Time & Again Machine

DATELINE: Wells Novel on Screen Again

 Guy Pearce face-off with hologram enacted by Orlando Jones!

 

Back in 2002, forty years after the original classic George Pal movie, there came a remake of The Time Machine, based on the H.G. Wells classic.

This time the stalwart hero is Guy Pearce, and the story once set in London during the Victorian Age with an American as the time traveler, is now set in New York with an Austrailian as the American scientist. It doesn’t matter much as Guy Pearce is so brilliant, humorous, and always watchable. His rebel scientist eschews hats and wears his long hair greasy. It is quasi-Victorian, but totally Hollywood.

The film’s best moments are its paeon to the earlier film and story. As if to underscore the homage, they have brought Mr. Ed’s Alan Young out of retirement to play a cameo. He was one of the stars of the 1960 version.

Our favorite moment is when Orlando Jones shows up as a hologram at the New York Public Library who can tell us about the earlier movie, the Wells novel, and can even sing a tune from the bad musical version of the same.

The time machine itself is a Rube Goldberg mess that looks worse than the one used in 1960, and one character even calls it a “cappuccino maker.”

The impetus for time travel is, of course, the unfortunate death of our hero’s girlfriend. He goes back to fix the problem but discovers that you might go back a thousand times, but her death will occur every time, however differently.

The interesting travels through time also takes us 802,000 years into the future when the planet has clearly gone through some ice ages and re-growth. It is interesting that the evolving of humans seems minimal. You can blame that lack of insight on Wells, not the movie.

All in all, this old-fashioned and fun movie plays with the subject and our memories of it. It’s hard to believe that it was almost twenty years ago that it escaped our attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Wick: Serial Killer or Mass Murderer?

DATELINE: Kill Count Around 200?

Keanu with Anjelica.

We just had the pleasure of watching a film that is the epitome of political incorrectness in America after a half-dozen shootings in society. John Wick: Chapter Three Parabellum is a violent satire of gun use. At least, we think it is meant to be funny.

Para bellum is Latin for “prepare for war.”  It is only one of several high-toned touches of art and culture in a brutal shoot’em up. We did not have our clicker with us, but we believe Wick kills over 150 people, one at a time. It causes the movie to run for a full two-hours and have credits that will feature keanu’s chef.

Keanu Reeves has now appeared in three of these sagas, his big money-making series. At 55 he is giving contemporary Tom Cruise a run for old age. We cannot imagine how he can run, jump, kill, and duck endlessly and never be out of breath. And, he is shot and stabbed on more than one occasions.

You know that Wick is dangerous when he kills an assassin in the New York Public Library—with a book. And then puts the bloody tome back on the shelf.

The film is a series of set pieces of mayhem. It seems everyone in the world is packing heat—and most of those are hired guns. No wonder we have shootings every week. It’s part of a movie fantasy world.

Among the high-brow stars is Anjelica Huston playing The Director, some kind of Russian oligarch balletomane who runs a dance company like she’s a female Diaghilev. Also on hand for chuckles is Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne. Don’t worry about your stars being killed off: they will need to return for the fourth entry (yes, it is clearly coming).

In the meantime you can wonder about the brilliant choreography done by Reeves, and then there are outlandish set scenes like a swordfight on motorcycles.

We want to say the body count is quite high, but we think more panes of glass were broken than any other kind of vandalism. There isn’t a window in which someone does not put his head right through.

We also see plenty of blood splatter as heads are blown away with armor piercing bullets when a sword through the eyeball is not handy.

We haven’t seen this high a body count since Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood went Where Eagles Dare, killing Nazis.

 

 

 

 

Patrick Swayze Remembered!

DATELINE: Gone 10 Years!

 I am Patrick Swayze!

Has the Dirty Dancing Ghost star been gone for ten years?

The documentary put together by those who loved him (wife, brother, costars, friends, agents) is powerful its use of one word: “heart.” It seems to crop up regularly from a variety of people. He had it and he gave it.

The film description said he “challenged Hollywood’s notion of masculinity,” which perplexed us, as he seemed instead to epitomize it. He could play a cowboy, a dancer, a roadhouse thug, in action films where he did his own stunts. He was vibrant, and only handsome incidentally. He was an athlete or a ballet dancer, and from that root came everything else. This is one of a series of biographical films, this called I am Patrick Swayze.

