Pacifier, The (2005, USA/CDN) C-95m. Scope **½ D: Adam Shankman. Starring Vin Diesel, Lauren Graham, Faith Ford, Brittany Snow, Max Thieriot, Chris Potter, Carol Kane, Tate Donovan, Adam Shankman. Change of pace for Diesel: Here he plays a Navy S.E.A.L., who is assigned to protect five children of a suburban family whose father has been kidnapped. Diesel is quite good in this utterly contrived, fairly entertaining family comedy produced by Disney.

Pack, The (1977, USA) C-99m. ** D: Robert Clouse. Starring Joe Don Baker, Hope Alexander-Willis, Richard B. Shull, R.G. Armstrong, Ned Wertimer, Bibi Besch. Horror thriller about several vacationers who find themselves under attack of a pack of abandoned, hungry dogs. Baker plays a local who hanles the situation well. Poor, one-dimensional script moves at a pedestrian pace, but there are well-filmed attack scenes to make up for the lulls. Good use of slow-motion. Written by the director.

Pacte des Loups, Le (2001, FRA) C-150m. Scope *** D: Christophe Gans. Starring Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassel, Emilie Dequenne, Monica Bellucci, Jérémie Rénier, Mark Dacascos, Jean Yanne, Jacques Perrin. In 18th century France a beast is roaming the countryside, killing young women and children. A nobleman is called upon, who tries to stop the killings with his friend, an Indian. Marvelous mix of fantasy and horror elements is long and has a simple story, but direction, photography, and especially editing are brilliantly stylish. Film hits bull’s-eye during its action sequences, which are simply stunning. A noteworthy achievement by the director of CRYING FREEMAN (1995) and an interesting companion piece to Michael Wadleigh’s horror film WOLFEN (1981). Originally released at 142m., later extended to present length. English title: BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF.

Padroni della Città, I (1976, ITA/GER) C-86m. ** D: Fernando Di Leo. Starring Jack Palance, Al Cliver, Harry Baer, Gisela Hahn, Edmund Purdom. Ordinary crime thriller about godfather Palance, who, apart from facing competition from a rival syndicate, must contend with a young man whose father he killed years ago. Plot is a yawn, but Palance looks menacing and Luis Enrique Bacalov’s score is very rhythmical. English titles: THE BIG BOSS, BLOOD AND BULLETS, MISTER SCARFACE, RULERS OF THE CITY.

Paganini Horror (1989, ITA) C-83m. *½ D: Luigi Cozzi. Starring Daria Nicolodi, Jasmine Main (=Maimone), Pascal Persiano, Maria Cristina Mastrangeli, Donald Pleasence. Italian violin master Niccola Paganini is the inspiration for this tedious horror film, cowritten by director Cozzi and star Nicolodi. During a music video shoot, the ghost of Paganini is resurrected and he kills members of the crew. Quite gory, not without atmosphere, but inept direction kills it. Entire sequences just don’t work at all. Don’t mix this up with the Klaus Kinski production KINSKI PAGANINI, made that same year. Aka THE KILLING VIOLIN.

Paidia tou Diavolou, Ta (1975, GRE) C-102m. *½ D: Nico Mastorakis. Starring Bob Behling, Jane Lyle, Jessica Dublin, Gerard Gonalons, Jannice McConnell, Nikos Tsachiridis, Nico Mastorakis. A young couple spend their holiday on the idyllic Greek island of Mykonos, but they turn out to be immoral, perverted and sadistic and start abusing and killing the people around them. Infamous video nasty, banned in many countries, but film is not very explicit. Lack of character depth and motivation identify this as pure exploitation. Unfortunately it is also rather boring. Dublin’s ‘sex’ scene must be among the most embarassing things ever put on celluloid. English titles: ISLAND OF DEATH, DEVILS IN MYKONOS, A CRAVING FOR LUST, CRUEL DESTINATION, ISLAND OF PERVERSION, and PSYCHIC KILLER 2.

Painted Faces (1989, HGK) C-112m. ***½ D: Alex Law. Starring Samo Hung, Lan Ching-Ying, Cheng Pei-Pei. Melancholy look back at a Peking Opera school in the 1960s, whose teacher (Hung) is faced with the decline of the popularity of his art. Memorable film has fine acting and screenplay, along with a superb music score (by Lowell Lo) to recommend it. Based on autobiographical events of Samo Hung’s life, who was to become a famous martial arts star in the 1970s and 1980s.

Palabras Encadenadas (2003, SPA) C-89m. **½ D: Laura Maná. Starring Dario Grandinetti, Goya Toledo, Fernando Guillén, Eric Bonicatto. Interesting but artificial psycho thriller drama about professor Grandinetti, who has abducted his ex-wife, a psychiatrist, and tells her that he has become a serial killer and she will be his 19th victim. This leads to a psycho-battle a la Starling and Lecter. Some intriguing twists throughout keep this bubbling. From the producer of THE MACHINIST (2004). English title: KILLING WORDS.

Pale Rider (1985, USA) C-115m. Scope **½ D: Clint Eastwood. Starring Clint Eastwood, Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgress, Chris Penn, Richard A. Dysart, Sydney Penny, Richard Kiel, Billy Drago, Budyd Van Horn. Typical Eastwood western, although his formula started to show aging signs. The archetypal ‘Man With No Name’, in the guise of a preacher, reappears in a small gold mining town, which is terrorized by a landowner. Good performance by Moriarty, otherwise film is hardly rousing. Okay, for Eastwood fans. Inexplicably, this was nominated for the Golden Palm in Cannes!

Palindromes (2004, USA) C-100m. *½ D: Todd Solondz. Starring Ellen Barkin, Rachel Corr, Richard Masur, Alexander Brickel, Jennifer Jason Leigh. Daring drama from the maker of HAPPINESS (1998) and STORYTELLING (2001). Story deals with 12 or 13-year old girl, who wants to get pregnant just for the hell of it and the repercussions of her choice. Beware: The girl is played by several child actresses, who couldn’t be more different! Obviously a comment on the bigotry of society and the nihilism that rules part of today’s youth, but most of it is thoroughly off-putting, not to say perverted. View only if you like Solondz’ work.

Pallbearer, The (1996, USA) C-98m. **½ D: Matt Reeves. Starring David Schwimmer, Gwyneth Paltrow, Barbara Hershey, Michael Rapaport, Toni Collette, Carol Kane. Self-conscious single Schwimmer, who still lives with his mother, is asked to be pallbearer at a long-forgotten friend’s funeral. He is soon torn between the dead pal’s sexy mother (Hershey) and a girl he was unhappily in love with in high school (Paltrow). Comedy-drama casts Friends star Schwimmer and gorgeous Paltrow in the lead roles, but script makes no points at all and unfortunately remains superficially romantic. Schwimmer’s dumb look is simply annoying after a while.

Palmetto (1998, USA/GER) C-114m. Scope *** D: Volker Schlöndorff. Starring Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Shue, Gina Gershon, Rolf Hoppe, Michael Rapaport, Chloë Sevigny, Tom Wright. Atmospheric noir-like thriller, adapted from James Hadley Chase’s novel Just Another Sucker. Harrelson plays an ex-journalist who has just been released from prison. He meets ‘femme fatale’ Shue, who persuades him to ‘kidnap’ her stepdaughter, so she can cash in $500,000 from her old and sick husband Hoppe. Unpredict-able complications ensue, which are best not revealed here. Outstanding cinematography (by Thomas Kloss) recreates the 40s noir atmosphere, although the film is set in the 1990s. Thriller maintains suspense despite a few inconsistencies in the plot. The intimate scenes involving Shue and Harrelson are pretty steamy. Gershon, playing Harrelson’s girlfriend, is given very little to do.

Palookaville (1996, USA) C-92m. **½ D: Alan Taylor. Starring William Forsythe, Vincent Gallo, Adam Trese, Frances McDormand, Robert LuPone, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Kim Dickens, Bridgit Ryan, Douglas Seale. Three unemployed friends decide to turn to a world of crime but seem to be too idiotic to complete any job. Slight but likable comedy that is too self-conscious and unfocused for a better rating.

Panda Kopanda (1972/73, JAP) C-71m. *** D: Isao Takahata. Starring (the voices of) Kazuko Sugiyama, Kazuo Kumakura, Yoshiko Ohta, Yasuo Yamada. Compilation of two cute animated shorts marks another collaboration of Hayao Miyazaki (writer) and Isao Takahata (director) after their work for the LUPIN III TV series. The first of the two shorts introduces a little girl whose grandmother goes away for a few days, leaving her alone in the house. She is visited by a Panda bear baby and his father, who turn out to be fugitives from a zoo. Intended for small children, who will find this very cute and funny. The second short, released in 1973 and titled PANDA KOPANDA AMEFURI SAKASU NO MAKI, continues the girl’s adventures with the Panda bears and is superior to the first, as Miyazaki’s creative genius is given full reign. Our protagonists are joined by a tiger baby from a circus and are surprised by a monstrous flood. Yoshifumi Kondo (MIMI WO SUMASEBA) was among the crew. English titles: PANDA! GO PANDA!, and PANDA, LITTLE PANDA.

Pane e Cioccolata (1973, ITA) C-115m. *** D: Franco Brusati. Starring Nino Manfredi, Anna Karina, Johnny Durelli, Paolo Turco, Max Delys. Bittersweet comedy about bumbling Italian Manfredi who goes to Switzerland to find a job but has to realize that he is not accepted there. Well-acted, funny, but also dramatically uneven. Photographed by Luciano Tovoli (SUSPIRIA). Titled BREAD AND CHOCOLATE and cut to 107m. for film’s U.S. release in 1978.

Panic Room (2002, USA) C-112m. Scope *** D: David Fincher. Starring Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto, Patrick Bauchau. Recently divorced Foster moves into a new apartment with her daughter. It has a so-called Panic Room, which is supposed to protect them from burglars, muggers and the like. Needless to say, things go wrong in the first night already. Thriller is overly simplistic at the beginning but beautifully mounted by screenwriter David Koepp. Well-directed, well-scored by Howard Shore. Cinematographer Darius Khondji was replaced by Conrad W. Hall (Conrad Hall’s son). Nevertheless, movie marks a continuation of director Fincher’s dark visual style. That’s Nicole Kidman’s voice on the phone as Bauchau’s lover.

Paper Moon (1973, USA) 102m. **** D: Peter Bogdanovich. Starring Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, Madeleine Kahn, John Hillerman, Randy Quaid. Brilliantly entertaining road-movie drama about small-time crook O’Neal who travels the country with a wise-cracking little girl (Tatum O’Neal), who may be his daughter (and is in real life!). Together they live through unforgettable vignettes as slowly a deep friendship develops between them. One of the best modern comedy-dramas. Plot apparently lifted from a German comedy of 1955, which starred Heinz Rühmann.

Papillon (1973, USA) C-150m. Scope **½ D: Franklin J. Schaffner. Starring Steve McQueen, Dustion Hoffman, Victor Jory, Don Gordon, Anthony Zerbe, Robert Deman, Woodrow Parfrey, Bill Mumy, Richard Farnsworth. Prison drama based on the autobiography of Henri Charrière about McQueen, a ‘pimp killer’ who gets sent to infamous prison on an island off the coast of French Guyana, where no one can escape. Slowly paced, anti-climactic throughout, but McQueen’s performance is impressive, as is Hoffman’s as his friend. Good location work. Fine Jerry Goldsmith score was Oscar-nominated. DVD contains an interesting making-of documentary entitled THE MAGNIFICENT REBEL with Charrière on the set explaining things (only months before his death of throat cancer).

Papillon, Le (2002, FRA) C-85m. *** D: Philippe Muyl. Starring Michel Serrault, Claire Bouanich, Nade Dieu, Francoise Michaud, Hélène Hily. Lonely butterfly collector Serrault makes the acquaintance of a neglected little girl, 8-year-old Bouanich. When her mother fails to show up one evening, the old man takes her with him on a trip to the mountains, where he hopes to catch a rare butterfly. Soft-spoken drama is not perfect but doesn’t need to be. With a story and actors like this you can’t go wrong. English title: THE BUTTERFLY.

Paranoia (1970, ITA/SPA) C-92m. ** D: Umberto Lenzi. Starring Carroll Baker, Jean Sorel, Luis Dávila, Alberto Dalbés, Marina Coffa, Anna Proclemer, Hugo Blanco, Calisto Calisti. Racing car driver Baker must retire after an accident. Upon her release from rehabilitation, she is invited by her ex-husband Sorel to his exclusive villa. Soon it becomes clear that his new wife Proclemer would rather see him dead… but that’s not the end of the story. Typically convoluted thriller, watchable, but poorly acted (especially by Sorel), rather poorly paced. Easy-listening score by Gregorio García Segura, (conducted by Piero Umiliani) provides period flavor. Reportedly, Joe D’Amato was camera operator. Don’t mix this up with Lenzi’s ORGASMO (1969), which was known as PARANOIA in some countries and also starred Baker. Also known as A QUIET PLACE TO KILL, and A BEAUTIFUL PLACE TO KILL.

Paranoiac (1963, GBR) B&W-80m. Scope **½ D: Freddie Francis. Starring Janette Scott, Oliver Reed, Sheila Burrell, Maurice Denham, Alexander Devion. Minor Hammer chiller about Reed’s troubled family, who can’t deal with sudden arrival of son Devion, who was thought to be dead for years. Is Devion telling the truth or is Reed trying to drive his sister to insanity? Rather bland thriller picks up toward the finale, with some solid acting and Francis’ interesting visual style.

