the one that all the film fans that I knew talked about was The Pawnbroker. It rated high among my favorite films. I got the DVD of it last year and watched it for the first time since the 60's. It still is a good film, a bit more mannered than I remember.

And the dynamite ending that I remembered so well was spoiled a little by my nitpicking reality questions: like why would cops at a crime scene let anyone wander off down the street? Which is odd because my film fan friends' best compliment at the time was the fact that reality was finally getting onto the screen in American film. Now I read complaints that the film is too derivitive, too arty, trying to use European techniques.

Anyway, it is still worth watching.


Last edited by rgross on Fri Feb 18, 2005 2:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 12:18 pm 
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Pauline Kael wrote an interesting article about Lumet, "The Making of the Group" published in her book Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It's worth reading for anyone interested in Kael's account of Lumet's methods as a director.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2007 1:34 am 
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Another MIA film from a great director that I'm curious about: The Appointment from 1969, starring Omar Sharif and lovely Anouk Aimee, music by John Barry, cinematography by Carlo Di Palma, sets and costumes by Piero Gherardi (oscar winner for his work on La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2).

Synopsis: The lawyer Federico Fendi has reasons to believe that his wife Carla in secret is Rome's highest paid prostitute.

Anybody seen this? How's Aimee in it (1969 was a big year for the actress, also appearing as lead in Model Shop and Justine)?

Image


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 2:45 am 

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I must say, I give Lumet the benefit of a doubt with each new film, and he rarely dissapoints, particularly in the last few years.

Find Me Guilty with (shudder) Vin Diesel was actually quite well acted and well-made overall. And I really enjoyed Before The Devil Knows You're Dead. Showing how uncomfortably low people can sink, and in that interestingly non-linear form... it was almost mind blowing and definitely daring for a director in his 80's. He has a knack to find talent and use their abilities quite well.

I'll admit I'm a bit biased. Network and 12 Angry Men are both in my all-time top 10, I think I can safely say. I've even said that 12 Angry Men is my favorite film on a few occasions.

Let's not forget Dog Day Afternoon, The Verdict, Equus and even Serpico are legendary for their performances among many other things.

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead was so enjoyed that it made me excited to be a huge Lumet fan again. I can't wait for his next project, and I hope he can make a few more films before we lose him. Truly one of the great American filmmakers.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 03, 2008 11:22 am 
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My personal favourite Lumet film is The Offence (1972). It's an incredibly powerful piece of drama by playwright John Hopkins and the handling of it is pitch-perfect. The performances by Connery, Ian Bannen, Trevor Howard and Vivien Merchant are raw and riveting and every ounce of emotion is drawn out of them by Lumet. Gerry Fisher's bleak, colourless cinematography greatly enhances the mood and there are a number of superb deep focus compositions. Harry Birtwhistle's atonal score (his only film work, unfortunately) is nothing short of unnerving. Everything in the film works for me and the ultimate effect is incredibly strong. But, sadly, The Offence is seldom discussed by professional critics or general movie buffs, even when overviews of Connery or Lumet's careers are presented. The film recieved good reviews in 1972, but it flopped and wasn't released in France and many other countries. For me, it is easily Connery's best performance, though The Hill runs it a close second. It is very frustrating that there is no R1 DVD. MGM are denying American viewers one of the greatest films of the 70s, I feel.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 21, 2008 12:34 am 
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I finally saw Prince Of The City tonight and what a great film it is, and completely underrated. I'm really glad Al Pacino turned down the role of Ciello, as Treat Williams brings a naivete the role that makes the anguish he goes through that much more real. It's an amazing performance, and the excellent work extends right through to the supporting cast. It's amazing to see the influence this has had on contemporary films and television series' about police work. This is a procedural of the highest order and it's a shame Warner's couldn't have been bothered to give the long awaited DVD even better treatment.

Has anyone seen the 4-hour cut? Is it available on the bootleg circuit?


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 25, 2008 4:17 pm 
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Fletch F. Fletch wrote:
I'd say that his strongest films in the past 10-15 years is Q & A and Night Falls on Manhattan. Q & A is driven by a powerful performance by Nick Nolte as a corrupt cop who goes up against Timothy Hutton as an up and coming district attorney. Nolte is fantastic and really makes this movie worth checking out (not to mention the likes of Armand Assante, Luis Guzmán, Charles Dutton, and Paul Calderon).

Night Falls on Manhattan features Andy Garcia as a D.A. who investigates police corruption and finds out that his father may be involved. Garcia is not quite up to the material but fortunately he's supported by the likes of Ian Holm, James Gandolfini, Richard Dreyfuss and Dominic Chianese. It's quite good.


Netflixed both these this past week. The latter is a bit stronger and way less full of cop-film cliches, but Nick Nolte was a suitably disturbing villain in Q & A. Manhattan has some brilliantly understated performances, even Dreyfuss held off his appetite for scenery and managed to come out good in this. The father-son stuff between Garcia and Holm is very powerful, especially in their first and last scenes together. It also has a very beautiful title sequence and a nice sparse score by Mark Isham.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 4:10 am 
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Lumet’s book is an interesting one to read. Although it is mainly about making movies, it also works as a memoir and director’s in depth look on his own working methods. There is a chapter about style and he actually appeared somewhat bitter in it. He argued how style as a word is so often misunderstood. He basically dismisses auteur theories as something stupid. In his mind, style should be something that comes out of the material and is build on it, where many of the more known directors of his caliber somewhat “make the material their own”.