His mother was the ultimate stage mother: she ran a Texas ballet school, and it was obvious Patrick Swayze would be part of that world. Knee reconstruction from football injuries put him in pain whenever he did those roles thereafter.

He did not want to be a teen idol, though his roller blading was stunning, and his dirty dancing made him internationally famous.

Friends talk of his soul of a poet, how well-rounded in arts he was. Rob Lowe and C. Thomas Howell were teammates, rivals, and friends, from the Coppola movie The Outsiders. He costars noted he was mild and dynamic at the same time.

We always found him watchable and curious about what he might do: sometimes he took on roles that did not interest everyone, but he was his own man in that regard. Then, he was sick with pancreatic cancer and gone abruptly. It now appears to be a grave injustice of the universe to take away a person who epitomized life.

He wanted to prove there was life beyond being a sex symbol, which led him to do sky-diving stunts in Point Break and brutal fight scenes. He was not wanted for one of his great roles, in Ghost.The director had to be convinced, but Patrick Swayze always convinced anyone who put his attentions on.

Like the proverbial meteor, he came, shined by in the firmament, and went away. Like many others, after seeing this film of his life, we miss him too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uncanny Cats: Not Exactly T.S. Elliot

DATELINE: Cat Got Your Tongue? 

Way back in 1977, on the heels of a career of low budget horror movies, Ray Milland took off his toupee and faced the snarling, pouncing faces of cats. The film was titled The Uncanny, which is hardly catty enough.

Yes, what Alfred Hitchcock did for The Birds, this film wanted to do for your cute and cuddly pussycat. Don’t ask what’s up, pussycat, because writer and scientist Peter Cushing believes that cats are the devil’s messenger—and they have it for him. He has written a book and is trying to sell it to publisher Milland.

Like Erich van Daniken, Cushing’s paranormal writer has tackled the Pyramids, UFOs, and other topical crypto-science subjects—and has turned his attention to a conspiracy of cats. And, his feline nemesis is not a happy camper.

If your idea of fur balls turning evil is good for a laugh, this movie is for you. If you belong to Internet websites that features kitty cats doing funny things, you may be horrified. Well, that is the point of this film.

As for us, we never grab a pussy by the tail—and recommend you don’t either!

The sordid little tales are set in London in 1912, Hollywood in 1936, and in contemporary Montreal. We should tell you that the cold winter of Montreal does not stand in well for Los Angeles.

The cast is downright overblown: Donald Pleasance and Samantha Eggar are in Hollywood, and Simon Williams—fresh off Upstairs/Downstairsas wastrel James Bellamy has a cat moment himself. A few other known faces, like John Vernon, are also in the storyline.

The film did not ruin anyone’s career, having been lost for decades and forgotten by everyone involved. It isn’t HItchock level, and it is of varying brutality and humor, but you seldom find a movie in which cute kitty-cats are filmed like horrid monsters, leaping from balconies to kill.

As a curio, this one is worth peeking at.

 

 

Halston: Fashionista with Un-Common Touch

DATELINE: Clothes Make the Woman

 Halston, Taylor, Minelli at Studio 54!

Fashion designer extraordinaire, Halston was part of a generation that self-immolated by 1990. Most of them were gone: trend-setting, pop culture icons:  notably Halston (he only needed one name, like Liberace). A fascinating documentary aptly named Halstontells the tale.

The 1950s gave young talents like Halston and Warhol a youthful connection to fame, but it was by the 1960s they took charge of their lives. Halston was a gypsy of America, living in no true fixed abode. So, he was likely to be self-made.

He was ambitious and flamboyant, ready to take his energy and ideas into all kinds of creative realms. He was the pioneer who made Europe take note of American fashion, though he was later given rivals like Perry Ellis and Calvin Klein.

Halston tried to stay ahead of the curve, branching out into aesthetics like perfume with bottles as arty as popular. He melded movies and fashion together, finding that his association with people like Liza Minelli and Elizabeth Taylor were ways to grow socially and artfully.

It started to go wrong when he splurged into Studio 54 with Warhol, Capote, and the raft of disco dollies. It was, some said, the beginning of a dissolution.

The documentary never says much about his aging, but it’s there: clearly losing youth to something harder. He became as hard as his looks, or perhaps his looks took on his personality: moody, bossy, self-centered.  It wasn’t pretty, when he started to be less pretty.

Others thought his greed was the deciding factor that led to his destruction: he sold out to J.C. Penney, going from class to mass appeal. It alienated his well-to-do friends and undermined his name. He actually sold his own name, and lost control of it.