Par de Zapatos del ‘32, Un (1974, SPA/ITA) C-86m. **½ D: Rafael Romero Marchent. Starring Ray Millland, Sylva Koscina, Remiro Oliveros, Franco Giacobini, Charly Bravo, María Silva, Eduardo Calvo. Interesting giallo-like thriller set in France: Milland plays doctor at a boarding school for boys, who has hired an assassin to kill someone. When the killer does this by blowing up an entire plane, killing 140 innocent people, Milland clubs him to death. However, one of the boys, we don’t know who, witnessed this killing. How can Milland find out who was the witness? Remains interesting, if not too credible or compelling. Good score by Stelvio Cipriani. Italian title: QUALCUNA L’HA VISTO UCCIDERE (SOMEONE SAW HIM KILL). English titles: WITNESS TO MURDER, THE STUDENT CONNECTION.

Parker (1984, GBR) C-97m. **½ D: Jim Goddard. Starring Bryan Brown, Cherie Lunghi, Kurt Raab, Elizabeth Spriggs, Bob Peck, Uwe Ochsenknecht, Dana Gillespie, Ingrid Pitt, Tom Wilkinson, Hannelore Elsner. Unusually structured thriller about businessman Brown, who has spent eleven days in the power of kidnappers and returns to his every-day life without a clue. Who abducted him and why? Brown’s performance remains too cold to make this work, but worth a look. Bogs down in last third, though. Partly set (and shot) in Germany. Also known as BONES.

Paroxismus (1969, GBR/ITA/GER) C-86m. **½ D: Jess Franco. Starring James Darren, Barbara McNair, Maria Rohm, Klaus Kinski, Dennis Price, Margaret Lee, Adolfo Lastretti, Paul Muller, Manfred Mann, Jess Franco. Jazz musician Darren finds dead Rohm washed ashore on a Turkish beach, then inexplicably meets her in a bar in Rio. It turns out that she fell victim to an orgy with Kinski, Price and Lee… or did she? Has she only come back for revenge? One of Franco’s best loved films has several things going for it: the dreamlike story, convincing performances, and most of all, Manfred Mann’s easy-listening score. It does grow tiresome after a while, but twist ending compensates. A time capsule, and a must for Franco followers. Also known as VENUS IN FURS, but not to be confused with another, same-titled 1969 release LE MALIZIE DI VENERE.

Partie de Campagne, Une (1936/46, FRA) B&W-40m. n/r D: Jean Renoir. Starring Sylvia Bataille, Georges D’Arnoux, Jeanne (Jane) Marken, André Gabriello, Jacques Borel (=Jacques B. Brunius), Jean Renoir. Renoir’s famous ode to nature follows city people to the country, where they want to enjoy themselves and relax. The men go fishing, and the women let themselves be wooed by the locals. Interesting clash of lifestyles, superbly scored by Joseph Kosma, photographed by Claude Renoir. Edited in Renoir’s absence, released ten years after it was originally shot. Among Renoir’s assistants: Jacques Becker, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Yves Allégret, and Luchino Visconti! English title: A DAY IN THE COUNTRY.

Partie de Plaisir, Une (1974, FRA/ITA) C-101m. *** D: Claude Chabrol. Starring Paul Gégauff, Danièle Gégauff, Clemence Gégauff, Paula Moore, Michel Valetta. Fine Chabrol drama about relationship between Paul and Marie Gégauff (both married in real life at that time), which is marred when he confesses that he has had several affairs and suggests she do the same. Realistic, unpretentious film was written by Gégauff himself. In real life he suffered a terrible fate; he was murdered by his second wife in 1983. English title: PIECE OF PLEASURE.

Party, The (1968, USA) C-99m. Scope *** D: Blake Edwards. Starring Peter Sellers, Claudine Longet, Buddy Lester, Gavin MacLeod. After two successful PINK PANTHER comedies, director Edwards reteamed with his star Peter Sellers and delivered this priceless comedy. A bumbling Indian extra is mistakenly invited to a bombastic party at a film producer’s villa and wreaks unintentional havoc there. As much a time capsule as it is a Sellers one-man-show. None other than him could have made this work. Score by Henry Mancini, photographed by Lucien Ballard.

Passage to India, A (1984, GBR) C-163m. *** D: David Lean. Starring Judy Davis, Victor Banerjee, Peggy Ashcroft, James Fox, Alec Guiness, Nigel Havers, Richard Wilson, Antonia Pemberton, Michael Culver. Lengthy but worthwhile adaptation of E.M. Forster's masterful novel about young British woman (Davis) who travels to India to be engaged to a British magistrate, and meets geniality in a Muslim doctor (Banerjee). Fine performances carry film to an abrupt conclusion; Forster's original ending was dropped. Director Lean's final film (BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO).

Passenger de la Pluie, Le (1969, FRA/ITA) C-117m. ***½ D: René Clément. Starring Charles Bronson, Marlène Jobert, Jill Ireland, Annie Cordy. On a rainy day a stranger arrives in a French seaside town. Jobert, whose husband is away, is raped by the man and subsequently kills him, disposing of his body in the sea without telling the police. The next day another stranger (Bronson) arrives and begins questioning her about what happened that night, but Jobert, suffering from a childhood trauma, refuses to tell the truth. Deliberately paced psycho drama, with excellent mise-en-scène and score (by Francis Lai). Fascinating, if not for all tastes. Script by Sébastien Japrisot, based on his novel. English title: RIDER ON THE RAIN. 

Passi di Morte Perduti nel Buio (1977, ITA/GRE) C-91m. *** D: Maurizio Pradeaux. Starring Leonard Mann, Robert Webber, Vera Krouska, Nino Maimone, Barbara Seidel. On the Istanbul-Athens express a woman is murdered when the train passes through a tunnel. The people in her compartment are the suspects, including photographer Mann, who owns the murder weapon. Together with his silly girlfriend he tries to convince inspector Webber (based in Athens) that he didn’t do it. Giallo mystery is well-plotted, stylishly made and even has a sense of humor. A late-bloomer for the genre, with a fine score by Riz Ortolani. English title: DEATH STEPS IN THE DARK.

Password: Uccidete Agente Gordon (1966, ITA/SPA) C-93m. Scope D: Terence Hathaway (=Sergio Grieco). Starring Roger Browne, Helga Liné, Miguel de la Riva, Franco Ressel, Rosalba Neri, Andrea Scotti, Angel Menéndez, Umberto Raho. James Bond clone about agent Gordon (Browne) who is assigned to stop smuggling syndicate run by Ressel. Tame, with lots of poorly staged fist fights, nowhere near the Connery originals. Only passable things are Piero Umiliani’s score and Neri’s see-through underwear. Strictly for fans. English title: PASSWORD: KILL AGENT GORDON.

Past Midnight (1992, USA) C-100m. ** D: Jan Eliasberg. Starring Rutger Hauer, Natasha Richardson, Clancy Brown, Guy Boyd, Ernie Lively, Tom Wright. Mediocre thriller about social worker Richardson’s romantic involvement with ex-con Hauer, who may or may not have killed his pregnant wife fifteen years ago. Manages to create some suspense, and charismatic Hauer lends credibility, but film is marred in unnecessarily stupid conclusion. First screen credit (associate producer) for Quentin Tarantino.

Patch Adams (1998, USA) C-115m. Scope *** D: Tom Shadyac. Starring Robin Williams, Monica Potter, Daniel London, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bob Gunton, Irma P. Hall, Josef Sommer, Peter Coyote, Michael Jeter, Harve Presnell, Richard Kiley, Harold Gould. Endearing, outright funny drama about the real-life Patch Adams (Williams), who turns himself into psychiatric care and finds he wants to become a doctor, making sick people not only healthy but also happy along the way. He meets resistance in the university's dean (Presnell), but doesn't refrain from trying out his unconventional (and very successful) methods. Williams is once more brilliant and makes you forget about some plot incongruencies and the false (Hollywood) endings. In fact, this spirited film, based on Hunter "Patch" Adams' book Gesundheit: Good Health Is a Laughing Matter, might also have been titled THE WORLD ACCORDING TO PATCH, or DEAD DOCTOR'S SOCIETY, bearing resemblance to Williams' best work of his career.

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973, USA) C-122m. Scope ***½ D: Sam Peckinpah. Starring James Coburn, Kris Kristofferson, Richard Jaeckel, Katy Jurado, Chill Wills, Barry Sullivan, Jason Robards, Bob Dylan, R.G. Armstrong, Luke Askew, John Beck, Richard Bright, Matt Clark, Rita Coolidge, Jack Elam, L.Q. Jones, Slim Pickens, Charles Martin Smith, Harry Dean Stanton, Rudy Wurlitzer, Elisha Cook, Jr. Perhaps the ultimate portrayal of the dying Wild West, presented by none other than Sam Peckinpah. Disenchanted Pat Garrett (Coburn), having corrupted his own code of ethics and working as a lawman now, goes after ruthless Billy the Kid (Kristofferson), whose wild world of shoot-outs and killings is crumbling. Film follows Garrett’s increasingly reluctant chase of the gunslinger, whose violent days seem numbered. Mesmerizing, intermittently very violent western drama is top in all compartments. Lush photography by John Coquillon, melancholy score by Bob Dylan, who plays the role of Alias, a hanger-on who doesn’t care which side he is on. Black-and-white frame narrative (which shows Garrett’s death 28 years later) renders film all the more depressing (and fascinating). Exceptional cast, perhaps Coburn and Kristofferson’s finest hours. Beware of 103m. version, which may still be in circulation.

Paths of Glory (1957, USA/GER) 86m. **** D: Stanley Kubrick. Starring Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Richard Anderson, Timothy Carey, Suzanne Christian, Bert Freed, Joseph Turkel. Harrowing, lightning-paced account of the fate of a bataillon during World War One as they fail to accomplish a mission given to them by fanatic general Macready. Excellent cast, ingenious direction in drama that shows how little human life is worth in a war, and that personal fates are disregarded completely. Kubrick adapted Humphrey Cobb’s novel, which was based on a true incident.

Patrick (1978, AUS) C-87m. D: Richard Franklin. Starring Susan Penhaligon, Robert Helpmann, Rod Mullinar, Bruce Barry, Julia Blake. Unspectacular horror thriller about a young man, who kills his mother and her lover (brutally) and subsequently falls into a coma. Nurse Penhaligon discovers that Patrick has psychic powers that he uses to kill. Poorly plotted and directed, a waste of time. Boring in shortened 85m. version, quite possibly unbearable in 96m., 105m. or even 115m. versions that reportedly exist out there. Goblin rescored film for European release, original music was by Brian May. Remade as PATRICK VIVE ANCORA in 1980.

Patrick Vive Ancora (1980, ITA) C-93m. M D: Mario Landi. Starring Sascha Pitoeff, Gianni Dei, Mairangela Giordano, Carmen Russo. Splatter remake of Richard Franklin’s PATRICK (1978) is about a comatose patient at a private clinic, who kills the residents with telekinetic powers. Absolutely dreadful, even horror fans will be bored (although the ultra-gross iron stake scene has to be seen to be believed). Alternative titles: PATRICK STILL LIVES or PATRICK IS STILL ALIVE.

Patriot, The (2000, USA) C-164m. Scope *** D: Roland Emmerich. Starring Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Joely Richardson, Jason Isaacs, Chris Cooper, Tchéky Karyo, Rene Auberjonois, Donal Logue, Adam Baldwin. The American War of Independence, as seen through the eyes of peaceful but patriotic Gibson, who is disowned and swears revenge when one of his sons is killed. Lavishly filmed epic, whose point-of-view is a matter of discussion, but terrific (and violent) battle scenes make film worth watching. A smash-hit in the tradition of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS (1992) or BRAVEHEART (1995). Score by John Williams.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009, USA) C-91m. *** D: Steve Carr. Starring Kevin James, Keir O’Donnell, Jayma Mays, Raini Rodriguez, Shirley Knight, Bobby Cannavale. Funny comedy about overweight mall cop James, who thinks he will never strike a date, although he is in love with shop assistant Mays. Then criminals want to take over the mall and James gets a chance of showing his courage. Relies completely on James‘ comic talent and succeeds. A nice time-filler, with some laugh-out-loud gags. Cowritten and coproduced by James.

Paulie (1998, USA) C-91m. *** D: John Roberts. Starring Gena Rowlands, Tony Shalboub, Cheech Marin, Bruce Davison, Trini Alvarado, Jay Mohr, Buddy Hackett, Matt Craven. Inoffensive, enjoyable family film about speaking parrot Paulie and his odyssey, when is whisked away from his owner, a little girl. He is discovered by a Russian janitor (Shalboub), who then listens to his life story. Amusing comedy from DreamWorks Pictures with good performances and colorful art direction.

Paura in Città (1976, ITA) C-99m. *½ D: Giuseppe Rosati. Starring James Mason, Raymond Pellegrin, Maurizio Merli, Silvia Dionisio, Fausto Tozzi, Cyril Cusack. Trivial, tired actioner about tough cop Merli, who is reinstated to battle crime lord Pellegrin. Merli shows some charisma, but pace is a disaster. It’s anyone’s guess why Mason appeared in garbage like this. Edited by Franco Fraticelli. English titles: HOT STUFF, STREET WAR.

Paura nella Città dei Morti Viventi (1980, ITA) C-89m. **½ D: Lucio Fulci. Starring Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Venantino Venantini, Michele Soavi, Janet Agren, Lucio Fulci. Medium MacColl has visions of a city of zombies and swoons in one of her sessions. She is presumed dead, and buried, but journalist George rescues her from the coffin. Together they investigate the mysterious going-ons in town of Dunwich, where a priest has hung himself and the dead walk the earth. Atmospheric, well-directed horror shocker with many delirious ideas (bleeding glass shards, flying maggots, brain-squashing, guts-spewing zombies) wreaks terror in parts, plods in others. Understandably a cult favorite among horror buffs. Score by Fabio Frizzi is a good imitation of Goblin’s theme for DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978). Also known as CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, FEAR IN THE CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE GATES OF HELL, and TWILIGHT OF THE DEAD.