He said he really appreciates writers and he is very strict about what will be allowed in the borderlines of a script. Like he’s very careful with improvisation, because he thinks actors won’t come up with anything more interesting than what the writer has been writing down for months or years (which makes me wonder who what are his thoughts on method). Dog Day Afternoon was one of the exceptions, I think his best work, as he had agreed with the writer that improvisation would perfectly fit in. In comparison, Scorsese uses improvisation in almost every film and has much more developed style, but then again he mostly has more personal material.

In the end, I think Lumet is too much of a “director for hire” and I think there are good reasons why he is not regarded the same way as Scorsese. I don’t think he’s visually very interesting. He himself explains that it’s mostly because of his TV background. While I like the rawness that some of his movies have, the sort of real street look, his approach is sometimes painfully practical. Nevertheless, he has quite a filmography.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 11:51 am 
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Quote:
In the end, I think Lumet is too much of a “director for hire” and I think there are good reasons why he is not regarded the same way as Scorsese. I don’t think he’s visually very interesting. He himself explains that it’s mostly because of his TV background. While I like the rawness that some of his movies have, the sort of real street look, his approach is sometimes painfully practical.


I'm an enormous admirer of Lumet's, and while he may very well be a "director-for-hire," what's so bad about that?

Not to open any can of worms, but the fact that Lumet is not perceived as an auteur does not diminish his stature in any way. He is one the few directors alive who still appreciates actors and their work, as well as his writers and cinematographers. His lack of pretense (for the most part) in his films, and perhaps their lack of identifiable stamp, makes him all the more extraordinary filmmaker in his book.

As for the look of his films, once he hit his stride in the late 60s (for those who haven't seen it, check out "Bye Bye Braverman," long overdue for re-evaluation), the efficiency of his films seems positively classical and dynamic. I adore Scorsese, more than almost any other modern filmmaker, but I admire Lumet's commitment towards actors, whereas Scorsese does have the tendency to upstage them, sometimes to the detriment of the film (although that's perhaps a criticism more apt to his recent films).

I don't mean to sound so contentious, MB, but i have a little pet peeve about filmmaker's being dismissed for being "directors-for-hire." I'd take any Lumet film over auteurs like Harmony Korine or Oliver Stone.

That being said, I agree with your assessment of Lumet's book. A great read.[/quote]


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 26, 2008 1:47 pm 
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I might have given a wrong impression there and at the same time did not. I’m not a huge fan of auteur theory myself and I do not require director’s pushed presence and yes, overall I too take Lumet over many more popular Hollywood auteur figures like Oliver Stone or even Coppola. He’s not a Ron Howard in any case.

So I didn’t really want to downright dismiss him being a director for hire, but at the same time I don’t find the certain, even a little childish, enthusiasm and obsessions that are apparent in many Scorsese movies (I start sounding like he’s my favorite director, which he is not, but as he’s become an example here). And I just appreciate seeing director’s strong connection to the work he is doing (and now I don’t mean that cinema should be self-expressionism in any case, please no).

Not to say that Lumet hasn’t any connection to the material, like he’s said he does need a certain bonding to the script. He has to like it. He also does have interest in certain themes or environments (Serpico, Prince of the City, Q&A). But there seems to be certain rough professionalism and objectivity in his work, that somewhat takes away exceptionality. Maybe he just lacks passion for something particular, to my taste anyhow, some search for the holy grail that would continue trough his career. Sounds a little corny, but whatever.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 27, 2008 10:05 am 
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flyonthewall2983 wrote:
Netflixed both these this past week. The latter is a bit stronger and way less full of cop-film cliches, but Nick Nolte was a suitably disturbing villain in Q & A. Manhattan has some brilliantly understated performances, even Dreyfuss held off his appetite for scenery and managed to come out good in this. The father-son stuff between Garcia and Holm is very powerful, especially in their first and last scenes together. It also has a very beautiful title sequence and a nice sparse score by Mark Isham.


Yeah, I like these films for entirely different reasons. Q&A for Nolte's ferocious performance and Manhattan for the moral quandary that Garcia's character finds himself in over the course of the film. I love both for how the deal with issues of corruption both within the system and within the individual.


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 Post subject: Re: Sidney Lumet
PostPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2009 12:48 am 

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Barely-seen adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play that was subsequently heavily revised five years after this film was released, "Last of the Mobile Hot-Shots" is a polemic on mutually parasitic sibling relations. Starring James Coburn as a man who "wins" Lynn Redgrave on a local television show (the depiction of the game program is just as garish a vision of the television industry as "A Face in the Crowd" or "Network") and then brings her back to his crumbling Southern manor, which is currently being occupied by his half-brother, played by Robert Hooks.
Coburn is the film's anchor, and Lumet uses interesting lighting schemes and flashbacks to draw us into the psyche of a damaged man. The film has a shocking, apocalyptic ending, that seems to be a literal interpretation of Williams' concern with redemption and sin. On the whole, it's an extremely interesting effort that's worth investigating, even if its director may think it isn't (Lumet glosses over it in his book "Making Movies"). The quality of talent that worked on this film is staggering; James Wong Howe shot it, and Gore Vidal wrote the screenplay.

It was originally released as an 'X' rated film, although the VHS box sports an 'R' rating. I am unaware if the film was edited a la Frank Perry's "Last Summer" or if the film was simply re-rated intact, although Leonard Maltin's guide says that the film was trimmed.


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 Post subject: Re: Sidney Lumet
PostPosted: Sun Sep 01, 2013 5:32 pm 
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Watched The Anderson Tapes a few days ago. Connery is obviously the focus, but it was cool seeing Walken as energized and youthful few actors are in their first films. It's not very dated (apart from Martin Balsam's character being referred to by nearly everyone as a "fag"), and I'm kind of surprised nobody has done a remake of it.


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