The end featured more intrigue that Ancient Rome, as he was pushed out (literally locked out) of his own empire by locksmiths and Playtex bra people who bought his name. A few thought it was drugs that did him in, if not promiscuity.

It was the 1980s and the deadly virus that swept through art circles in theatre, fashion, music, especially in New York, took him too. Andy Warhol once said that he’d want Halston and Elizabeth Taylor as his chums because they were so nice.

This celebrity name-dropping documentary may stir memories in a generation grown old. Halston was loved by many people who felt he epitomized tragedy by the end.

 

 

 

 

Madhouse/Funhouse/Nuthouse & Then Some!

DATELINE: One Last American International Horror

 

 

 Cushing & Price

 

Madhouse is a nuthouse extravaganza movie with a funhouse spirit.

Vincent Price finished up his American International contract, which featured so many classic Edgar Allan Poe tales done outrageously, that it seemed inevitable that he would go out with a blaze. Here, he plays a movie star who made a bunch of movies as “Dr. Death,” a hideous murderer. Art imitates life here.

His career went south when he was accused of cracking up and murdering his fiancée. Whether he did it or not is the crux of the horror. You may find more than a fair share of suspects trying to “gaslight” the old star.

Well, after a dozen years in a madhouse, he returns to acting to star, good grief, in a TV series based on his infamous character.

If you haven’t guessed that most of the funhouse nuthouse stuff is all tongue-in-cheek, you miss more than most of the Hammer House parody.

Joining Price is Peter Cushing as his best friend, fellow actor, and screenwriter of all those grisly murder movies.

If that is not spicy enough for you, A-I studios dug up their two other favorite stars of the 1960s—Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone—and featured them in amusing cameos. It’s no mean feat, as the two legendary stars were long-gone for about a half-dozen years by the time this film was before the cameras.

You have to love a movie that begins with everyone watching a film in a Hollywood mansion with the final credits rolling out the words, “The End” in blood red letters.

If shameless overacting isn’t your thing, then you may not appreciate the golden opportunity Price has been given: he even dresses the part, in white trench coat and matching fedora.

There is even an O.J. Simpson moment when Scotland Yard has everyone try on the murderer’s glove: if it fits, you know the rest…So, O.J.’s lawyers found the idea in this movie!

Playing Mr. Toombes, Price puts a cutrate on fellow cast members as they are all mysteriously dispatched as the new TV series takes place at British studios. It is a nicely set film with solid production values to make you forget this is what a good cast and production team can do with a low-budget.

 

 

 

 

Night Tide & Mermaid

DATELINE: Dennis Hopper Fantasy

How wrong could a movie genre be? Try Night Tide,a strange little low-budget movie from 1963. It stars Dennis Hopper as a sailor who meets a sideshow freak star Mora, the mermaid. The question is whether this creature is like a werewolf—she turns back from a lovely woman to a part-time fish with the full moon.

Now, this hardly qualifies as a horror movie unless you are slightly off-kilter to begin. It does qualify as a movie direction for Dennis Hopper that is off-the-beaten path of Hollywood mainstream.

For all his traditional looks, Hopper was a true rebel to the system, and his selection of $25,000 budget movies indicated his went against all Hollywood norms in the early 1960s. It likely spoke volumes about where his buddy James Dean would have gone, had he lived.

Yet, it now seems like a marvelous jazzy film noir choice, daring and delightful. Mora (Linda Lawson) lives over a merry-go-round and special effects are more suggested than actual. She is hooked into some middle-aged harridan who may be queen of the gypsies, Madame Romanovitch (Marjorie Eaton).

Hopper was absolutely stunning in his little sailor outfit, out on shore leave—by himself. That, in itself, is an odd plot twist. The seaside arcade he visits and quite cosmopolitan beatnik bar are a scream. We love the patrons with dark glasses at night inside a bistro while a jazz quartet plays David (Laura) Raksin’s film score.

We almost expected him to walk into a gay bar of the 1950s, but that would mean mermen, not mermaids.

Curtis Harrington wrote and directed this small masterpiece, which channels Edgar Allan Poe with a twist.

 

 

 

Every Act of Life: Terrence McNally

DATELINE: Surviving Show Business

 Terry McNally & Eddie Albee back when….

In all my connections to Broadway writers, Terrence McNally never came up much.

