Samson & Delilah (1984) - Lee Philips
Bizarre television remake, with none of the wit, charm or drama of the original. I meant the original movie, but I suppose I could also mean the original telling in the Bible. Victor Mature, so excellent as Samson in the original film, plays Samson's father here and he's forty years older or so and still more interesting than the guy playing Samson in this one. Check out the 1949 De Mille version, which is absolutely entertaining out the wazoo and give this one a miss. Or, you know, read the greatest book of civilization.
Great Performances: You Can't Take It With You (1984) – Kirk Browning, Ellis Rabb
This is a filmed version of an actual theatrical production of the play that inspired, of course, the classic 1938 Capra film. This version doesn’t entirely stack up to Capra’s madcap original, but it’s worth watching for Jason Robards as Grandpa; he’s a crotchety, wonderful central figure and I think he nails the role quite a bit better than Lionel Barrymore did in the Capra version.
La Cage Aux Folles II (1980) – Edouard Molinaro
Call me crazy, but I thought this film was much better than the original. Of course, the original was utterly eclipsed by the American remake, The Birdcage, with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, which is funnier than either of the original French films. An American remake, better than the original, foreign language version? Rarely happens, but The Birdcage is a masterpiece; neither of these really are, though this sequel is pretty funny.
Samson and Delilah (1996) – Nicolas Roeg
Three hour version originally aired in two parts on TNT. It continues the trend of this series, which is that, against all odds, Ted Turner was responsible for some of the best Biblical movies ever made. Eric Thal at first appears to be a block of wood as Samson, but in the second half, he finds a strange tragedy in his performance. Elizabeth Hurley is a stunningly gorgeous Delilah; maybe for the first time, you understand why the guy would give up everything for her. The supporting cast is stellar, as usual for these productions: Dennis Hopper is surprisingly awesome as a villainous Philistine general; surprising mostly because the character is, for all his machinations, ultimately a strangely sympathetic one – that’s a first. There’s a strange, utterly human moment he has late in the film and his character, like the two titular characters, has a genuine arc. Diana Rigg gives a great performance as Samson’s mother.
Huckleberry Finn (1975) – Robert Totten
This is a 1975 version of the novel made for television. It has Ron Howard as Huck and Ralph Malph as Tom Sawyer; oh, yes, Jack Elam is The King. One of the most hilariously inept literary abortions (oops, I mean ‘adaptation!’ or DO I?) I have ever seen. I laughed until I cried. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Ralph Malph is playing Tom Sawyer with one of the most absurd cornpone dialects of all time. This is a new level of badness.