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A Movie A Day: Quint on CAST A GIANT SHADOW (1966)
Hey, don't leave me here! I'm anti-Semitic!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Composer Elmer Bernstein bridges us from yesterday’s MEATBALLS to a slightly… um… different story, 1966’s CAST A GIANT SHADOW, starring Kirk Douglas, Yul Brenner, Frank Sinatra, Senta Berger, Angie Dickinson and John Wayne. What you have here is a story about the state of Israel putting its foot down and demanding to be recognized as a political power while taking back Palestine and Jerusalem from the Muslims. Shoulda double featured this one with KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, no? It’s an exciting story, an important political story and you can tell by the sheer level of talent in the film that it’s a story that a lot people wanted to tell. Too bad it’s a mess of a movie. I was actually a little shocked to see Melville Shavelson’s filmography and see he was behind the much loved HOUSEBOAT and the original YOURS, MINE AND OURS. I was sure that it was a first time filmmaker or a TV filmmaker jumping headfirst into a movie too big for him. The first act is almost all ADR, bad ADR… take-you-out-of-the-movie-because-the-lip-sync-is-so-bad-ADR. The editing is bizarre. Shots hold for too long in some scenes, cut too early in others. Amateur hour all the way. That said, the second half of the movie feels much better. It’s not a drastic improvement, but it reaches competence. And the actors are all trying their best. Kirk Douglas is approached at the beginning of the movie to come lead the Israeli effort. Douglas is a war hero, having seen the atrocities of WW2 with his own eyes and is a lapsed Jew on top of it. But that’s not why helps. His character, based on the real life hero of the time, Mickey Marcus, knows war. He needs war and despite his lovely wife (the gorgeous mid-‘60s Angie Dickinson) he agrees to help and ends up not only an instrumental military strategist, but also middle-man between Israel and Washington, leading to America taking the lead in supporting the new Israel. While fighting he has an affair with the lavishing Senta Berger (who you should remember from the awesome QUILLER MEMORANDUM if you’ve gotten a chance to check that movie out).

The movie is noted for the extended cameos of John Wayne playing a Patton-ish General and Douglas’ main supporter in the hierarchy, Yul Brenner as Asher, the lead Israeli military mind before Douglas shows up and Frank Sinatra as a mercenary pilot hired to help the Israeli effort. Sinatra has the least screentime of the three, but boy I wish he was in the movie more. His character is a little like a more dickish precursor to Han Solo. He’s always a smartass and clearly only in it for the money. They don’t even really try to give him a moment of realization. He’s a good guy, but he doesn’t believe in the cause any more than the next guy. He has a great line when they’re planning on holding off a line of tanks (when the Israeli army have none) and he’s given a plane full of seltzer bottles to drop on the tanks (the idea is to fool the enemy into thinking they’re real bombs). The Israeli army is so poor that often these guys are going into battle without guns, just guts and fists, so forget about bombs. These seltzer bottles have a hook on the top and Sinatra asks what they are. “Those will make it scream on the way down.” Sinatra says, “Yeah, the both of us.” Sinatra’s character also gives the line I use in the subhead. But for a movie about such an important moment in history, a moment that we’re still feeling the effects of to this day, and such a good cast it really is a let down. Shavelson obviously knows what he’s doing… I just don’t know why it feels like the flick is cobbled together from a student filmmaker’s first attempt at making a movie. The rumor is that Douglas and Shavelson clashed a lot on set, causing the other to walk off at different times. That might explain things a little more. Final Thoughts: I wouldn’t call this film a must see, but if you get on a John Wayne or Kirk Douglas kick and check it out it won’t make you want to tear your eyes out. Hell, you might like it more than I did, but I doubt you’ll feel it capitalized on the rich drama, suspense and just plain interesting true story.

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Wednesday, July 23rd: OUT OF THE PAST (1947) Thursday, July 24th: THE BIG STEAL (1949) Friday, July 25th: WHERE DANGER LIVES (1950) Saturday, July 26th: CROSSFIRE (1947) Sunday, July 27th: RICCO, THE MEAN MACHINE (1973) Monday, July 28th: IN HARM’S WAY (1965) Tuesday, July 29th: FIRECREEK (1968) Tomorrow we hit OUT OF THE PAST, following Kirk Douglas back nearly 20 years. Can’t wait. That flick starts off a Robert Mitchum run that I’m dying to get to. See you folks tomorrow! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs

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