Now James Kirkwood would talk about everyone in show biz! We gossiped about them all. Yet, there is no memory of him mentioning McNally.

Oh, they knew of each other: gay writers winning friends in great theater. Kirkwood certainly knew Edward Albee who was McNally’s first important boyfriend, but McNally may have been too openly gay for Jim Kirkwood. It’s the only conclusion to make.

Every Act of Lifeis a documentary on the life of McNally who worked with every actor imaginable since the death of Jim Kirkwood in 1989, and that may be the survival of your reputation in show business. Richard Thomas, Nathan Lane, Rita Moreno, F. Murray Abraham, Angela Lansbury, all share memories of their careers and personal ties to McNally and his funny and varied plays.

All Jim’s closest actor friends, like Sal Mineo, are long gone. One young writer once said to me: “Wow, I didn’t think any of Kirkwood’s friends were still alive.”

McNally survived, though people like Robert Drivas, his tempestuous and exotic actor boyfriend after Albee, died of AIDS in 1985 in the first wave of notable show business deaths. Drivas was a closet case, and yet it was open and flamboyant McNally who still lives nearly forty years later.

There is no accounting for survival, but you have to admire it when it shows up at your door. The film on the life of McNally is likely a tonic and a fizz for gay people who need superior role models. If you die too soon, you can’t be much of a mentor. If Jim Kirkwood were here, I might say you should never have told me to write your autobiography and play coy about your gay life. Yet, he did.

McNally, had I known him, would never have said such a thing, but those plays and characters never quite grabbed like Jim Kirkwood’s creations.

Oh, it’s too late now to do much about it, but we can celebrate the life of Terrence McNally, albeit a tad on the late side.

 

Dr. William Russo wrote Riding James Kirkwood’s Pony, available in paperback and e-book on Amazon.

The Hunt: Billions for Defense

DATELINE: Not a Cent for Distribution

hunt

The new movie entitled The Hunt, which is loosely based on the Richard Connell classic story most dangerous game has been shelved or postponed from release. It’s been shot dead by Trump and his automatic trigger finger on Twitter.

It now appears that the story about a pre-Nazi survival list is now too hot for Hollywood.  They have been a number of versions over the years including some with ice cube being hunted or Joel McRae back in the 1930s .

There was a version in the mid 50s and one in the 40s .  The tail has always been a twist on a survival list white nationalist elitist crypto Nazi who has poor people because they are clever and they are the most dangerous game to hunt .

Now President Trump has attacked the film because he doesn’t like the idea that billionaires maybe hunting down poor average Americans, or worse immigrants. He calls this racism of the liberal sword.

This man has no sense of literature, of a Connell story written first in the 1920s as a metaphor of privilege gone mad. There have been versions every generation—like Billy the Kid tales. Each story fits the moment of its production.

If we are learning any lesson, it is that you cannot maligned the reputation of good men who just happened to be billionaires who own 90% of the world.

You’re insulting Trump’s friends who are holding fundraisers in the Hamptons led by the owner of the Miami Dolphins who happens to have 7 billion or bad craft, solicitor of prostitutes in massage parlors who happens to have $4 billion.

These people would never engage in a sport that hunted down the people who buy tickets Or would they?

 

 

Ghosts of West: End of Bonanza Trail

DATELINE: Dead Memories of the Old West

ghost towns See no ghosts?

An utterly intriguing documentary on ghosts out west turns out to be utterly poetic and features no stories about ghosts. Be forewarned, and be prepared for a beautifully made film about the mystique of the Old West.

The dead memories are, in fact, the ghosts alluded to by director E.S. Knightchilde. Can that be a real name? Written and produced, the mysterious KNightchilde is nearly as ghostly as the missing ghosts.

If you also have an idea that this film will be about the lost Cartwrights, Ben and Hoss and Little Joe, it’s about another bonanza, though it is not far from Virginia City in Nevada to Colorado and Montana.

The film avoids color completely, blending its old photos and newer landscapes into one timeless black and white and silver image. When you add the poetic words of Theodore Roosevelt as part of the narrative, you have an idea that this is not going to be your traditional western tale.

Photos are rare and unusual, nicely packaged around the mining towns that quickly were abandoned. These are the ghost towns of the film: most of the little villages boomed for five or ten years and were deserted overnight. They were never intended to be long-term municipal places.

