1 - The Filmmaker Neil Breen, The Light of This World
1. Double Down (2005) 4.5
2. I Am Here....Now (2009) 4.9
3. Fateful Findings (2013) 4.7
4. Pass Thru (2016) 5.4
Brett Kelly, the David Michael Latt of the North
5. Hell at My Heels (2011) 1.1 - also first to check
6. Rise of the Black Bat (2012) 1.2
7. Jesse James: Lawman (2015) 1.9
8. Surfacing (Claude Jutra, 1981) 4.3
(John Sturges, 1955) 5.2
tells you all you need to know about why this film exists and what audience RKO - on it's last legs - was going for. Hey, it's 1955 in the USA, this is all the sex you're going to get. Well, it's not entirely accurate - Jane does get to swim around and show her assets in a tight swimsuit, and there are sharks and such, but as usual it's a bit exaggerated. Richard Egan and Gilbert Roland are the two salvage divers - Egan and Russell are married - who may have hit on their biggest payout in a Spanish treasure galleon. Unfortunately there are some modern-day potential pirates who know something's up and may have other plans for the loot. This isn't bad and the underwater photography is darn good for the era - looks much better to my eyes than Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
from the previous year, though that's the only area it improves on the earlier film. Just not all that exciting when it comes down to it, and I'm not enough of a Jane Russell fan to care about her performance or how she looks in a swimsuit.
xx. Atlas Shrugged: Part I
(Paul Johansson, 2011)
10. Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike
(John Putch, 2012) 5.3
11. Atlas Shrugged: Part III
(James Manera, 2014) 4.3
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
- John Rogers
It's as good a summary as any of how wasted my life has been that the last bit of really sustained reading I did involved plowing through the 600,000 words of Ayn Rand's paean to greedy sociopathy, between the fall of 2018 and last summer - just about a year ago. Maybe it killed reading for me forever? Anyway, only a matter of time before I'd get around to the movies, especially given that they were on Prime. If I REALLY wanted to send some kind of psychic message as to how evil the original work is I'd have deliberately pirated them, but I'm too lazy for that. The first film astonishingly enough has a rating that's too high to count for this challenge - I guess the randroids are out in force and probably pushing the ratings of all three up over time; I seem to remember them being a bit lower a year or two ago.
Anyway I'm not going to go into major plot detail - find a synopsis if you want or read the book (but please don't do that). Essentially we have a USA - and entire world - overrun by socialism and collapsing, and a bunch of brave billionaire capitalists set out to save it for themselves. Literally for themselves, and themselves only. In the novel they spend much of the time speechifying about why greed is good and altruism is evil, and people who care about others really hate themselves and want to die (seriously). Thankfully we're spared virtually all of that here - I think the longest speech might last 5 minutes, while Galts' infamous address to the nation in Part III of the book is estimated to take 3-4 hours to read out loud. Whew, that's almost the run-time of all three movies! And having said that a lot gets left out, and if you haven't read the book you'll probably find a fair bit that doesn't make sense. Not to worry, even if you have read it it won't make sense unless you're Paul Ryan or Clarence Thomas. All three films were produced by novice producers and hard-core libertarians John Aglialoro and Harmon Kaslow, and they more than the talent involved are to blame for what happened, I suspect. Very briefly -
had a decent-sized budget for a low-budget film - $20 million - and isn't too bad looking from a production standpoint; I rather like the design of Hank Reardon's office. Taylor Schilling, who plays heroine and lover of brutal, humiliating sex with anyone who's a better capitalist than her Dagny Taggart, was an up-and-coming 20something actress and while she's completely miscast for this, kind of deer-in-the-headlights meek and soft as opposed to "I'd kill your family and eat your puppy for a nickel" hard and ruthless, she somehow escaped this debacle unscathed and has gone on to star in Orange is the New Black
and pick up some major awards noms. The rest of the top few names are totally obscure but Jon Polito, Michael Lerner and Armin Shimerman are all familiar faces, here in fairly small roles. One curiosity in the casting of Rand's all-Aryan* work is that Eddie Willers is played by a black actor, Edi Gathegi. At least, this seems curious until you realized that Willers is the Eternal Servant, even Lapdog. This goes along reasonably well and isn't too too tedious, it's mostly just badly acted and indifferently directed, and enough is chopped out that it feels sketchy and poorly edited, which I guess it is.