Payback (1999, USA) C-102m. Scope D: Brian Helgeland. Starring Mel Gibson, Gregg Henry, Maria Bello, David Payner, Bill Duke, Deborah Kara Unger, John Glover, William Devane, Kris Kristofferson, James Coburn. Completely superfluous remake of POINT BLANK, like the 1967 classic based on Richard Stark's novel The Hunter. Film wavers uncomfortably between action and comedy (the latter obviously a commercial must due to Gibson's LETHAL WEAPON image), as crook Gibson is left for dead after a hold-up and tries to get revenge on his partner. The asset of the original was not the story but the stylish, surreal presentation, and Helgeland (screenwriter of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL) fails expectedly.

Paycheck (2003, USA) C-119m. Scope **½ D: John Woo. Starring Ben Affleck, Aaron Eckhart, Uma Thurman, Paul Giamatti, Colm Feore. Science-fiction thriller about special engineer Affleck, who steals corporate secrets from other companies and sells them, always getting a huge paycheck in return for having his memory erased. His latest job goes awry and he finds himself pursued – what happened in the last three years of his life? Some expected Wooish action set-pieces, interesting story (from a short story by Philip K. Dick), but plot never really catches fire (or creates credibility). And what’s with those PSYCHO references? Thurman is wasted in a minor role. Woo also coproduced.

Peace Hotel, The (1995, HGK) C-89m. ** D: Wai Ka-Fai. Starring Chow Yun-Fat, Cecilia Yip, Chin Ho, Lau Shun, Annabelle Liew. Strange eastern-western mix about ex-killer Chow, who runs title establishment, which houses exclusively former gangsters who want to go straight. When a lying, cheating and stealing woman arrives, Chow must decide if he wants to protect her from the hordes that want to lynch her. Well-produced (by John Woo) and quite well-made but action scenes are rare and Chow’s story is hardly interesting or at least too slowly paced.

Peacemaker, The (1997, USA) C-124m. Scope ** D: Mimi Leder. Starring George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Marcel Jures, Alexander Baluev, René Medvesek, Gary Werntz, Armin Müller-Stahl. Action thriller about two U.S. special agents (Clooney and Kidman) who have to retrieve stolen atom bombs, which might be on their way to the Iran. Film is obviously a commercial enterprise (some eight or nine producers are credited!), its quick pace can hardly offset the illogical and completely incredible plot. Car chase sequence in Vienna is the only good sequence. Produced by Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks studios.

Pearl Harbor (2001, USA) C-184m. Scope *** D: Michael Bay. Starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jon Voight, Alec Baldwin, Tom Sizemore, William Lee Scott, Jennifer Garner, Dan Aykroyd, Mako, Tom Everett, John Diehl, Matt Damon. Big-budget blockbuster from the team that brought you ARMAGEDDON (1998). Film recounts cute love triangle, which is given a spin by ravaging WW2 and the surprising, devastating attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Typical war movie script portrays the effects of war on a personal basis and offsets this by furious bomber attack sequences. Despite some glorification of war heroism, film scores on the emotional level, and is extremely well-photographed. Hartnett does not fit in 1940s context, but period flavor isn’t film’s main asset. Good score by Hans Zimmer.

Peau d’Âne (1970, FRA) C-90m. *** D: Jacques Demy. Starring Catherine Deneuve, Jean Marais, Jacques Perrin, Micheline Presle, Delphine Seyrig, Fernand Ledoux, Henri Crémieux, Sacha Pitoeff, Coluche, Rufus, narrated by Jean Servais. A fairy tale, Jacques Demy style. When her mother dies and her father, the King, might just choose her as his second wife, princess Deneuve flees from his kingdom and becomes Donkey Skin, using a donkey costume to keep anyone from discovering her. Her life is lonely, however. Outstanding color cinematography (by Ghislain Cloquet) makes this very interesting, though story tends to be too low key. Extensive use of songs, fine score by Michel Legrand. English titles: DONKEY SKIN, MAGIC DONKEY, and ONCE UPON A TIME.

Peau d’Espion (1967, FRA/GER/ITA) C-84m. ** D: Eduard Molinaro. Starring Louis Jourdan, Senta Berger, Edmond O’Brien, Maurice Garrel, Bernard Blier, Anna Gael, Paul Muller. Berger’s attraction to independent novelist Jourdan leads to his involvement with her husband, a newspaper editor, who wants to take the man to Heidelberg with a scientist. The characters’ intentions remain a mystery for a long time in this drama about espionage, but that’s also what keeps you watching in a way. After an hour film runs out of steam. Based on the novel by Jacques Robert. English title: TO COMMIT A MURDER.

Pecker (1998, USA) C-86m. **½ D: John Waters. Starring Edward Furlong, Christina Ricci, Martha Plimpton, Lili Taylor, Bess Armstrong, Mark Joy, Mary Kay Place, Brendan Sexton III, Mink Stole. Amusing - if slight - satire by 'bad-taste' icon John Waters, with Furlong playing a young photographer who shoots photos of everyone living in the neighborhood of his suburban home in Baltimore. One day he is discovered by gallery owner Taylor and he becomes a star. However, this changes his and his friends' and family's life more for the worse than for the better. Wonderful assortment of characters can't camouflage aimless plot, which peters out without a satisfying resolution.

Peeping Tom (1960, GBR) C-101m. *** D: Michael Powell. Starring Carl Boehm (=Karlheinz Böhm), Moira Shearer, Anna Massey, Maxine Audley, Brenda Bruce, Martin Miller. Unsettling psycho drama about disturbed photographer Boehm, who murders young women and films them at the moment of death. Score, art direction are first-rate, and Boehm is almost too good as psychopath suffering from a childhood trauma. A scandal when originally released, film is less potent today but obviously still too gruesome for German TV stations, who show the film in a cut version(!).  

Peking Opera Blues (1986, HGK) C-105m. Scope *** D: Tsui Hark. Starring Lin Ching-Hsia, Sally Yeh, Chrie Chung, Mark Cheng, Po-Chih Leong, Wu Ma. Well-produced action comedy from one of Hong Kong's most prolific filmmakers. A group of revolutionary guerillas attempt to steal a valuable document and become entangled in street fights, comic situations and romance. Well-made historical eastern is very entertaining, if not terribly plot-wise. Martial arts sequences directed by Ching Siu-Tung, director of the SWORDSMAN series.

Pelle Svanslös (1981, SWE) C-81m. *** D: Stig Lasseby, Jan Gissberg. Simple but cute animated feature about tailless cat Pelle, who goes to the big city where he is scorned and has to earn his respect. This true-to-life cartoon is so funny, adults will like it as much as kids.

Pelts (2006, USA) C-58m. n/r D: Dario Argento. Starring Meat Loaf Aday, Ellen Ewusie, Link Baker, Emilio Salituro, John Saxon. Second of Argento’s episodes for TV’s Masters of Horror (2005) series about a fur-maker (Meat Loaf), who learns of quite exceptional raccoon furs and plans to prepare and sell them. However, the creatures have a way of getting their revenge on everyone that comes in contact with the pelts. Meat Loaf brings conviction to his role but plot is only so-so. Ewusie’s flawless physique and Attila Vaski’s really gruesome effects attract attention, though look in vain for an Argento trademark other than the gore. Claudio Simonetti (Goblin) was inspired by older Argento movies for his rather odd score. Veteran actor Saxon had worked with Argento on the 1982 TENEBRE.

Pembalasan Si Pitung (1977, INES) C-95m. D: Nawi Ismail. Starring Dicky Zulkarnaen, Sandi Suwardi Hasan, A. Hamid Arief, Rina Hasyim, Grace Simon, Billy Chong. Indonesian war movie, with their hatred for the Dutch more than evident. Plot vaguely centers around commando, who are battling the Dutch. Nothing worth your time. Third in a series of films made by the director. English translation of title is REVENGE OF PITUNG (an Indonesian hero/legend). International title: TIGER COMMANDO.

Pen Choo Kab Pee (2006, THA) C-94m. ** D: Wisit Sasanatieng. Starring Suporntip Chuangrangsri, Tassawan Seneewongse, Siraphan Wattanajinda. Quite typical Thai ghost story about a pregnant woman who seeks refuge at a widow‘s house. There are stories of ghosts which live in and around the lady’s estate. Stylish settings, but almost no thrills or scares. And I guessed the ending much too early. English title: THE UNSEEABLE.

Penitentiary (1979, USA) C-99m. ** D: Jamaa Fanaka. Starring Gloria Delaney, Badja Djola, Leon Isaac Kennedy, Chuck Mitchell. Rough prison thriller (a classic for some) about Kennedy who unjustly goes to prison, where he acquires respect by winning boxing bouts. Some tense sequences may make it worthwhile for prison fanatics, but plot is trivial. Followed by two sequels.

Penitentiary II (1982, USA) C-108m. D: Jamaa Fanaka. Starring Leon Isaac Kennedy, Ernie Hudson, Gerald Berns, Mr. T, Dennis Lipscomb. Sequel to PENITENTIARY has Kennedy return to the ring, when former nemesis Hudson brutally rapes and kills his girlfriend. Some intense scenes (especially the one after the murder), but film lacks the authenticity of the first and treads a much too familiar path. Followed by PENITENTIARY III in 1987.

Pentito, Il (1985, ITA) C-119m. **½ D: Pasquale Squitieri. Starring Franco Nero, Tony Musante, Erik Estrada, Max von Sydow, Rita Rusic (=Cecchi Gori), Ivo Garrani, Claudine Auger, Rik Battaglia, Venantino Venantini. Another one of director Squitieri’s mafia dramas (one wonders why they never knocked him off). Quite unexceptional, earnest film that is based on the real-life judge Falcone, who battled the Cosa Nostra, with Nero playing the title character. Despite the performances and Ennio Morricone’s unsettling score, the two hours can be difficult to sit through. English title: THE REPENTER.

People Under the Stairs, The (1991, USA) C-102m. *** D: Wes Craven. Starring Brandon Quintin Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie, A.J. Langer, Ving Rhames, Sean Whalen, Bill Cobbs. Original, ambitious movie is a fairy-tale disguised as a horror film with a social conscience. On his 13th birthday, a little ghetto boy (Adams) is persuaded to break into the house of a rich couple (McGill and Robie). Once inside there seems to be no escape, as the two landlords turn out to be crazy maniacs who keep zombie-like ‘people under the stairs’. Unusual horror movie is exhilarating, edge-of-your-seat entertainment for over an hour but then undermined by a stupid twist which makes it overly bizarre and incredible. Writer-director Craven delivers great shocks and adds a twisted sense of humor; this could have been his best film. McGill and Robie deliver performances of a lifetime. The booby-trapped house, brimming with gadgets and secret passages between the walls is the archetypal sinister (or haunted) house. Recommended to fans.

People Vs. Larry Flynt, The (1996, USA) C-129m. Scope *** D: Milos Forman. Starring Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, Edward Norton, Brett Harrelson, Donny Hanover, James Cromwell, Crispin Glover, Vincent Schiavelli, Oliver Reed. Screen bio of a very American "hero", Hustler editor Larry Flynt. His fight for freedom of speech and his unconventional, rebellious behavior towards the authorities gives him enough public attention to sell more and more copies of his magazine. Dramatic treatment of his public and private life makes this a fine film, though it's much more compelling to U.S. Americans than other audiences. Good performances all around.

Perdita Durango (1997, MEX/SPA/USA) C-124m. Scope D: Alex de la Iglesia. Starring Rosie Perez, Javier Bardem, Harley Cross, Aimee Graham, James Gandolfini, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Harry Porter, Don Stroud, Alex Cox. Gratuitious road movie about two violent individuals touring through California and Mexico, kidnapping two teenagers on the way and torturing them to near madness. Poor characterization in an attempted epic that remains without a point and tortures its audience with unrelenting grimness. Some good scenes can't save this incoherent movie. Fine score by Simon Boswell seems to belong to a much better movie. Based on the novel 59 Degrees and Raining: The Story of Perdita Durango by Barry Gifford. Original version runs 136m.

Perfect Friday (1970, GBR) C-94m. *** D: Peter Hall. Starring Ursula Andress, Stanley Baker, David Warner, Patience Collier, T.P. McKenna. Diverting caper about conservative bank manager Baker, who teams up with beautiful Andress and her husband, count Warner in plotting to steal money from the safe on a ‘Perfect Friday’. Interesting narrative structure, direction in film that is a bit too talky but ultimately worthwhile. Central heist idea used later in Richard Brooks’ $ (1971).

Perfect Man, The (2005, USA) C-100m. ** D: Mark Rosman. Starring Hilary Duff, Heather Locklear, Chris Noth, Mike O’Malley, Ben Feldman, Vanessa Lengies. Teenager Duff, frustrated by her single mom’s boyfriend choices, dreams up the perfect man and initiates a romance, using unknowing Noth’s ideas about how to treat her. Guess how this is gonna end. Rather weak, predictable romantic comedy.

Perfect Murder, A (1998, USA) C-108m. **½ D: Andrew Davis. Starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortensen, David Suchet, Sarita Choudhury, Michael P. Moran. Stockbroker Douglas learns that his wife Paltrow is cheating on him, so he hires her lover (!), a man with a shady past it turns out, to kill her. Needless to say, the perfectly planned crime goes awry. Variation on Hitchcock’s DIAL M FOR MURDER is nice to look at, and Douglas’ character has some great lines, but overall it’s too predictable to really thrill its audience. An okay view, if nothing better is on TV.

