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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > WWII > Melodrama > Car Racing > Biography > Filmmaking > Motherhood > France > Terrorism > Castle Keep (1969)/Bobby Deerfield (1977/Sony/Columbia/Mill Creek Director Spotlight Sydney Pollack Blu-ray)/Sydney Pollack: A Subliminal Existentialist by Wes D. Gehring (2022/Hardcover/Indiana Histo

Castle Keep (1969)/Bobby Deerfield (1977/Sony/Columbia/Mill Creek Director Spotlight Sydney Pollack Blu-ray)/Sydney Pollack: A Subliminal Existentialist by Wes D. Gehring (2022/Hardcover/Indiana Historical Society Books)/Toni (2023/Icarus/Distrib DVD)/12 Strong 4K (2018/Warner 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)

Picture: B-/B-/C/B Sound: B-/B-/C+/B Extras: D/D/C-/C Films: B-/C/C+/C Book: B

This latest group of dramas includes a deeper look at a director who was at his best in that genre...

A double feature of two earlier films by the late Sydney Pollack, Castle Keep (1969) and Bobby Deerfield (1977) are an entry in a new series (we hope it goes on for a while) called Director Spotlight now on a single Blu-ray disc from Mill Creek. Hard to believe we never got to Keep before, but we have covered Deerfield twice. I covered the DVD edition a long time ago at this link:


The another one of our great writers covered the Limited Edition Twilight Time Blu-ray version:


Copies of that one are remarkably still in print as we post. Al Pacino is a great actor and Deerfield was a chance for a character study, something he and Pollack are capable of, but the film still misses the mark, despite some sincere efforts. Seeing it again years alter, it looks more ambitious, though.

Keep is an unusual epic film and war film for Pollack with Burt Lancaster leading the cast as a group of soldier get a Count (Jean-Pierre Aumont) to help them fight the Nazis during The Battle Of The Bulge rages nearby in a castle he hopes they can protect from Axis destruction. With its share of interesting moments and developments, the supporting cast is convincing enough with other soldiers played by no less than Peter Falk, Patrick O'Neal, Bruce Dern, Scott Wilson, Al Freeman Jr., Michael Conrad and future film director Tony Bill. The fights and battles are as god and the rest of the cast is as well.

The screenplay was co-written by Daniel Taradash (Rancho Notorious, Golden Boy, Storm Center, Picnic, Morituri, Alvarez Kelly) and David Rayfiel (Sabrina, The Way We Were, Valdez Is Coming, Three Days Of The Condor, Jeremiah Johnson, Out Of Africa, Absence Of Malice, The Firm) delivering storylines that take the material, situation and the audience seriously as so many that came out that year did. Even when some things don't work or work as well now, it is not for lack of trying.

However, it is a rare film for Pollack, the kind Hollywood seems incapable of making anymore (an intelligent, realistic epic for grown adults) and is worth a look for all it still has to offer.

There are sadly no extras, but Keep deserves some when they can expand and further restore the film, while the Twilight Time Limited Edition has some and you can find out more about that at the link above.

Sydney Pollack: A Subliminal Existentialist by Wes D. Gehring (2022) is a recent book on the late director that is decent, though I would debate how existential his films are, his argument has some validity, even if it is not outright so for me. Is this his way of saying that Pollack's films hold the same place the movie directors Robert Kolker holds high in his classic book A Cinema Of Loneliness (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and is as relevant?

Starring in the 1960s and going into the early 1980s as home video permanently took hold, tons of books on film (starting with Robin Wood's classic Hitchcock's Films) were written, published and became staples of serious film libraries, film schools and film fan collections that would be either biographies, film analysis, or a good combination of the two as we get here. Castle Keep came out of the relationship between Pollack and still very formidable superstar Burt Lancaster that started on The Scalphunters, further launching Pollack behind the camera and continuing Lancaster's amazing run of great work and luck in part from hard work and uncanny choices.

The book is good on the biographical side, but also on behind the scenes of select films and not his entire directorial feature film output, which some might not be happy with. Thus, The Slender Thread, This Property Is Condemned* The Scalphunters before and any films after his odd financial bomb (odder since it has longtime collaborator Robert Redford in the lead) Havana (The Firm, the Sabrina remake, Random Hearts, The Interpreter*) plus one well liked in the middle (The Yakuza*, co-written by Robert Towne and Paul Schrader, et al, so maybe their participation cut into a pure Pollack vision?) are hardly discussed and this book has no index either. (*Indicates a review elsewhere on this site).