The single men who caroused, worked, and died there, hoped to strike it rich and escape that world. It was a place where, we are told, lynchings were commonplace, murders were standard, and all these dead people surely left ghostly haunting. We do not hear about that. It is the towns that grip the director who finds them shredded by tourists and scavengers. They are flattened for their mountain views and condo life of rich homesteaders of the 21st century.

The little towns that are dead with their dilapidated buildings grow scarce and have been saved by a few civic minded souls who have turned them into historical, living museums that you may wander around.

Only two interviews of older experts are shown, and they are the only bits of film in color, as to be expected with a film rich in poetry and aesthetics.

If you don’t mind beauty instead of fright, this documentary is worth staying around to watch.

Time Travelers in 1964

DATELINE: Lost & Forgotten Gem!

Foster & Hoyt Great Supporting Stars!

IB Melchior is hardly a name to be lumped in with the grand auteurs of long-ago: we think of Orson Welles, but there were others like William Cameron Menzies—and IB.

He wrote, directed, and produced, slipping into American International studios at the end, but keeping up high quality on a low-budget.

The Time Travelers is a joy to behold. Move over, Irwin Allen.

His sleeper is a take-off on The Time Machine and other sci-fi classics of the 1950s. With unusual intelligence, he put together a minor movie with a TV-generated cast of cast-offs: there’s an aging Preston Foster, off bad TV after a weak leading man life in the 1930s. He has a pointed imperial beard and wears an occasional monocle as the steady scientist behind a time travel machine.

There is Phil Carey, looking pauchy even at his peak of TV work as the assistant. You have white haired John Hoyt, taking his hair color cues from Brian Keith, as Varno, leader of a futuristic tribe of nuclear war survivors.

And there is Steve Franken, fresh off playing the Dobie Gillis nemesis, Chatsworth Osbourne, as the boyish (he was 34) foil. We never realized just how short he was.

Throw in a guest appearance from Forrest J. Ackerman, whose paranormal documentary by Paul Davids is The Life after Death Project. Here he suitably appears at the paranormal portal to the time warp.

The film features rovers on Saturn’s moon, Titan, discussions of exo-planets, and the kind of odd creatures that H.G. Wells was fond of using for troublesome survivors.

You might be surprised at how the effects work quite well in a simple manner before computer generated spectaculars. And, you do have real actors trying to keep a straight face.

It’s a wonderful little sci-fi classic that we dismissed back when—and suddenly have re-considered in old age as something a bit more special. If you love time warps and seeing a movie speed up and recap in one minute, you are in for a treat.

 

 

 

 

 

At the Drive-In: Past is Prologue

DATELINE: Take a Bite Night!

drive in

A strange little documentary that is utterly charming details one of the last and biggest drive-in screens in the United States. At the Drive-In notes the dream of those who loved the past and the summer nights that took the family out to the movies, sitting in their car.

Three men: Jeff, Matt, and Virgil, are the organizers. It started with Jeff, a former military man who was a projectionist, a job that no longer exists in the digital age. Older and out of touch with the modern world, Jeff leased a Pennsylvania drive-in that was slowly dying. Only a few hundred are left from the hey-day of the 1950s.

He literally ran in to Matt, a young Temple film studies graduate who thought it was abandoned and dropped by to find Jeff. Calling his friend Virgil, another Temple film student, they provided a social media approach to try to save the movie palace.

Jeff insisted that it show only 35mm movies, which made it a retro-movie theatre. Besides the lack of profit, the actual film stock of 35mm is not used by modern film-makers.

Retrospective films was the only alternative to the alternative drive-in. The entrepreneurs came up with gimmick nights: zombie movies, sci-f, bite night (Jaws and Jurassic Park). All the films had to be 35mm.

There were hangers-on who also loved old films and the ambiance, Jess—the popcorn girl, and snack bar aficionado from Keene, NH, who drives over six hours every weekend to work at what he loves: a place, not a job.

These are simple and real people who a definite love for old movies—and they build up the drive-in from two or three cars to over a hundred per night by the end of the 2016 season.

If you are old enough to recall the nostalgia of the giant screen outdoors, with field before a monster white screen, you likely recall seeing Shane, Spartacus, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and dozens of other old movies in that magical moment of childhood.

At the Drive-In is a gentle marvel of movie-making about movie history. If you love movies, you read reviews and watch with religious fervor. Here is your novena of movie life.

 

 

Seconds & Second Chances with Rock!

DATELINE:  No Deal?

unbecoming Rock Unbecoming Rock!

We love Seconds, or even thirds and fourths of Rock Hudson in his best performance—ever.