Perfect Storm, The (2000, USA) C-129m. Scope **½ D: Wolfgang Petersen. Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Diane Lane, Karen Allen, William Fichtner, Bob Gunton, John C. Reilly, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Allen Payne, John Hawkes, Christopher McDonald, Michael Ironside, Cherry Jones, Rusty Schwimmer. Big but disappointing action drama takes fisherman Clooney and his crew out to sea for a last time before the end of the season. Just then, quite unexpectedly, a major storm is brewing. Will it take their lives? Longish, rather uninteresting introduction is redeemed by some exciting (albeit computer-animated) action footage. Overall, this movie has little dramatic impact. Based on a real-life incident documented in a book by Sebastian Junger. Score by James Horner.

Perfect Stranger (2007, USA) C-109m. Scope ** D: James Foley. Starring Halle Berry, Bruce Willis, Giovanni Ribisi, Richard Portnow, Gary Dourdan, Florencia Lozano, Patti D’Arbanville, Heidi Klum. Cardboard thriller about ad exec Willis, who may have killed Berry’s old childhood friend and got away. She sneaks into his firm, intending to find out the truth, and gets closer to the guy than she may have wished. Performances are okay, it’s the characters that are clichéd. Three different endings were filmed.

Performance (1970, GBR) C-105m. *** D: Donald Cammell, Nicolas Roeg. Starring James Fox, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg, Michele Breton, Ann Sidney, John Burdon. Cult film, an artful exploration of the drives of a generation, starring Fox as a cold-blooded criminal who is at odds with his boss and moves into the flat of Jagger, Pallenberg and Breton. Soon the man is drawn into their psychedelic world. Plot is not important in this often bizarre drama that is fascinating to watch. Fox outdoes his costar in coolness. Script by Cammell, cinematography by Roeg. The direction of both is appropriately impressionistic.

Peril en la Demeure (1985, FRA) C-101m. *** D: Michel Deville. Starring Christophe Malavoy, Nicole Garcia, Michel Piccoli, Richard Bohringer, Anémone, Anaïs Jeanneret, Jean-Claude Jay. Subtle, well-directed drama about guitar teacher Malavoy, who accepts to teach the daughter of Garcia and Piccoli. The woman soon entices him and they have an affair. Will Piccoli find out? And what does professional killer Bohringer have to do with him? Fine score by Brahms, Schubert and Enrique Granados carries this to a satisfying conclusion. Written by the director. English title: PERIL

Perros Callejeros (1976, SPA) C-105m. **½ D: José Antonio de la Loma. Starring Victor Petit, Frank Brana, Xabier Elorriaga, Angel Fernández Franco. Tough drama about adolescent Franco, whose ‘career’ is crime is followed in semi-documentary fashion. He spends some time in a reform school but breaks out and resumes his criminal ways. Rather trivial but fast-paced, with a jarring finale. Reportedly, many of the actors were real-life delinquents. Followed by a sequel in 1983. English title: STREET WARRIORS.

Perry Grant, Agente di Ferro (1966, ITA) C-86m. Scope ** D: Lewis King (=Luigi Capuano). Starring Peter Holden, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Marilù Tolo, Seyna Seyn, Umberto D’Orsi, Franco Balducci, Geoffrey Coplestone. Typically talky Italian spy movie, a far cry from James Bond: Agent Holden investigates evildoers’ plans to cause a blackout in New York City and the rest of the world. Too little action in this C-movie. Nice 60s score, though. English title: THE BIG BLACKOUT.

Persecution (1974, GBR) C-91m. *½ D: Don Chaffey. Starring Lana Turner, Trevor Howard, Ralph Bates, Olga Georges-Picot, Suzan Farmer. Quite bizarre but off-putting horror about Bates’ weird relationship to his mother Turner, whose pet cat he killed when he was a child. It seems Turner has bought pet cats again and again – all named Sheba – and the latest feline seems to be very hostile. Tired, boring attempt at suspense, only the aging stars maintain a feeble interest. From the director of ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966). Alternatively known as SHEBA, THE TERROR OF SHEBA, THE GRAVEYARD.

Persona (1966, SWE) 85m. ***½ D: Ingmar Bergman. Starring Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Margaretha Krook, Gunnar Björnstrand. Demanding psycho drama by one of cinema’s most important auteurs. Actress Ullmann refuses to speak and is hospitalized. Film follows nurse Andersson’s attempt to approach her, break her silence. Difficult to watch but masterfully directed and photographed (by Sven Nykvist). Excellent, bizarre score by Lars Johan Werle.

Per Un Pugno di Dollari (1964, ITA/SPA/GER) C-100m. Scope *** D: Sergio Leone. Starring Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volonté, Marianne Koch, Wolfgang Lukschy, José Calvo, Sieghardt Rupp. Eastwood, in his star-making performance, plays a gunslinger, who comes to a small town, where two families are at odds with another. He manipulates them and plays tricks on them, hoping that he will leave the town a rich man. Rather weak plotwise, which shows most in first half of the picture but Leone’s stylish approach and Ennio Morricone’s exceptional score make this an exciting spaghetti western, the first of its kind. Based on Akira Kurosawa’s YOJIMBO. English title: A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. Followed by PER QUALCHE DOLLARO IN PIU (FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE).

Per Qualche Dollaro in Piu (1965, ITA/SPA/GER) C-130m. Scope ***½ D: Sergio Leone. Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef, Gian Maria Volonté, Mario Brega, Klaus Kinski, Josef Egger, Mara Krup, Rosemarie Dexter, Luigi Pistilli. Sequel to the above is a triumph of style, pitting ‘the man with no name’ Eastwood and sinister van Cleef against outlaw Volonté, who is planning to steal money from the El Paso bank. Plot is overwhelmed by stylish, almost melancholy mise-en-scene. Ennio Morricone’s score is brilliant, one of his best. Flashback sequences are especially stunning. Climactic duelling prefigures legendary ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST-showdown. Volonté is superb as the villain, who has more on his mind than just robbing banks. Second in director Leone’s ‘dollar trilogy’, followed by IL BUONO, IL BRUTTO, IL CATTIVO (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY).

Peter Pan (1953, USA) C-76m. ***½ D: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske. Starring the voices of Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried, Bill Thompson, Heather Angel, narrated by Tom Conway. Endearing Disney feature about the boy who never grows up and his involvement with girl Wendy, who learns a great deal about growing up and helps him fight the evil Captain Hook. Marvelous animation makes this a classic, although some of the slapstick action is a little too comic-bookish. The second film version of the J.M. Barrie classic, filmed many more times since.

Peter Pan: Return to Never Land (2002, USA/CDN/AUS) C-72m. ** D: Robin Budd, Donovan Cook. Starring (the voices of) Harriet Owen, Blayne Weaver, Corey Burton, Jeff Bennett. Sequel to the charming Disney classic can’t hold a candle to the original. Wendy’s daughter is whisked away to Peter Pan’s island, where she must help him do battle with Captain Hook. All the (beloved) characters are there, drawn like in the original, but story lacks charm and is just so ordinary. Fans of the original PETER PAN (1953) should reject this.

Peter Pan (2003, USA/AUS) C-113m. Scope ** D: P.J. Hogan. Starring Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Sumpter, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Lynn Redgrave, Richard Briers, Olivia Williams, Ludivine Sagnier, Bruce Spence, narrated by Saffron Burrows. Needlessly updated version of the children’s tale by J.M. Barrie, about the boy who never grows up and his “normal” girlfriend Wendy, who battle the evil Captain Hook in Never-Never Land. There is hardly any charm in this effects-ridden kids’ movie, where the kids seem to have lost their innocence already. But maybe this is what the new generation of children is looking for. Older viewers should prefer the 1953 Disney version or the numerous adaptations for TV.

Pete's Dragon (1977, USA) C-128m. **½ D: Don Chaffey. Starring Helen Reddy, Jim Dale, Mickey Rooney, Red Buttons, Shelley Winters, Sean Marshall, Jane Kean, Jim Backus, Jeff Conaway, Charlie Callas (voice of Elliott). Amusing Disney musical in the tradition of MARY POPPINS and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, although not as plot-wise and not as magical. A little boy escapes from his foster family thanks to a temporarily invisible (animated) dragon called Elliott. In a nearby town he meets some new friends and enjoys himself, until the family comes there to look for him. Overlong, but filled with nice songs and funny vignettes with the amiable dragon, this cartoon should please kids, if no one else. Originally released at 134m., and later reissued in shorter versions.

Petit Baigneur, Le (1968, FRA/ITA) C-97m. SCOPE *** D: Robert Dhéry. Starring Louis de Funès, Andréa Parisy, Franco Fabrizi, Michèle Alexandre, Nicole Vervil, Michel Galabru, Robert Dhéry, Pierre Tchernia. Typically funny Louis de Funès comedy, where he plays a cholerical businessman, who fires an employee in a fit of rage and then learns that he needs him back to produce award-winning sailing boat ‘The Little Bather’. So he follows him to his rural home and causes all kinds of hilarious situations. Some unbelievable gags, this one rivals Jacques Tati at times. Love the tractor scene. Written by Jean Carmet, Michel Modo, Pierre Tchernia, director Dhéry and two others. Photographed by Jean Tournier. Also known as THE LITTLE BATHER, and THE MAD ADVENTURES OF THE BOUNCING BEAUTY.

Petit Monde de Don Camillo, Le (1952, FRA/ITA) 108m. **½ D: Julien Duvivier. Starring Fernandel, Gino Cervi, Sylvie. Popular comedy about the feud between priest Don Camillo (Fernandel) and Communist mayor Peppone (Cervi). Film is pretty slim plotwise but palatable thanks to some likeable star performances. Its success led to four sequels. Based on a novel by Giovanni Guareschi. English title: THE LITTLE WORLD OF DON CAMILLO.  

Pet Sematary (1989, USA) C-103m. M D: Mary Lambert. Starring Dale Midkiff, Fred Gwynne, Denise Crosby, Brad Greenquist. Stephen King. Doctor Midkiff and his family move into their new home and learn of a strange graveyard for pets nearby. When their pet cat dies, neighbor Gwynne shows Midkiff how to resurrect the feline… will this work for humans too? Cruel horror film scripted by Stephen King (from his own novel) loses credibility early on and becomes stupid and offensive. Midkiff turns in a Razzie-award-caliber performance. Especially parents should stay away from this one. Still, it was followed by a sequel in 1992.

Pettson och Findus 3: Tomtemaskinen (2005, SWE/DAN/GER) C-79m. *** D: Jorgen Lerdam, Anders Sörensen. Starring (the voices of) Tord Peterson, Lukas Karlsson, Gunnar Uddén. Charming animated feature, the third in the Petterson (Pettson) and Findus series, which in turn was based on a book by Sven Nordqvist (which also inspired a TV series). This one has festive flavor as the old eremite and his talking cat prepare for Christmas. Findus wants to see Santa Claus, so Pett(er)son decides to invent a Santa machine. Sub-standard animation is completely outdone by movie’s old-fashioned charm. German title: MORGEN, FINDUS, WIRD’S WAS GEBEN.

Pettson och Findus 4: Glömligheter (2009, SWE) C-70m. **½ D: Jorgen Lerdam, Anders Sorensen. Starring (the voices of) Tord Peterson, Lukas Karlsson. Another compilation of television episodes that made it to the big screen (somehow) about the unmistakable Pettson (aka Petterson), who lives a lonely existence in rural Sweden with his speaking cat Findus. Here, there is no coherent story but several TV episodes back-to-back, among them Findus waking up to be as big as his master and vice versa, a rock bank planning to make a circus, and Pettson being struck by lightning and suddenly forgetting who he is. For fans and little children. Also known as KUDDELMUDDEL BEI PETTERSSON UND FINDUS.

Peur Sur la Ville (1975, FRA/ITA) C-120m. *** D: Henri Verneuil. Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Charles Denner, Adalberto-Maria Meril, Lea Massari, Rosy Varte. A serial-killer is roaming the streets of Paris and it’s up to rough cop Belmondo to track him down. Fast-paced action-thriller plays like a cross between SE7EN and SPEED. Released in the U.S. as NIGHT CALLER (at 91m.).

Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998, USA) C-87m. ** D: Don Coscarelli. Starring A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Bill Thornbury, Angus Scrimm, Heidi Leigh. Fourth installment in the series doesn't bother with a plot and uses scenes from the 1979 original to set up Baldwin and Bannister's continuing battle against the "Tall Man" and his army of midget's from hell. Quite well-made sci-fi/horror film mix proves that a self-perpetuating premise is sometimes better than a ludicrous plot. Fans will embrace this sequel, others be warned: this vague, one-dimensional (!) flick may well be considered a waste of time.

Phantoms (1998, USA) C-96m. **½ D: Joe Chappelle. Starring Peter O'Toole, Joanna Going, Rose McGowan, Liev Schreiber, Ben Affleck, Clifton Powell, Nicky Katt. When two sisters find a small town totally deserted - apart from a few terribly looking corpses - hell breaks loose, as an ancient, shape-shifting monster attacks them and a few local sheriffs, who have come for help. Scientist O'Toole may know the answer to the question of its existence. Fast-paced, thrilling and suspenseful horror thriller that bogs down in the second half due to unsatisfying plot development. Still worth a look, especially for horror aficionados. Based on the bestseller by Dean R. Koontz, who also wrote the screenplay.

Phase IV (1973, GBR) C-86m. *** D: Saul Bass. Starring Nigel Davenport, Lynne Frederick, Michael Murphy, Alan Gifford, Helen Horton, Robert Henderson. Two scientists set up a laboratory in an Arizona desert to study the strange behavior of local ants. It turns out these insects are unusually intelligent, but their intentions, as they besiege the camp, remain a mystery. Enigmatic science-fiction film, highlighted by fascinating photography. Title designer Bass’s only film as a director.

