Monday, 12 December 2016

I am Spartacus!

So far 2016 may well be remembered as a bad year. Not just for Brexit and Trump, but also for the amount of highly regarded famous faces that have slipped their mortal coil. This may well have something to do with a generation of greats that influenced film and music all going together as they reach a similar age, or it could just be bad luck, or someone's idea of a joke (I'm looking beyond the clouds on this last point).  Whatever it is, 2016 has generally been considered to be a year that sucked.

But there is a ray of sunshine which I had to write about. It turns out that Kirk Douglas has just hit the fantastic age of 100. Someone told me the other day and I'm not proud to admit that my first reaction was "I thought he was dead!" Based on this years hit list it's not too much of a stretch, but there he is still full of his old swagger. One of the truly great actors from the golden age of Hollywood is still with us.

I'm not going to pick his films apart (do a quick Google search and you'll realise just how many he's done) but I am going to mention a few that have really left their mark on me. I've written in previous blogs that I had a fair old diet of classic films growing up, and Kirk and his dimpled chin played a pivotal part in it. So here goes, helped by a small pre-Christmas bottle of beer these are my 3 favourites:

Nordic style, Brooklyn accents.

The Vikings was the first of his films that I remember seeing. I think I was off school with a cold and watched it on telly in the afternoon. This is classic 50's Hollywood: Tony Curtis (with beard) and Kirk Douglas play play a pair of Vikings who are great mates, then hate each other, then become great mates again. Kirk loses an eye (obviously making no comparisons with Odin there at all) and has grand adventures. At no point do either actor make any concessions to a nordic accent. That's not how films used to work, so prepare yourself for Tony and Kirk making no attempt to lose theirs as they battles across the seas, and do derring do in little more than leather skirts.

The big one.
Spartacus. It's the biggie. We all know the last scene ("I'm Spartacus") but it's easy to forget just how good a film this is. And it's a whopper. Three and a half hours of full-on, cinematic, big-budget, epic scale, old school, Hollywood historical action. With a heart. The story is gripping, the cinematography is dazzling, and it doesn't let up at all. Tony Curtis turns up in this one too ("Do you prefer snails, or Oysters") but nothing can take away from Kirk. He is the definition of a film star in this movie.

This definitely doesn't look like a buff Cary Grant.

Greatest war movie ever?
This one is down to Channel 4. Towards the end of my teenage years Paths of Glory was screened as part of a season on Stanley Kubrick and it quickly became a firm favourite. One of the greatest war movies ever made in my opinion. Certainly one of the best anti-war movies. I'd rate this alongside All Quiet on the Western Front (the original, not the remake that starred John-Boy Walton) as one of the most moving anti-war films I've ever seen. Kirk delivers a performance that is unlike almost anything else I'd seen him in up to that point. One full of pathos, rage, frustration which is ultimately doomed. They (whoever "they" are) should screen this in schools as part of the curriculum, it's mesmerising. And, because I have to have some link to Bladerunner, it also stars Joe Turkel who played Dr Eldon Tyrell in the Ridley Scott classic.

That's it. There are plenty more great Kirk movies (Tough Guys, Saturn 3 and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea all spring to mind) and I'd recommend watching a few to remind yourself how good an actor he was.

Congratulations Kirk, I raise my small bottle of cheap French lager to you!

No comments:

Post a Comment