The Screening Room
martini movies
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has gone into its Columbia Pictures vaults and produced a series of DVDs called “Martini Movies.” Good, bad and indifferent, these movies represent the times in which they were made with dated clothing, dated dialogue, and dated ideals. Some are actually fun to watch, while others are just plain bad.

These movies are now available on DVD.


At least the concept of the last surviving people on Earth was good. “Five” isn’t nearly as fun as other 1950s doomsday tales that would follow it. Directed by Arch Oboler, who also foisted “Bwana Devil” (1952) upon the world, the movie is slow paced and difficult to sit through.

Viewers who enjoyed the original “Twilight Zone” series might find this movie familiar. A lot of the cinematography and overall feel found their way into the classic Rod Serling series. I don’t know if he saw “Five” and kept much of its bleak feel in his mind, but the similarties are peculiar.

The film, it appears, was done on a small budget and was probably one of Columbia’s “B” pictures. Not one of the stronger titles in the “Martini Movies” series.   


Most modern audiences know Sir Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi from the original "Star Wars" films. Looking past that role, Guinness was an extraordinary actor who had been acting for years. One of his roles was in Carol Reed's "Our Man in Havana."

He's a vacuum cleaner salesman in a small Cuban shop when he's asked to become a spy. He leads a double life of a caring father and secret government agent.

The film features fine acting by Guinness, Ernie Kovacs, and Burl Ives. There are lots of film dissolves and even some clever bits of camerawork. I had heard about the film for years as being one of Guinness's best, but I didn't find myself totally engaged in it.


Director Stephen Frears, at least in the films I’ve seen, is a solid director. He’s an excellent director with actors and gleens fine performances out of them. He also seems to enjoy lending his films a gritty look and employs shady characters. “Gumshoe” is no exception.

Playing off the old American hardboiled detective movies of the 1940s, the film stars Albert Finney as a down-on-luck guy who moonlights as a nightclub entertainer and private eye. He talks fast like he’s a British Bogart. The film is filled with snappy dialogue and Finney seems to relish his take on Sam Spade.   

The film is very much trapped in the time period. The cinematography by Chris Menges (“The Reader”) is flat and has a natural lit appearance. I enjoyed the over-the-top score and was surprised to find that Andrew Lloyd Webber scored it. The score even has some riffs that would later find themselves in the dreadful “Phantom of the Opera.”    


Elliot Gould is forever stuck in my mind as the face of 1960s rebellion. It always seemed that he had bushy sideburns and a bushy ‘stache. Gould was the  late-1960s and early-1970s “everyman” who could stand up against the establishment one minute, then be a part of it the next. No better film than “Getting Straight” to showcase this actor’s talent.

Watching this film today, or perhaps anytime after 1970, it may be hard for some viewers to get past the dated quality. Almost everything about the movie is completely steeped in late-1960s/early-1970s rebellion and style. Laszlo Kovacs’s fine cinematography uses a lot of zooms and stylish tricks. I usually found the extensive use of zooming annoying and a product of this era, but Kovacs knew how to use these techniques effectively.

Nearly every character is a cliché of either 1960s hippie rebellion, or straight-laced conformity. The Baby Boomer generation seemed eager, at least according to the ideals of this film, to grow up and stick it to their elders, only to later become what they hated.

Deep underneath the ideals lies a well acted film. Gould and Candice Bergen give excellent and thoughtful performances. I’ve always seen Gould as such a mature person in no matter what he was in. He always seemed older than his age. In this film, he was around 32 years-old. Bergen is believable as his girlfriend who wants to live a suburban life. Look out for a small cameo role by Harrison Ford.


Somebody out there in the world probably thinks this is a brilliant, funny movie, the same way somebody probably thinks Nickelback is a brilliant band. “Vibes” is dreadfully awful. I’d never seen it and thought perhaps time might’ve been kind to this late-80s movie.

Time hasn’t been kind to “Vibes,” because it sucked in 1988 and it sucks now.

There’s no romantic chemistry between Jeff Goldblum and Cyndi Lauper. The dialogue, the plot, the acting, all bad. I can’t imagine someone at Columbia Pictures reading this script about psychics and the search for a mysterious pyramid in Peru as being filmable. Nor can I imagine casting Jeff Goldblum with Cyndi Lauper as romantic leads.

Goldblum was a popular choice during the 1980s as the quirky tall guy. As a romantic lead in the remake of “The Fly” (1986), he worked well. In “Vibes,” he’s totally miscast. Lauper was a product of the 1980s with her quirky singing and style. I never quite got into her act or the "New Yawker" vibe she put off, so it’s hard for me to watch her in this movie.

This was a peculiar choice to put under the fun "Martini Movies" banner.

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to CSPR

Photos: © SPHE. All rights reserved.
DVD Quick Glimpse


Cult films

Director: Arch Oboler, Carol Reed, Richard Rush, Stephen Frears, Ken Kwapis 

Cast: William Phipps, Alec Guinness, Elliot Gould, Albert Finney, Jeff Goldblum 

Trailers, "Martini Movies" moments

Not rated, PG and R

Picture: Good
Sound: Good

Those sideburns, man!

Aspect Ratio (1.33:1, 1.85:1 and 2.35:1)

Dolby Digital

February 3, 2009
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