Phenomena (1983, ITA) C-110m. *** D: Dario Argento. Starring Jennifer Connelly, Daria Nicolodi, Donald Pleasence, Dalia di Lazzaro, Patrick Bauchau, Fiore Argento, Michele Soavi. Horror thriller about a 14 year-old American girl who comes to live in a school for girls in Switzerland. A mad killer is roaming the country at night, and as sleepwalking Connelly witnesses one of the murders, she soon becomes the prime target. The same night she befriends etymologist Pleasance, a wheelchair-bound professor who studies insects, to which the girl proves to have a telepathic tie! All classic Argento motifs are present: the protagonist witnessing a murder by an elusive, gloved assassin (L'UCELLO DALLE PIUME DI CRISTALLO), PROFONDO ROSSO), a seemingly harmless and yet disquieting setting (SUSPIRIA), lavish, disturbing camera moves. Above-average plot makes this one of the best of Argento's films. Watch out for the climax! Cut down to 82m. for U.S. release (as CREEPERS).

Phone Booth (2002, USA) C-81m. Scope *** D: Joel Schumacher. Starring Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Radha Mitchell, Katie Holmes. Snappy, fast-paced thriller based on a contrivance: Would-be P.R. manager Farrell picks up the phone in a booth on Manhattan and finds himself terrorized by a mysterious stranger, who seems to know a lot about his love affairs and dubious deals. The stranger threatens Farrell to kill him if he hangs up… a psycho-battle begins. Whose nerves will be the first to snap? If you buy into this premise, you will have a good time watching it. Written by Larry Cohen (an expert on B-material like this).

Pi (1998, USA) 84m. **½ D: Darren Aronofsky. Starring Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman, Pamela Hart, Stephen Pearlman, Samia Shoaib, Ajay Naidu. Computer and mathematics genius Gullette is homophobic, paranoid and slowly losing his mind. He works on a universal code that explains the entire universe. When he discovers a formula that can predict the rates at the stock market, he is soon a wanted man. Is there God to be found in the formula? Disturbing, unconventional experimental drama shows style in direction, camerawork and score, but surreal plotline doesn’t take you into the heart of the matter and treats you somewhat as an outsider. Well-worth a look, but not for all tastes.

Pianeta Errante, Il (1965, ITA) C-82m. Scope M D: Anthony M. Dawson (=Antonio Margheriti). Starring Jack Stuart (=Giacomo Rossi-Stuart), Ombretta Colli, Peter Martell. One of those films that gave science-fiction a bad name. Jack Stuart is out to save the Earth from a planet that is speeding towards it. Colorful and naive but cheap, phony effects don’t even qualify it as corny fun. U.S. titles: WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS and PLANET ON THE PROWL. Mario Bava’s TERRORE NELLO SPAZIO, shot the same year, remains the best (Italian) genre film.

Pianist, The (2002, GBR/FRA/GER/POL) C-148m. *** D: Roman Polanski. Starring Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Emilia Fox, Ed Stoppard, Julia Ravner. Acclaimed depiction of the Nazi invasion of Poland and the creation of a Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, as seen through the eyes of the main character Brody, a pianist, whose survival throughout the terrors of war can be seen as a miracle. Impressive sets, good performances in war drama that marked Polanski’s return to his own childhood. He won a Best Director Oscar for this work, so did Ronald Harwood for his screenplay (based on the real Wladyslaw Szpilman’s memoirs).

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975, AUS) C-107m. *** D: Peter Weir. Starring Rachel Roberts, Vivean Gray, Helen Morse, Kirsty Child, Anne(-Louise) Lambert, Karen Robson, Jane Vallis. Australian cult director Peter Weir’s second feature is an atmospheric mood-piece set in 1900, where a group of school girls make a day trip to Hanging Rock in the Australian wilderness. When all their watches stop at noon, they realize something eerie will happen… and indeed four of them disappear without a trace. Weir emphasizes the beauty and naiveté of innocence in this haunting film, making his actors pose like for paintings (recalling Ridley Scott’s 1977 THE DUELLISTS). Excellent score by Bruce Smeaton includes pieces by Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, and an ethereal flute de pan by Gheorghe Zamfir Beautiful photography by Russell Boyd. Based on a novel by Joan Lindsay. The director followed this with the equally fascinating THE LAST WAVE (1978). Originally shown at 115m., re-edited by Weir to present length.

Picture of Dorian Gray, The (1945, USA) C/B&W-110m. *** D: Albert Lewin. Starring George Sanders, Hurd Hatfield, Donna Reed, Angela Lansbury, Peter Lawford, Lowell Gilmore, Richard Fraser. Classic adaptation of the Oscar Wilde novel about handsome young man, who – under the influence of cynical aristocrat Sanders – wishes for eternal youth and gets his wish granted. His potrait ages instead. Sanders is impressive, though only Lansbury was nominated for an Oscar. Four shots are in color, those of the portrait. Oscar-winning photography by Harry Stradling.

Picture Perfect (1997, USA) C-105m. *** D: Glenn Gordon Caron. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Jay Mohr, Kevin Bacon, Olympia Dukakis, Illeana Douglas, Kevin Dunn. Aniston is a happy single, then gets forced by her firm to get engaged, but her friend has already presented a photograph with her fiancée – a man she has briefly met at a wedding. Just then, her heartthrob (Bacon) seems to fall in love with her. Basically all critics agree: Cute but forgettable romance, which gives the viewer just what he expects. Aniston looks pretty, the romantic entanglements are interesting. Score by Carter Burwell.

Pieces (1981, USA/SPA/PUE) C-85m. ** D: Juan Piquer Simón. Starring Christopher George, Lynda Day George, Frank Brana, Edmund Purdom, Ian Sera, Paul L. Smith, Jack Taylor, Gérard Tichy. Typical slasher horror movie, more violent than most examples of this subgenre. 40 years after hacking up his mother with an axe for being too strict, a psychopath resumes his murderous ways at a university – with a chainsaw. Rather stupid but watchable thriller with some gross-out gore effects. Co-written by – you guessed it – Joe D’Amato (as John Shadow). Also known as ONE THOUSAND CRIES HAS THE NIGHT.

Pierrot le Fou (1965, FRA/ITA) C-110m. Scope *** D: Jean-Luc Godard. Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina, Graziella Galvani, Henri Attal, Samuel Fuller, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Dominique Zardi. Matter-of-taste art house classic about aimless Belmondo, who takes it on the lam with beautiful Karina after she kills a gangster. Predates many later lovers-on-the-lam pictures, but cannot really be compared to any because of Godard’s unique, artsy presentation. Ultimately, a fascinating experiment that was reportedly shot without a script. Strong, poetic images are more important than the plot here. Based on the novel Obsession by Lionel White. English titles: CRAZY PETE, PIERROT GOES WILD.

Pig Farm, The (2000, USA) C-80m. **½ D: Michael Lee Barlin. Starring Richard Alan Johnston, Jason Hildebrandt, Aaron Waiton, David Orange. Not-bad indie debut feature about two losers who run a pig farm but make hardly any money from it. When a hitman learns that their pigs devour anything, one of them strikes a deal, a deadly one at that. Quite good black comedy, hampered by low budget and odd scoring.

Piglet’s Big Movie (2003, USA) C-75m. **½ D: Francis Glebas. Starring (the voices of) John Fiedler, Jim Cummings, Andre Stojka, Kath Souci, Nikita Hopkins, Peter Cullen, Ken Sansom, Tom Wheatley. Animated feature for small children based on the books of A.A. Milne. Piglet thinks he is of no use and decides to run away, which leads to a search party and flashbacks to some adventures with Piglet. Starts out mildly, improves later. Songs sung by Carly Simon. Followed by POOH’S HEFFALUMP MOVIE (2005).

Pile Ou Face (1980, FRA) C-105m. ** D: Robert Enrico. Starring Philippe Noiret, Michel Serrault, Pierre Arditi, Dorothée, André Falcon, Bernard Lecoq, Jean Desailly. Police inspector Noiret, disillusioned with the influence of politics on his work, tries to find out if bourgeois Serrault kicked his wife out of the window. The psycho-battle that ensues eventually turns them into friends. Drama seems superficial, is too slow; a disappointment considering the involvement of two excellent French actors. English title: HEADS OR TAILS.

Pink Panther, The (1963, USA/GBR) C-115m. Scope ***½ D: Blake Edwards. Starring David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner, Capucine, Claudia Cardinale. Sophisticated crime comedy has become a classic: Inspector Clouseau (Sellers) is trying to catch notorious jewel thief The Phantom (Niven) in Cortina. The criminal may be targeting exotic Princess Cardinale’s precious Pink Panther diamond – the most valuable gem stone in the world. First-rate comedy, written by director Edwards and Maurice Richlin, has a great sense of humor and with Sellers also a brilliant performer. Classic hum-along title tune by Henry Mancini matches ironic tone of the film perfectly. Funny, ingenious animation sequence at the beginning was designed by Fritz Freleng. Stylish photography by Philip H. Lathrop. Followed by seven sequels, starting with A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964).

Pink Panther Strikes Again, The (1976, GBR) C-103m. Scope *** D: Blake Edwards. Starring Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Lesley-Anne Down, Burt Kwouk, Colin Blakely, Leonard Rossiter, André Maranne, Omar Sharif, voice of Julie Andrews. Third sequel to THE PINK PANTHER (and fifth Clouseau film), has the bumbling inspector battle the former chief-of-police Lom, who has gone mad and is threatening the world with a super-weapon. Suffers from mild plot and unfunny stretches, but some hilarious moments make this worthwhile. Lom provides a nice caricature of the usual Bond villain. Followed by REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER (1978).

Pinocchio (1940, USA) C-88m. ***½ D: Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen. Starring (the voices of) Mel Blanc, Don Brodie, Walter Catlett, Marion Darlington, Cliff Edwards, Dickie Jones. One of Disney’s best animated features (their second full-length feature), the classic story by Carlo Collodi is splendidly brought to the screen. A toymaker’s wish to turn his latest creation, a wooden puppet, into a “real boy” magically comes true after a series of marvellous adventures. Excellent animation, design and (Oscar-winning) score, film loses itself in some playful details in the first half, but turns into a whale of an adventure in the second. A children’s classic.

Piranha (1978, USA) C-92m. **½ D: Joe Dante. Starring Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele, Belinda Balaski, Bruce Gordon, Paul Bartel. One of the best-loved 70s eco-horror flicks by cult director Joe Dante, about a new breed of killer fish Piranha that wreaks havoc on a holiday resort, whose manager just won’t believe the warnings by Dillman and Menzies. Quite funny but rather mild satire, coproduced by Roger Corman and cowritten by John Sayles. Good cast of cult stars make this interesting for film buffs. 1981 sequel was directed by James Cameron!

Pirate, The (1973, HGK) C-96m. Scope D: Chang Cheh, Li Pao Hsueh, Wu Ma. Starring Ti Lung, David Chiang, Tien Ching, Yu Feng, Shih Tien (=Dean Shek). Relentlessly talky film that wants you to believe it’s a swashbuckler, but the only pirate action in this one is its opening fight. Then the pirates led by Ti Lung must abandon ship because of a leak and find some poor fishermen need help. From then it’s your average eastern setting. Not worth your time. Original title: DA HAO DAO.

Pirates (1986, FRA/TUN) C-99m. Scope **½ D: Roman Polanski. Starring Walter Matthau, Cris Campion, Damien Thomas, Olu Jacobs, Ferdy Mayne, David Kelly, Anthony Peck, Anthony Dawson, Charlotte Lewis, Roy Kinnear. Polanski’s return to filmmaking after seven years is a lavish but generally unremarkable movie. Matthau single-handedly carries this mild pirate movie comedy about a pirate and his mate, who end up on a frigate carrying a treasure. Not bad, but plot ignites no sparks. Some kind of curio today. Edited from 124m. original release length. Score by Philippe Sarde.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003, USA) C-143m. Scope *** D: Gore Verbinski. Starring Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Lee Arenberg. Enjoyable updating of swashbuckler films, with deft elements of fantasy and horror. Former pirate captain Depp gets involved in the kidnapping of beautiful Knightley by his former first mate Rush, now captain of the pirate vessel The Black Pearl. Blacksmith Bloom, Knightley’s childhood friend (and love interest), mistrusts the cunning captain but ultimately must team up with him to find and rescue the beauty from the beast. Too simple and clichéd at the beginning, but film improves as it goes along, with some good action sequences and effects. Not the super-adventure advertised, but entertaining all the way. Depp gives a deliciously loony performance, Rush another Vincent-Price-ish one. Good score by Hans Zimmer. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006, USA) C-150m. Scope *** D: Gore Verbinski. Starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Kevin McNally, David Bailie, Stellan Skarsgard, Tom Hollander, Naomie Harris, Geoffrey Rush. Truly monstrous sequel to the 2003 blockbuster pits Jack Sparrow (Depp) against an undead octopus-faced captain and his crew of sea phantoms. Turner (Bloom) must find Sparrow to save him and Knightley from the gallows. Central gimmick: The Dead Man’s Chest, which may contain the solution to Jack’s problems. Often-muddled plot is outdone by first-rate production design and camerawork and excellent special effects. Darker, more exhilarating that the original, but certainly not better. Ends with a cliffhanger advertising Part 3 (2007). Rousing score by Hans Zimmer.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007, USA) C-168m. Scope **½ D: Gore Verbinski. Starring Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Jack Davenport, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Mackenzie Crook, Lee Arenberg, Kevin McNally, Stellan Skarsgard, Chow Yun-Fat, Keith Richards. Grand finale of the PIRATES trilogy seems like a mere continuation of the second film, and plot is muddled to some degree, but performers give their best and will give you your money’s worth. Knightley, Bloom and Rush rescue Depp from the underworld, get caught up with some other pirates, and squidman Nighy’s fate is elaborated. So much to see, with large-scale special effects, that plot’s deficiencies don’t really matter. The sense of dejavu is growing bigger, however, especially with Depp’s bumbling routine. Rush comes off best. Score by Hans Zimmer.

