Tag Archives: Martin Balsam

The Set of 400: #85 – My Favorite Knife Surprise

Today! Because ever since you walked into this room, you’ve been acting like a self-appointed public avenger –

12 Angry Men (1957)

Directed by Sidney Lumet (x3)

Starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb (x2), Martin Balsam (x4), Jack Klugman, E.G. Marshall (x4), Jack Warden (x3), Ed Begley, John Fiedler, Edward Binns, Joseph Sweeney, George Voskovec, Robert Webber

And we’re back to play-based movies barely doing anything to update the setting! But really, what all could they’ve done? You can’t very well stick the jury on a train and have them debate the merits of the case over a hot dog at Coney Island, can you? (Or, could you? Maybe as some sort of commentary on the judicial system, its role as some manner of funhouse stacked against the little guy? It being a rollercoaster to no where except back where you started, under the boss’s heal, busting your hump for King Business? Jesus, who’s ready to produce my crazy new plan for 12 Angry Men: Keep Your Hands and Feet Inside the Jury??)

No, Lumet’s 12 Angry Men is locked-in, and that’s the way it works best. The jury nearly eats itself alive in their discussion of the case, revealing all their hidden prejudices, grappling with the facts of the case and each other’s motives for wrapping this deliberation up. Things are shouted and twists uncoiled and minds won over – or at least persuaded for the time being – until they finally arrive at a decision. It’s a marvelously acted tour-de-force by everyone involved, especially the leads, with Fonda’s curious, questioning Juror #8 and Cobb’s volcanic, passionate #3 locked in epic cross-table battle.

100% on Rotten Tomatoes

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The Set of 400: #100 – My Favorite Nude Medal Ceremony

Today! Because in order to be grounded, I’ve got to be crazy. And I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I’m not crazy anymore, and I have to keep flying –

Catch-22 (1970)

Directed by Mike Nichols (x2)

Starring Alan Arkin (x5), Jon Voight (x2), Martin Balsam (x3), Buck Henry (x3), Richard Benjamin, Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins (x2), Art Garfunkel, Jack Gilford (x2), Martin Sheen, Orson Welles (x2), Bob Balaban (x2), Paula Prentiss, Norman Fell (x2), Charles Grodin, Austin Pendleton, Peter Bonerz, Jack Riley (x4), Bruce Kirby, Richard Libertini (x3), Elizabeth Wilson (x2), Susanne Benton, Jon Korkes, Marcel Dalio

The Top 100! We finally made it! This is what the list always was in the past – a tight group of a hundred films I love, not this insanely bloated collection including a ton of movies I like but would probably be embarrassed to bring up to the Gallery of Sound register. And often floating near the end of those lists from days gone by is this adaptation of my favorite book, Mike Nichols’ noble experiment in bringing Joseph Heller’s unfilmmable novel to the screen. I don’t anticipate ever doing a list like this of my favorite books – come on, that would be far too difficult, as I don’t really re-read books much, so even though I remember loving The Stand, how it would compare to something I read last month is questionable. So, just for your edification and because this is all about me anyway, Catch-22 is my favorite book. I’m not sure what is ever going to supplant it, but I suppose anything’s possible. I’ve still never read The Da Vinci Code!

The movie sucked pretty loud, though, as I recall

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The Set of 400: #360 – My Favorite Movie Theater Cigar

Today! Because granddaddy used to handle snakes in church, Granny drank strychnine –

Cape Fear (1991)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Starring Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis, Joe Don Baker, Fred Thompson, Robert Mitchum, Gregory Peck, Illeana Douglas, Martin Balsam (x2)

A terrifically tense, harrowing suspense thriller, for about an hour and a half, before collapsing into ludicrously violent madness. Sure, there were certain things Scorsese was locked into doing with Cape Fear, considering it’s a remake and all, but man, some of the choices made are…well, extreme. I think it comes at an interesting point in his career, and De Niro’s too. Figure, both were coming off of Goodfellas, which should’ve finally been the movie Marty won all the Oscars for, but instead it got screwed royally (I’m never forgiving anyone for Dances With Wolves), and through some manner of lashing out, we got Cape Fear. The directing is so intense it borders on intrusive, especially in the first half hour, but it does make for some pretty artsy handling of an otherwise straightforward crime thriller.

De Niro’s tattoos alone are so over-the-top as to question the sanity of everyone involved

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The Set of 400: #374 – My Favorite Snowbound Train

Today! Because a repulsive murderer has himself been repulsively, and, perhaps deservedly, murdered –

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

Directed by Sidney Lumet

Starring Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave (x2), Martin Balsam, John Gielgud, Michael York, Wendy Hiller, Richard Widmark, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Rachel Roberts, Colin Blakely, George Coulouris

Sidney Lumet’s all-star take on the Agatha Christie classic is still the definitive big screen take on her work. Most Christie novels are a little too uncinematic to make for really great movies, and thus there have been far more and better TV versions of her stories than films (the Branagh Orient Express from 2017 is also pretty good, so hopes are high for Death on the Nile). But this one has everything – all the stars as in the heavens turned out for this film, a terrific locked-in train set that heightens the tension and suspense one scene after the other, a script where basically every line is vital to fully telling the tale, and Finney’s masterful work as Poirot tying the whole thing together. Widmark allegedly signed on in the relatively brief role as the doomed villain Ratchett (The book’s been out for 80 years! No complaining!) just so he could meet the other stars of the picture. Ingrid Bergman won her third Oscar for essentially one scene of significant dialogue! Sean Connery’s epic mustache nearly trumps Poirot’s! Continue reading

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