*Frisco d'Anconia is theoretically "hispanic" but not really described as such in the novel - he's played by a Latino actor (Jsu Garcia) here though.
The first thing you'll notice when sitting down to watch Part II
is that the cast is completely different; that's right, they re-cast the whole film, every role. Why? I haven't delved that deeply into it, but I have read up a little bit, and can't really find out anything. I guess it's simply that the first film being a total flop and getting horrible reviews, the producers decided to start from scratch. OK. Unfortunately the changes don't help as the basic problems remain: a) they're starting with source material that is the worst book ever written by anybody in the history of the world and, b) they have to condense many, many hours of plot, however inane and repetitive it might be, into less than 2 hours. Also c) the budget is even less than the first film. This time we have Samantha Mathis on hand as Dagny, and she's about 15 years older than Schilling was, and doesn't bear the remotest comparison to the novel's description - which is important in Rand because physical appearance ALWAYS AND WITHOUT EXCEPTION denotes morality and worthiness. All of her heroes and heroines (well, heroine, Dagny's the only female character with real agency in the book) are tall, blonde or light-haired, typically blue or grey-eyed, and thin and angular - all her bad guys and women are sweaty, most overweight, shifty-eyed, etc, etc. Much has been made of the female Rand's overwhelming misogyny but I don't think enough focus has been given to her more subtle anti-semitism - and yes, she was Jewish herself. It's pretty easy to read the characters as largely Aryan supermen vs. lying, wheedling thieves that more than once are given familiar codes - Thompson, the "Head of State" (the US apparently no longer has a President) is called a "shyster" more than once. At any rate none of the films keep to this simpleminded character coding which on the one hand is welcome in being less overtly racist (except for the aforementioned Eddie Willers - played by a black actor again, one who is a good foot taller and hundred pounds heavier than the actor in the first film) but on the other really makes the work seem less extreme than it really is. At least Mathis is a little tougher and meaner than Schilling was, and overall the film seems to get at Rand's psycho-pathological hatred of everything that isn't money and power a bit better than the first film. Still overall a pretty dull and dreary ride.
aka Who is John Galt
is, you guessed it, completely re-cast again, and done on an even lower budget. Irony of ironies, this film adapting the third part of the doyen of laissez-faire Capitalism's masterwork was crowdfunded - but then again irony and hypocrisy are not characteristics that a typical libertarian is going to understand or care about. And as the second film had half the budget of the first, so too did this climactic chapter in what should have been THE GREATEST EPIC OF ALL TIME have it's budget halved from it's predecessor's. Not surprisingly this didn't help, and this film achieved a rare 0.0% on Rotten Tomatoes - and virtually no cinema release. The cheapness is REALLY apparent here too, with the big moment of John Galt's speech at the 20th Century Motors factory looking like something out of an episode of Buffy
- a couple dozen people in a high school gym - and it doesn't help that Kristoffer Polaha looks and sounds more like an ex-hippie who is now a feng shui life coach than an absolute capitalist master (as well as the greatest engineer of all time, and the most manly man ever). The speed with which this particular episode dispatches plot threads goes from the just "oh well, who cares, no important" of the first two films to "let's just give 5 seconds to this 100 pages here" and it's actually laugh-out-loud funny a couple of times. Lots of stock footage also - there's a whole story about a particle beam weapon in the novel that just isn't here, so when the famous Taggart Bridge collapses it - I'm not joking - does so because of "excessive regulations". In it's favor I will say that Laura Regan LOOKS more like the Dagny Taggart of my
nightmares than her predecessors, but her performance is much like Schilling's, only worse. One not so surprising element that all three films share is a somewhat softened, kinder-gentler "vision" than Rand's - some of the worst elements like the sexual sadism are totally absent, and what is likely the worst scene in the book (or any book) where Rand goes into orgasms over the hundreds of people who needlessly die on a train - who deserve to die because they just don't love money or capitalism enough - is cut to just moments. But another pretty awful moment, Dagny's shooting of a guard who is just trying to do his job and is torn between orders, is left fairly intact and is just as disgusting here as in the book. Curious.
In summary the first two films are just rather bad and dull; the third, with a higher level of incompetence and lower budget - maybe most laughable in the John Galt torture sequence - is pretty hilarious and descends, or ascends depending on how you look at it, into so bad it's good territory.