Pisaj (2004, THA) C-106m. *½ D: Chukiat Sakveerakul. Starring Pumwaree Yodkamol, Alexander Rendell, Amora Purananda, Dreradanai Suwanhom. Slowly paced Thai horror chiller about a young orphan, 12 or 13 years old, who comes to live with her aunt, who is running a printing press in Bangkok. She is supposed to take care of her little nephew, who claims that there are ghosts in this house. Rather amateurishly directed film creates barely any chills, the child actors are also not very convincing. Also known as HOUSE OF GHOSTS, and EVIL.

Piscine, La (1968, FRA/ITA) C-118m. *** D: Jacques Deray. Starring Romy Schneider, Alain Delon, Maurice Ronet, Jane Birkin, Paul Crauchet. Subtle psycho drama about young couple (Schneider and Delon) vacationing in France, who are visited one day by Schneider’s former lover (Ronet). He brings his 18 year-old daughter (Birkin) with him, and erotic complications ensue. Longish but engrossing film, with prime performances by its stars. Screenplay cowritten by the director. Released in the U.S. as THE SWIMMING POOL at 85m. Music by Michel Legrand, Oscar winner for YENTL, THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR and SUMMER OF ‘42.

Pistola per Cento Bare, Una (1968, ITA/SPA) C-87m. **½ D: Umberto Lenzi. Starring Peter Lee Lawrence, John Ireland, Gloria Osuna, Eduardo Fajardo, Raf Baldassarre, Piero Lulli, Frank Brana. Quite good spaghetti western in which young soldier Lawrence returns to his family only to find his parents dead. He sets out to get his revenge on the four outlaws that killed them. Then he learns that one of the bandits is setting up a bank robbery. Above-average plot for the genre, this one also features good camerawork (by Alejandro Ulloa) and a nice score (by Angelo Francesco Lavagnino). English titles: A PISTOL FOR A HUNDRED COFFINS, A GUN FOR ONE HUNDRED GRAVES.

Pistolero Segnato da Dio, Il (1968, ITA) C-93m. ** D: Calvin J. Pdget (=Giorgio Ferroni). Starring Anthony Steffen, Richard Wyler, Liz Barrat (=Luisa Baratto), Ken Wood (=Giovanni Cianfriglia), Andrea Bosic, Nello Pazzafini, Tom Felleghy, Sal Borgese, Romano Puppo. Another SHANE ripoff, this spaghetti western is about an orphan boy, who idolizes circus-performing gunman Steffen. When he loses a duel to a villain, he turns to alcohol, until the young boy needs help. Worth a look for spaghetti western completists, but creates very little interest. Mario Bava is rumored to have photographed the film. Score by Carlo Rustichelli. Edited version runs 80m. English titles: TWO PISTOLS AND A COWARD, TWO GUNS AND A COWARD, and GUNMAN SENT BY GOD.

Pit, The (1981, CDN) C-96m. ** D: Lew Lehman. Starring Sammy Snyders, Jeannie Elias, Sonja Smits, Laura Hollingsworth. Disturbed, disadvantaged 12-year-old Snyders has discovered a pit in the woods and befriended the creatures dwelling in it. The boy lures people to the hole intending to feed the monsters. A B-horror film about the pangs of puberty, not that bad, but it soon becomes repetitive. Also known as TEDDY.

Pit and the Pendulum (1961, USA) C-80m. Scope ***½ D: Roger Corman. Starring Vincent Price, John Kerr, Barbara Steele, Luana Anders, Antony Carbone, Patrick Westwood. Atmospheric, stylish horror tale, set after the Spanish inquisition, in an ancient, dystopian castle: A young man (Kerr) travels there to investigate the death of his sister, who was married to mysterious landlord Price. But is she really dead, or is Price insane? Appropriately bizarre horror, based on Edgar Allan Poe’s story. Best enjoyed in a movie theater. Second of director Corman’s eight Poe adaptations, script by Richard Matheson. Corman also produced the film. Remade in 1991 by Stuart Gordon.

Pit and the Pendulum, The (1991, USA) C-97m. **½ D: Stuart Gordon. Starring Lance Henriksen, Rona de Ricci, Jonathan Fuller, Stephen Lee, William J. Norris, Mark Margolis, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Barbara Bocci, Jeffrey Combs, Oliver Reed. Well-produced but still pretentious Gothic horror tale about the Grand Inquisitor of Spain (Henriksen) and his infatuation with baker’s wife de Ricci. Expected scenes of torture and horror are quite tame, though film picks up a little in the final third. Henriksen is convincing as the merciless monk. Owes more to British Gothic fiction (William Gregory Lewis’ The Monk, perhaps) than to Edgar Allan Poe, whose short story the screenplay is based on. Set in Spain but shot in Italy.

Pitch Black (2000, USA/AUS) C-112m. Scope D: David N. Twohy. Starring Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Claudia Black. Science-fiction horror film about a group of space travellers, who crash-land on a barren planet. Convict Diesel poses one threat, vicious night creatures another – and there’s a solar eclipse approaching, which will last for days. Stylish and flashy, but becomes tedious, as the plot is pure nonsense. Steals from countless superior films. Filmed in Australia. Also released in edited 108m. version.

Più Bella Serata della Mia Vita, La (1972, ITA/FRA) C-100m. *** D: Ettore Scola. Starring Alberto Sordi, Charles Vanel, Michael Simon, Janet Agren, Pierre Brasseur, Claude Dauphin, Giuseppe Maffioli. Highly interesting adaptation of a play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, a parable on the seemingly perfect bourgeouis existence. In Switzerland fast-talking businessman Sordi follows a sexy biker into the mountains, where his car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. He finds help in a nearby castle, which is inhabited by a (former) lawyer, an attorney (Simon) and a judge (Vanel). They tell him they like playing out historical court room situations, and although he considers all this a game, he is suddenly subject of a trial which examines his life and wants to prove his guilt. The content of this parable alone makes this film worth watching. Sordi’s comic touches are a drawback, but Scola’s directorial touches make up for it. Good cast, fine use of the setting. Experimental score by Armando Trovaioli. Cowritten by the director.

Plague, The (2006, USA) C-88m. Scope ** D: Hal Masonberg. Starring Jason Van Der Beek, Ivana Milicevic, Brad Hunt, Joshua Close, Brittany Scobie, Dee Wallace-Stone. Horror film with a bizarre premise: One day all children aged 10 and below fall into a catatonic state and remain that way for years (excepting daily convulsions at 10 a.m. and p.m.). Ten years later, they wake up again – as blood-thirsty zombies who kill everyone in the way. Van Der Beek and his ex-wife, nurse Milicevic, hook up with some survivors of the epidemic. Apart from recalling classics such as VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1960) or INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956), film also copies ideas from George Romero’s LIVING DEAD movies. Too bad the title CHILDREN OF THE LIVING DEAD was already taken! Not ineffective, well-scored, but way too derivative and peopled with underdeveloped characters you don’t care about. Co-produced by Clive Barker. Also known as CLIVE BARKER’S THE PLAGUE.

Plague of the Zombies, The (1966, GBR) C-90m. *** D: John Gilling. Starring André Morell, Diane Clare, Brook Williams, Jacqueline Pearce, John Carson, Michael Ripper. After receiving a call for help from colleague Williams, doctor Morell and his daughter travel to Cornish community, where several people have fallen prey to mysterious illness. Is evil squire Carson behind it all? Nicely paced, well acted Hammer horror with nice use of color was made only two years before NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Not as uncompromising, but a good one by Hammer standards. Also known as THE ZOMBIES.

Planetfall (2005, USA) C-90m. ** D: Gianni Mezzanotte (=Michael J. Heagle). Starring Heidi Fellner, Leitha Matz, Charles Hubbell, John Levene, Ted V. Mikels. Independent science-fiction movie about two female bounty hunters, who are both after an important cargo that is has crashed somewhere in the desert. Pays homage to spaghetti westerns and space classics alike, but cannot rise above budgetary limitations. The acting and direction are respectable by amateur movie standards.

Planet 51 (2009, USA/GBR/SPA) C-91m. SCOPE ** D: Jorge Blanco, Javier Abad, Marcos Martínez. Starring (the voices of) Dwayne Johnson, jessica Biel, Justin Long, Gary Oldman, Seann William Scott, John Cleese. Planet 51 is inhabited by green noseless aliens who lead a life like Americans in the 1950s. Then a spaceship from Earth lands and alien-hysteria engulfs the planet. The astronaut on board befriends a teen, who helps him find his way back to his spaceship. Some funny characterizations in this animated feature, but plot is much too weak to hold your interest. Filled with gratuitous movie references from 2001 to WALL-E.

Planet of the Apes (1968, USA) C-112m. Scope **** D: Franklin J. Schaffner. Starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly, Linda Harrison. Completely fascinating, brilliant science-fiction adventure, based on the novel by Pierre Boulle. Heston and his crew, astronauts on a time warp mission, wake up from hypersleep to find themselves in the year 3978. They have landed on a barren planet some 320 light years away from the Earth. What they find beyond the desert, is just the beginning of an adventure – and nightmare. Excellent score by Jerry Goldsmith, stunning make-up effects by John Chambers (winner of a special Oscar), one of the classic science-fiction adventures (and probably the best). Followed by four sequels (starting with BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES) and two television series (one live-action, one animated). Remade by Tim Burton in 2001.

Planet of the Apes (TV series, 1974, USA) C-50m. (14 episodes) n/r D: Jack Starrett, Bernard McEveety, Arnold Laven et al. Starring Roddy McDowall, Ron Harper, James Naughton, Mark Lenard, Ron Stein, Booth Colman. Interesting continuation of the science-fiction franchise as a television series, using the same sets and special effects. Lalo Schifrin’s bizarre score is also retained. (1) Escape from Tomorrow – McDowall plays intelligent chimp Galen (not the Cornelius/Caesar he played in the movies), who is sent to investigate by Zaius (from the originals) when two astronauts crashland on the planet. At the beginning they are helped by a friendly human but later must fend for themselves. (2) The Gladiators The two astronauts flee with Galen to a nearby community of apes, are captured and turned into gladiators. Mild intermezzo. (3) The Trap The astronauts flee from the Gorillas into an abandoned town, where an earthquake opens up the earth, and Naughton and a gorilla are trapped in an old subway station. They have to help each other to survive. Fairly good. (4) The Good Seed On their continued flight from the gorillas the astronauts and Galen find shelter on a farm of Chimps. They help them with the farmwork and a pregnant cow. As uninteresting as it sounds. (5) The Legacy Back in a crumbling urban landscape the astronauts find a machine that produces a holographic message. One of the astronauts gets captured. (6) Tomorrow’s Tide (7) The Surgeon (8) The Deception (9) The Horse Race (10) The Interrogation (11) The Tyrant (12) The Cure (13) The Liberators (14) Up Above the World So High: From episode 6 onwards, the adventures more or less resemble each other. The astronauts (more like rural missionaries by now) help communities of apes, keep running from gorillas and bond with other humans. None of the episodes live up to the first few episodes. Nothing new. Biggest flaw may be the unconvincing lead actors, especially Naughton looks as if he just didn’t care. It’s easy to see why this was cancelled after only 14 episodes. Followed by an animated TV series.

Planet of the Apes (2001, USA) C-119m. Scope **½ D: Tim Burton. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Clarke Duncan, Paul Giamatti, Estella Warren, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, David Warner, Kris Kristofferson, Lisa Marie, Rick Baker, Linda Harrison, Charlton Heston. Burton’s re-imagining of the classic sci-fi adventure finds Wahlberg in a similar position to Heston’s, as he crashlands on an uncharted planet, which is ruled by apes. Some interesting variations of the original story, some effective battle scenes, but also some dull spots in-between. Typically well-designed and dark Burton movie is interesting enough to make it worthwhile. Evil ape Roth comes off best. Score by Danny Elfman.

Planet Terror (2007, USA) C-106m. *** D: Robert Rodriguez. Starring Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Jeff Fahey, Michael Biehn, Rebel Rodriguez, Bruce Willis, Naveen Andrews, Tom Savini Quentin Tarantino, Jason Douglas, Michael Parks, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Zoe Bell, Robert Rodriguez. Director Rodriguez’ part of the GRINDHOUSE double-feature (complemented by Quentin Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF) pays homage to horror and splatter films of the late 1970s and early 1980s, as zombie-like epidemic springs from lab experimenting with chemical warfare. Go-go dancer McGowan and boyfriend Rodriguez are among those running, shooting and killing for their lives. Large parts of the movie are also set in doctor Brolin’s hospital and Texas BBQ chef Fahey’s restaurant. Done with more regard for pace and action than Tarantino’s half, but film also lives for the moment and cannot live up to the promise of the early scenes to provide a compelling plot throughout. Still, great fun, with enough gore thrown at you to fill several horror films. Film mainly references MOTEL HELL (1980) and especially DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978), whose Tom Savini effects are recreated. Rodriguez also photographed, edited, produced the movie and, as usual, also did some other minor jobs on it.

Play Dead (1985, USA) C-86m. M D: Peter Wittman. Starring Yvonne De Carlo, Stephanie Dunnam, David Cullinane, Glenn Kezer, Ron Jackson. De Carlo is totally wasted as evil, voodoo-practicing aunt, who kills Dunnam’s family one by one with the help of a ‘cute’ Rottweiler. Ludicrous thriller has the dog commit murders (like pouring poison into the detective’s drink!). As bad as it gets. Also known as KILLER DOG, SATAN’S DOG.