Still, with all that said, it is a good book that does a good job of getting to the heart of Pollack's art, work, choices and character. There are some illustrations and the author assumes you have seen all the films, so expect spoilers throughout. Better to see the films before you read unless you look up a specific chapter. It is very thorough, scholarly, rich, smart and a worth addition to any serious film book catalog. It is amazing he could have this big a career, yet not be as remembered like many of his contemporaries, but this is a very bad thing going on with most directors whose work happened prior to the regressive 1980s. That is why I hope we see more work on such filmmakers. This is not the first book and Pollack and will not be the last, but will remain a key volume for those interested in him as an actor and in films he helmed like The Way We Were, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Three Days Of The Condor, Out Of Africa, Absence Of Malice, The Electric Horseman, Jeremiah Johnson and Tootsie. Recommended!

Nathan Ambrosioni's Toni (2023) has Camille Cottin as the title character, a mom who once had a music career, but she had to give it up to raise five children. Now that two of them are old enough to go out on their own, might she a few decades later be able to reignite her stalled career with some new-found time?

We have seen dramas with some of this kind of regret before and the script is aware of that, but despite a convincing cast and Cottin being able to carry the lead, it is still too much of what we have seen in the world of melodramas before. The biggest mistake and this cloud have helped the film immensely is that, no matter how things turned out, have more about the music industry, her comparing now to back then and then seeing what she wanted to do. That would give it more room to be a character study, et al. Instead, it falls a bit short, thanks to a few missed opportunities.

Now you can see for yourself.

Trailers for this and and few other Icarus/Distrib Films are the only extras.

Nicolai Fuglsig's 12 Strong 4K (2018) is one of Producer Jerry Bruckheimer's little-seen, more serious films, telling yet another tale of the events of 9/11, but with mixed results and then dated VERY badly. Because the film tries to make the post 9/11 situation as simple as WWII and Pearl Harbor, et al, that's where its troubles begin. Without ruining anything, it gets even worse when compared to current events.

Without ruining anything of the plot, it has the same issue the 1987 James Bond film The Living Daylights has when Timothy Dalton's James Bond is working with essentially the Taliban to bring the USSR down. Chris Hemsworth leads the cast as the head soldier (joined by Michael Pena and Michael Shannon) as CIA agents involved in activities in Afghanistan post 9/11. Despite some decent moments, they are undone by the slap-dash final screenplay (only credited to two people, including Ted Tally of The Silence of The Lambs fame) but you can tell it was retouched too much and too many times.

The result is everything we have seen before, then done badly and now, quickly dated worse than ever. That is why it did not get a big push, but Warner and the makers wanted to have this one out there and give it a second chance. Now it is a time capsule of misassumptions, et al. It style is also beyond dated, so only see it if you REALLY need to.

Extras include a Making Of featurette and a second featurette about the actual events entitled Monumental Effort: Building America's Response Monument.

Now for playback performance. The 2160p HEVC/H.265, 2.35 X 1, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on 12 Strong 4K was not produced in 4K or higher Ultra HD, nor was it shot on photochemical film of any kind, so it is a regular HD shoot and the upscale here shows the limits of that. Too many shots of screens too, per Bruckheimer's played-out style. Color is limited per the visual approach they took here, so with all of its issues, it will never look better. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is just fine and any upgrade would have been a mistake.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 High Definition image transfers on both Pollack movies can show the age of the materials used, but they also have some strain and strained scenes as they share a single disc together with only so much room for both. Color can be good, with Keep originally issued on 35mm in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints, not to mention 70mm blow-up prints. Director of Photography Henri Decae (The 400 Blows, Purple Noon, Le Samurai, Le Circle Rouge, The Boys From Brazil) uses the very widescreen frame to its fullest extent in both cases and it helps make both films work better. Deerfield repeats the Twilight Time HD master, but not as well with more limited data, but the color can come though in shots, this time in MetroColor.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix on Keep is a mixdown from the original 6-track magnetic sound with traveling dialogue and sound effects, but with some flaws and issues that effect hearing the actors and affect the score by Michel Legrand being as clear as it needs to be. Hope they find that magnetic soundmaster and restore it at some point. Deerfield repeats its new 5.1 upgrade as DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix and it is as good as the film can sound, though a little weaker here than the Twilight Time Blu-ray.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Toni is not too badly shot, but very soft and nothing extraordinary, though consistent enough. The lossy French Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is actually somehow better and is still not what it could be, but it is more consistently clear.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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