We cannot say this lightly. The John Frankenheimer film of 1966 was a game changer in style and director controls. Here, you find something completely different in its stylistic attitude. Cameras may be strapped to the backs of the actors, and the entire feel is somewhat institutional hallucination.

Seconds is a tale of new beginnings, or at least the kind offered by impersonal corporations, if run by some Satan. In this case, the satanic figure is fatherly (and even grandfatherly) Will Geer, better known as Grandpa Walton. Here, he is in his early career roots as the bad guy with a smile that is malevolent. His lackey Jeff Corey is suitably irritating.

Many other familiar faces of the 1960s give this film a sense of been there—but not quite. Frances Reid later became a soap opera queen of Days of Our Lives, but here is the wife of John Randolph, a man in his 50s and unhappy.

He is about to have the chance to become a run-down Rock Hudson.

The deal, like all those offered by Faustian bargain, is never quite what you want. Here, Rock Hudson discovers a tad too late that the hedonistic life of an artist in Malibu is not all it’s cracked up to be with corporate spies (Salome Jens) and a butler/manservant that is all too obsequious.

The final moments of the film are chilling and provide Hudson with something he never had in movies: a real juicy acting gig. This is something to behold and admire, and it holds up for the baby-boomers who might have scoffed in youth, and now look askance at the aging process.

Appalling Holmes & Watson

 DATELINE: Elementary, School That is.

elementary school.jpeg 

We were warned, and now you are warned.

The Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly remake of a comic Conan Doyle couple is not exactly a blue-plate special. It is going for .99 cents on Amazon streaming video. You know that price is rock bottom for rock bottom quality. This is a step down for the Step Brothers.

The film is horrific in terms of anachronisms. There are references to killer bees, protein shakes, and headlines that smell of National Enquirer in the 1950s.

Worse yet are the fake British accents on our traditional heroes, showing that they cherish good acting as much as a paycheck. The actors playing them as children speak with American accents (as do all the kids in London).

Mrs. Hudson is a trollop—and not from the British pages of classic literature.

We almost expected Judi Dench was likely offered the role as Queen Victoria—and that would have set us off on a tangent. Instead, we have Ralph Fiennes acting in a separate movie as Moriarty.

He has no flair for comedy.

Perhaps the most surprising couple in the film are the Road Trip movie stars: Rob Brydon as Lestrade and Steve Coogan as the one-armed tattooist.

We almost wish they had played Holmes and Watson. Of course, this may be the only version in which Lestrade is smarter than Holmes.

The movie moribundly moves from one witless encounter and set-up to another. Killer bees are inexplicably in a glass case at 221b Baker Street, allowing for a madcap moment without suspense.

Another stupid setup is Holmes surprise birthday party thrown by the Queen.  Who wrote this drivel? Mindless is the Zeitgeist of the age: and if this is you, you will be in your element.

Yes, it’s elementary.  Elementary school.

Brooklyn Bridge Revisited

 DATELINE: Ken Burns Classic

great art Amazing!

In 1982 Ken Burns made a name for himself with this small, unassuming and brilliant documentary about the fifteen-year process to build the iconic, magical Brooklyn Bridge.

The film made his reputation and sent him on a career as a ground-breaking documentarian. What’s left nearly forty years later is the masterpiece of film on the masterpiece of engineering.

To take it in again after so many decades and find it as fresh and charming as when first seen is like the chance to walk across the East River like one of those who saw it like the first man to walk on the Moon.

John Roebling came from Germany as Hegel’s favorite student and a brilliant bridge maker. He designed the way to cross the river between New York and Brooklyn in three months. Then, fate intervened, giving him tetanus and killing him. It left the job then to his 30-year old son and Civil War hero Col. Washington Roebling.

David McCollough lends his narrative presence, but familiar voices dot the film: Julie Harris, Kurt Vonnegut, and others.

The dangerous caissons gave Roebling the bends, and he recovered but never fully. He managed to oversee the bridge construction from his third-floor bedroom with binoculars. His wife supervised and learned engineering to carry out on-site work.

Great Lewis Mumford lends his presence here to the cultural viewpoint with a poetic expression of his walk across the bridge as a young man. There are clips of Frank Sinatra in a movie in love with the Bridge, and even Bugs Bunny puts in an appearance.

The Bridge is monumental, inspirational, beautiful, and a cathedral of the national pride.

This is definitely American pie.