Play Motel (1979, ITA) C-91m. ** D: Mario Gariazzo. Starring Ray Lovelock, Anna Maria Rizzoli, Mario Cutini, Antonella Antinori, Anthony Steffen. Variation of giallo elements about a sleazy motel, where there’s sexual activity as well as blackmail and murder. Actor Lovelock is asked to help inspector Steffen find out who’s the blackmailer. An okay view for adepts, this includes hard-core scenes and has a catchy title tune. It’s not as interesting as it sounds, though.

Pleasantville (1998, USA) C/B&W-123m. **½ D: Gary Ross. Starring Tobey Maguire, Jeff Daniels, Joan Allen, William H. Macy, J. T. Walsh, Reese Witherspoon, Don Knotts. Two teenagers  (Maguire and Witherspoon) are miraculously drawn into a 1950s sitcom called Pleasantville and soon start to upset the characters’ picture perfect world, turning their black-and-white existence into a colorful life. Fine performances almost overcome plot deficiencies (overlength, inconsequentiality). “Pleasant” is right.

Pleasure Girls, The (1964, GBR) 86m. *** D: Gerry O’Hara. Starring Ian McShane, Francesca Annis, Klaus Kinski, Mark Eden, Tony Tanner, Suzanna Leigh, Rosemary Nicols, Colleen Fitzpatrick. Refreshing drama about country lass Annis, who comes to London to start a modelling career. She meets many interesting people, including charismatic McShane, who falls in love with her, but she thinks she is not ready for a serious relationship. Fast-paced, well-acted coming-of-age drama, written by the director.

Plein Soleil (1959, FRA/ITA) C-115m. *** D: René Clément. Starring Alain Delon, Marie Laforet, Maurice Ronet, Frank Latimore, Ave Ninchi. Outstanding direction and photography (by Henri Decaë) in an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. Delon is astonishingly good as High-smith’s anti-hero Ripley, who roams Italy and France with his friend Ronet. Ripley is after his money, and a sailing trip promises to be a good chance to get rid of him... Crime drama is deliberately paced, but talents behind the camera compensate. Fine score by Nino Rota. Script by René Clément and Paul Gégauff. Romy Schneider appears briefly in the opening scene. English title: PURPLE NOON. 

Plenilunio delle Vergine, Il (1973, ITA) C-83m. **½ D: Luigi Batzella. Starring Mark Damon, Sergio Pislar, Sara Bay (=Rosalba Neri), Esmeralda Barros. Above-average, atmospheric gothic horror film about two brothers, one of whom travels to Transsylvania in order to find the famed Ring of the Nibelungs, which is said to be in the possession of a vampire. The leader of the coven is waiting to sacrifice some virgins in order to celebrate her wedding with Count Dracula. Somewhat different, less obvious vampire movie should interest buffs. Direction and score are quite good. English credits try to make us believe that Mark Damon played both(!) brothers. Photographed by Joe D’Amato. English titles: THE DEVIL’S WEDDING NIGHT, FULL MOON OF THE VIRGINS.

Plunkett & Macleane (1999, GBR/CZE) C-97m. Scope **½ D: Jake Scott. Starring Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller, Iain Robertson, Alan Cumming, Liv Tyler, Michael Gambon. Two street robbers keep baffling the local authorities in 18th century England. They take from the rich… and keep the loot (and all this is set to techno music). When will they be caught? Film wants to be action comedy, serious drama, thriller, buddy movie and pop drama at the same time, but script is uneven and incoherent. Flashy direction and photography somewhat compensate. First theatrical film by Jake Scott, who is Ridley Scott’s son. Gary Oldman was among the producers.

Plus Longue Nuit du Diable, La (1971, BEL/ITA) C-93m. **½ D: Jean Brismée. Starring Erika Blanc, Jean Servais, Jacques Monseau, Ivana Novak, Lorenzo Terzon, Shirley Corrigan, Daniel Emilfork. A bunch of tourists are forced to spend the night at Servais’ spooky castle, not knowing that an ancient curse rests on his family and a succubus (sexy demon) is among their company. Unusual, indulgent chiller has good score and great sets (love that wallpaper), but is too slow and obvious. Still, warmly recommended to fans of Euro sleaze. André Hunebelle (FANTOMAS) supervised this obscure Belgian-Italian coproduction. Also known as DEVIL’S NIGHTMARE, LA TERRIFICANTE NOTTE DEL DEMONIO, CASTLE OF DEATH, DEVIL WALKS AT MIDNIGHT, DEVIL’S LONGEST NIGHT, NIGHTMARE OF TERROR, SUCCUBUS and VAMPIRE PLAYGIRLS (there is actually a quite sexy lesbian love-making scene).

Point Blank (1967, USA) C-92m. Scope ***½ D: John Boorman. Starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, Carroll O’Connor, Lloyd Bochner, Michael Strong, John Vernon, James B. Sikking. Stylish, poetic revenge thriller about a criminal (Marvin) who seeks vengeance on his wife and her lover, who double-crossed him after a heist on Alcatraz Island. Confusing plot is outshined by artistic brilliance, which creates a most unusual, sometimes surreal atmosphere. A film that is more to be admired than enjoyed, as it is years ahead of its time. Fine photography by Philip Lathrop. Adapted from the novel The Hunter by Richard Stark, alias Donald E. Westlake. Same story filmed again in 1999 as PAYBACK. This was director Boorman’s second feature film.

Polar (1983, FRA) C-101m. ** D: Jacques Bral. Starring Jean-Francois Balmer, Sandra Montaigu, Pierre Santini, Roland Dubillard, Claude Chabrol. Tired murder mystery about a private detective (Balmer) who one night is visited by a young woman who asks him solve the murder of her girlfriend, which has just been committed. Needless to say, he attempts to do so but remains highly ineffective (like the film itself). Plot, which is based on the novel Morgue Pleine by Jean-Patrick Manchette, a very successful mystery writer in France, turns out to be highly derivative of Dashiel Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Film is brought down by a routine, unimaginative direction and a colorless protagonist, who is clearly miscast. Music composed by Karl-Heinz Schäfer is exceptional and reminiscent of Matthieu Chabrol’s work for his brother Claude.

Polar Express, The (2004, USA) C-100m. Scope *** D: Robert Zemeckis. Starring Tom Hanks, Daryl Sabara, Leslie Harter Zemeckis, Eddie Deezen, Michael Jeter, Steven Tyler. Director Zemeckis works digital wonders again in this beautiful Christmas tale, based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg. A little boy who is slowly starting to doubt the existence of Santa Claus boards a magical train one night, which will lead him and fellow passengers to the North Pole. The journey is filled with riveting adventures and thrill rides and teaches the boy a thing or two about life. Charming Christmas movie will delight kids. The interesting animation (3D motion capture) required the actors to act first, then their appearances and movements were computerized. Hanks has five roles. Good score by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard.

Police Story (1985, HGK) C-89m. Scope *** D: Jackie Chan. Starring Jackie Chan, Bridget Lin, Maggie Cheung, Chor Yuen, Bill Tung, Kenneth Tong. Chan (once again playing himself) is assigned to pin down a druglord and after that look after a key witness (Cheung). Unexceptional plot highlighted by some incredible stunts (including the destruction of a whole village!) and a dramatic and exciting ending that takes a welcome leave from the awkward comedy that pervades nearly all of the star’s films. Recommended to Jackie’s fans, others may not be so tolerant. Followed by three sequels. Aka POLICE FORCE.

Police Story 2 (1988, HGK) C-92m. Scope **½ D: Jackie Chan. Starring Jackie Chan, Maggie Cheung, Wu Ma, Chor Yuen. Chan’s follow-up to one of his biggest hits has his feud with the druglord from the first film prolonged. Cheung plays his love interest, who gets involved in mad-cap action set-pieces. Not-bad sequel, more serious than most of Jackie’s other films. For his fans. Followed by POLICE STORY 3.

Police Story 3 (1992, HGK) C-95m. Scope ** D: Stanley Tong. Starring Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, Kenneth Tsang, Yuen Wah, Lo Lieh, Philip Chan. Third entry into Chan’s most popular film series is another step down, as inspector Chan goes against drug lords again. Plot is not worth mentioning, apart from the introduction of Yeoh’s character. Rather violent and serious, redeemed somewhat by the explosive showdown. Followed by POLICE STORY 4, which was released in the States as JACKIE CHAN’S FIRST STRIKE.

Police Woman (1973, HGK) C-71m. Scope ** D: Tsu Hdeng. Starring Lee Man Tai, Jackie Chan, Gam Woo, Charlie Chin. Early Jackie Chan performance may be the reason to watch this low-budget actioner about a cab driver, who is chased by a drug syndicate after he becomes witness to one of their killings. And Jackie is a baddie here! Reasonably fast-paced, but plot is uninteresting. Uncut version runs some 10 minutes longer. Also known as RUMBLE IN HONG KONG, YOUNG TIGER, and POLICE WOMAN AGAINST JACKIE CHAN.

Polizia Accusa: Il Servizio Segreto Uccide, La (1975, ITA) C-84m. Scope **½ D: Sergio Martino. Starring Luc Merenda, Mel Ferrer, Tomas Milian, Delia Boccardo, Tom Felleghy, Goffredo Unger. Slightly above-average police actioner, which takes up familiar Italian theme of corruption, pitting inspector Merenda against sinister chief of secret service Milian, who may have something to do with suicides of several persons of high rank. Fast-paced, quite well-directed, but plot is far from exciting. English titles: CHOPPER SQUAD, SILENT ACTION.

Polizia Brancola nel Buio, La (1975, ITA/TUR) C-79m. **½ D: Helia Colombo. Starring Joseph Arkim (=Cüneyt Arkin), Francisco Cortez, Richard Fielding, Gabriella Giorgelli, Margaret Rose Keil. Late giallo about murders around wheelchair-bound photographer Arkim’s estate. The boyfriend of one of the victims goes to investigate and finds there are complicated relationships between the people at the villa. Typically contracted plot, although it doesn’t make much sense. This one even has a slight sci-fi touch! Giallo lovers will find this Italian-Turkish coproduction appealing. Title translates as THE POLICE ARE BLUNDERING IN THE DARK.

Polizia Chiede Aiuto, La (1974, ITA) C-91m. Scope **½ D: Massimo Dallamano. Starring Giovanna Ralli, Claudio Cassinelli, Mario Adorf, Franco Fabrizi, Farley Granger. When a 15-year-old school girl is found hanged, the police investigations reveal that she was pregnant and may have been murdered. Then a killer clad in black leather starts hacking up the cast with a hatchet. Quite good, fairly exciting, fast-paced giallo with unfortunately unspectacular plot and stylistics. Direction is competent and Stelvio Cipriani’s score is fine and well-timed. Photographed by Franco delli Colli. English titles: THE COED MURDERS, THE POLICE WANT HELP and WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOUR DAUGHTERS? (suggesting a link to Dallamano’s earlier giallo COSE AVETE FATTO A SOLANGE?).

Polizia è Sconfitta, La (1977, ITA) C-92m. ** D: Domenico Paolella. Starring Marcel Bozzuffi, Vittorio Mezzogiorno, Riccardo Salvino, Nello Pazzafini, Claudia Gianotti, Goffredo Unger. A cop thriller like dozens others produced in Italy in the mid-70s. Police inspector Bozzuffi is frustrated with the rise in crime and creates a special police squad to battle the terrorists. Among them is an especially heinous bomber (Mezzogiorno). Violent but standard. For fans there is a cool score by Stelvio Cipriani and an attempt at copying Sam Peckinpah’s slow-motion action set-pieces. Also known as STUNT SQUAD.

Polizia Interviene: Ordine di Uccidere!, La (1975, ITA) C-101m. **½ D: Giuseppe Rosati. Starring James Mason, Leonard Mann, Stephen Boyd, Janet Agren, Enrico Maria Salerno, Fausto Tozzi, Tom Felleghy, Franco Ressel, Goffredo Unger. Inspector Mann investigates the kidnapping of a rich industrialist and seems to uncover a web of conspiracies and blackmail. His relationship with Agren suffers and soon he becomes a target himself. Quite good, character-driven crime drama with a nice score by Paolo Vasile, one of the better poliziottescos. Mann is good in title role. Alternative Italian title: LA MANA SINISTRA DELLA LEGGE. English title: LEFT HAND OF THE LAW.

Poliziotto, Solitudine e Rabbia (1979, ITA/GER) C-84m. Scope ** D: Stelvio Massi. Starring Maurizio Merli, Jutta Speidel, Arthur Brauss, Francisco Rabal, Jochen Schröder, Ottaviano Dell’Acqua. Barely watchable police actioner about cop Merli, whose friend is shot, upon which Merli swears for revenge and goes undercover to bust the criminals. Boring, familiar plot somewhat redeemed by Speidel’s role as his tragic lover, but apart from Stelvio Cipriani’s score, this is rather forgettable. International title: THE REBEL.

Polyester (1981, USA) C-86m. **½ D: John Waters. Starring Divine, Tab Hunter, Edith Massey, Mary Garlington, Ken King, David Samson, Mink Stole, Stiv Bators. Trash satire set in a typically Waters-ish suburb and featuring his star Divine as a housewife with a nightmarish family. Her husband, a porn cinema owner, cheats on her and the children are more into sex and drugs (oh yes, and footstomping) than school. Typically engaging, with some hilarious bits for Divine, but it sometimes gets to be too much – and thus pretentious. Originally released in ‘Odorama’ (scratch-and-sniff cards for the audience). After this feature, Waters would take a break of seven years before making another film (HAIRSPRAY).

Pooh’s Heffalump Movie (2005, USA) C-68m. *** D: Frank Nissen. Starring (the voices of) Jim Cummings, John Fiedler, Nikita Hopkins, Brenda Blethyn. Disney’s fifth feature length Winnie the Pooh cartoon (based on the A.A. Milne stories) should really be called ROO’S HEFFALUMP MOVIE, as little Roo – disappointed at being deemed too young to catch ‘evil’ Heffalumps – goes out on his own to chase some. Funny, exciting and well-made, this movie teaches a lesson on friendship, parental worries and prejudice.

Poppies Are Also Flowers (1966, USA/AUT) C-95m. *½ D: Terence Young. Starring Senta Berger, Stephen Boyd, Yul Brynner, Angie Dickinson, Georges Géret, Hugh Griffith, Jack Hawkins, Rita Hayworth, Trevor Howard, Trini López, E.G. Marshall, Marcello Mastroianni, Anthony Quayle, Harold Sakata, Omar Sharif, Barry Sullivan, Nadja Tiller, Eli Wallach, Howard Vernon, Marilú Tolo. Gargantuan cast in gargantuan misfire about some inspectors’ attempts to stem international drug trafficking, especially the opium production in the Middle East. Incredibly poor plot is based on a story by Ian Fleming (with Terence Young of James Bond fame as a director – to no avail). You just go from one cameo to the next. Also known as DANGER GROWS WILD, THE OPIUM CONNECTION, and THE POPPY IS ALSO A FLOWER.

Popsy Pop (1971, FRA/ITA/VNZ) C-96m. ** D: Jean Herman. Starring Claudia Cardinale, Stanley Baker, Henri Charrière, Georges Aminel, Joachim Hansen, Marc Mazza. Weak heist movie set in South America with beautiful Cardinale, a dancer, arriving at a small village to entertain the miners, when as a matter of fact she is part of a plan to rob some diamonds. Interesting location work, but plot is a yawn. Charrière’s only acting credit, he also cowrote the screenplay with director Herman. Alternative titles: THE BUTTERFLY AFFAIR, THE 21 CARAT SNATCH, QUEEN OF DIAMONDS,  and THE GREAT DIAMOND CHASE.

Porno Holocaust (1979, ITA) C-114m. M D: Joe D’Amato (Aristide Massaccesi), Bruno Mattei. Starring George Eastman, Dirce Funari, Annj Goren, Lucia Ramirez, Mark Shannon. Infamous film from an infamous director is nothing more than a boring hard-core sex film about a group of researchers who are confronted with a mutated negro running amok on a lovely Caribbean island. Amateurishly directed, preposterously long. Written by actor Eastman.

Porta del Cannone, La (1969, ITA/FRA/YUG) C-96m. Scope **½ D: Leopoldo Savona. Starring John (Gianni) Garko, Irina Demick, Gianna Serra, Horst Frank, Tom Felleghy. In the early days of WW2, Italian spy Garko is assigned to kill a Czechoslovakian rebel leader to pave the way for the Nazis. On his mission he falls in love and slowly learns that he is on the wrong side. Thoughtful, quite well-made war drama lacks the extra-punch or speed to make it sizzle. Still, worth a look. Spaghetti western regular Garko proves he can act. Features impressive real WW2 action footage. Director Savona coscripted from the novel by Giuliano Friz. Score by Carlo Rustichelli.

Porta sul Buio: Il Tram, La (1973, ITA) C-52m. n/r D: Sirio Bernadotte (=Dario Argento). Starring Enzo Cerusico, Paolo Tedesco, Pierluigi Aprà, Gildo Di Marco, Tom Felleghy, Corrado Olmi. One of four episodes made for the television series LA PORTA SUL BUIO (DOOR INTO DARKNESS), this was directed by horror maestro Argento right after his animal trilogy of giallos. Story about inspector Cerusico, who wants to find out who killed pretty young woman on a tram is more realistic and lacks the violence and style that made his other movies so irresistible. Not without interest, but not the find you might have expected as an Argento devotee. Comic relief and playful score (Giorgio Gaslini) are rather inappropriate. The other episodes in this Argento-produced series were called IL VICINO DI CASA (directed by Luigi Cozzi), TESTIMONE OCULARE (co-directed by Dario sans credit) and LA BAMBOLA. English title: THE TRAM.

Portiere di Notte, Il (1974, ITA/USA) C-117m. ** D: Liliana Cavani. Starring Dirk Bogarde, Charlotte Rampling, Philippe Leroy, Gabriele Ferzetti, Isa Miranda. Bogarde plays a night porter at an Austrian hotel, who is shocked when beautiful Rampling moves in, the very same woman he used to abuse when he was a Gestapo officer for the Nazis fifteen years before. A difficult portrait of an obsessive love, well-cast, but unfortunately wallowing in sleaze and degradation. Notable as one of the first Nazi exploitation films, although this is certainly more serious and honorable in its attempt to depict the aftermath of Nazi horror (the others focused on violence and sex). English title: THE NIGHT PORTER.

Poseidon (2006, USA) C-99m. Scope **½ D: Wolfgang Petersen. Starring Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, Richard Dreyfuss, Jacinda Barrett, Emmy Rossum, Mike Vogel, Kevin Dillon. Remake of the disaster movie classic THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972), with revamped special effects but pretty much the same story. After a tidal wave hits his luxurious ship and it capsizes, Russell must find his daughter among the survivors and venture to the ship’s bottom to escape. Some excitement derives from cliffhanger stunts, and the cast is quite good, though cardboard characters fail to engross you. Photographed by John Seale.

Poseidon Adventure, The (1972, USA) C-117m. Scope *** D: Ronald Neame. Starring Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Carol Lynley, Roddy McDowall, Stella Stevens, Shelley Winters, Jack Albertson, Pamela Sue Martin, Arthur O’Connell, Leslie Nielsen. During a silvester celebration, the luxury liner ‘Poseidon’ is hit by a tidal wave and turned upside down, creating chaos and destruction on board. A handful of survivors, led by reverend Hackman, decide to venture to the ship’s bottom (now the only part above the water’s surface). Who will survive? Trivial 30-minute introduction is followed by dramatic excitement and good performances (especially feisty Hackman, nervous Winters). One of the first (and finest) disaster thrillers of the 1970s. Oscar-winner for Best Song and Best Visual Effects. In fact, film was nominated for nine Academy Awards. Based on the novel by Paul Gallico. Irwin Allen coproduced (and reportedly codirected, sans credit). Followed by BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE in 1979. Remade in 2005 (for TV) and 2006.

Postino, Il (1994, ITA/FRA) C-108m. ***½ D: Michael Radford. Starring Massimo Troisi, Philippe Noiret, Maria Gracia Cucinotta, Linda Moretti, Renato Scarpa. Touching, beautifully realized film about the friendship between a simple-minded postman and famed poet Pablo Neruda from Chile, who helps the reluctant man win his love Cucinotta. Troisi (in his final film) is perfect and so is Noiret in a grand performance as the writer. Filmed on the island Isla Negra, this moving comedy drama is almost stunningly beautiful and unfolds slowly and quietly, like the lives of the people living there. Oscar-winning score by Luis Enrique Bakalov helps to build an atmosphere that is warm and real, a rarity these days. An intelligent film, which shows how poetry can affect (and change) one’s life. Based on the novel Burning Patience by Antonio Skàrmeta. English title: THE POSTMAN.

Postman (1997, USA) C-177m. Scope D: Kevin Costner. Starring Kevin Costner, Will Patton, Larenz Tate, Olivia Williams, James Russo, Daniel von Bargen, Tom Petty, Scott Bairstow, Giovanni Ribisi, Roberta Maxwell. I always knew it: Postmen make the world a better place... at least in this dreary science-fiction drama set in 2013 after a war has wiped out civilization (and left nature intact). Costner plays a slow-witted loner who one day is forced to enlist in barbaric army of the Hornists led by vicious Patton. After his escape our hero finds the uniform of a postman (and his remains) and decides to become a mailman himself (but why?). By delivering letters and telling false stories of a reinstated government, he gives people hope for a better future and soon becomes a living legend. Patton, however, is out to kill every new postman assigned by Costner. Some magnificent, epic-scale photography promises more at the beginning, and Patton is good as the villain, but the story (as you might agree after reading the plot review) is laughable and oozing with pointless patriotism. Scripted by Eric Roth and Brian Helgeland (of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL ‘fame’), based on the novel by David Brin. This is a drama set in the future, not a science-fiction film. For a beautiful, touching, poetic film about a postman, watch IL POSTINO.

Posto Ideale per Uccidere, Un (1971, ITA/FRA) C-89m. Scope *** D : Umberto Lenzi. Starring Irene Papas, Ray Lovelock, Ornella Muti, Michel Bardinet, Jacques Stany, Umberto D’Orsi, Calisto Calisti, Sal Borgese, Umberto Raho. Time capsule from the early 70s about free-wheeling couple Lovelock and Muti (who was 16 when this was released), who drift from place to place selling pornography. When they are caught and forced to leave the country within 24 hours they want to make one more stop and end up in a secluded villa, whose owner Papas harbors a secret. Interesting giallo is stylishly directed and nicely conveys the spirit of the time, it’s also ideally cast. Title song How can you live your life  is a catchy tune. Produced by Carlo Ponti. English titles: DEADLY TRAP, DIRTY PICTURES, and OASIS OF FEAR.

Posutoman Burusu (1997, JAP) C-110m. **½ D: Sabu (=Hiroyuki Tanaka). Starring Shin’ichi Tsutsumi, Keisuke Horibe, Ren Osugi, Kyôko Toyama, Sabu. Quirky, typically eccentric – although not vintage – Sabu comedy about a lonely postman, who becomes hunted by the police, who believe him to be a hitman working for the mob. Bizarre situations abound, but pace isn’t up to Sabu’s other efforts. In fact, it resembles that found in the work of Jim Jarmusch, who may be Sabu’s main inspiration. English title: POSTMAN BLUES.

Poulet au Vinaigre (1985, FRA) C-108m. *** D: Claude Chabrol. Starring Jean Poiret, Stéphane Audran, Michel Bouquet, Jean Topart, Lucas Belvaux, Pauline Lafont, Caroline Cellier, Dominique Zardi, Henri Attal, Josephine Chaplin. Stimulating crime drama about a conflict which leads to murder in a rural village. A handicapped widow (Audran) and her son are threatened with eviction from their house by three business partners. Jean Poiret, in his first appearance as Inspecteur Lavardin, solves the case in his own  inimitable style. Fine script by Chabrol and Dominique Roulet, whose novel Une Mort en Trop this drama is based on. The director has a cameo in the bistro. English language title: COP AU VIN. Followed by INSPECTEUR LAVARDIN in 1986 and several made-for-TV sequels, all titled LES DOSSIERS DE L’INSPECTEUR LAVARDIN.

Poussière d’Ange (1987, FRA) C-92m. **½ D: Edouard Niemans. Starring Bernard Giraudeau, Fanny Bastien. Down-to-earth, boozy policeman (Giraudeau) who has been left by his wife investigates a murder series, with which young Bastien may have something to do. Typically depressing, aloof French 80s film, quite interesting but none too entertaining. Strange noir-like narration. Title means ‘Angel Dust’.    

Power, The (1968, USA) C-103m. Scope *** D: Byron Haskin. Starring George Hamilton, Suzanne Pleshette, Richard Carlson, Yvonne De Carlo, Earl Holliman, Arthur O’Connell, Aldo Ray, Michael Rennie, Forrest J Ackerman. Well-plotted mystery thriller with science-fiction elements. Film is set at a space travel research facility of the near future, where one of the scientists is revealed to have telekinetic powers. Hamilton sets out to identify the person and becomes a target himself. Slightly uneven and a bit too talky but endowed with a good mystery plot. A time-capsule of the late 60s, produced by George Pal. Good zither score by Miklós Rózsa. Based on the novel by Frank M. Robinson (THE TOWERING INFERNO). Last film of director Haskin (WAR OF THE WORLDS).

Practical Magic (1998, USA) C-104m. Scope D: Griffin Dunne. Starring Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Dianne Wiest, Stockard Channing, Goran Visnjic, Chloe Webb, Aidan Quinn. Two sisters (Bullock and Kidman) are born into a family of witches and learn that there's a curse on them, sooner or later killing every man they fall in love with. As grown-ups their ways part, with Bullock leading a happy family life with two children and Kidman partying through life. When Bullock's husband dies in an accident (the curse!) and Kidman's lover (Visnjic) turns out to be a brute, they are forced to reunite and make use of their special gift. Inept adaptation of Alice Hoffman's novel starts out as a family film (with beautiful photo-graphy) but turns into an odd horror drama in the second half. Unconvincing (perhaps due to the overly realistic town setting) and obviously pointless. Not for small children.

Prancer (1989, USA) C-103m. *** D: John D. Hancock. Starring Sam Elliott, Cloris Leachman, Rutanya Alda, Michael Constantine, Rebecca Harrell. Heart-warming tale of an 8-year-old girl (Harrell), who grows up without a mother and refuses to believe than Santa doesn’t exist. It’s a harsh winter, as her father (Elliott) is fearing for their financial existence. Then the little girl discovers a wounded reindeer, names it Prancer and hides it in their barn. Is Santa going to pick it up this Christmas if she nurtures it back to health? Simple story, well-told. Score by Maurice Jarre.

Predator (1987, USA) C-107m. *** D: John McTiernan. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura. Good horror/action yarn set in the jungle, where Schwarzenegger’s SWAT team is assigned to retrieve missing politician. When the first team members die, guerilla fighters are suspected. In fact, it’s a hideous monster that just dropped onto the Earth. Unexceptional first half outweighed by crackerjack second one, as director McTiernan (DIE HARD) adds suspense to the action. Fine score by Alan Silvestri. Followed by a sequel in 1990.

Prefetto di Ferro, Il (1977, ITA) C-121m. Scope *** D: Pasquale Squitieri. Starring Giuliano Gemma, Claudia Cardinale, Stefano Satta Flores, Massimo Mollica, Rik Battaglia, Paul Muller, Fernando Rabal. Difficult, at times powerful saga of the “iron prefect” Cesare Mori, whose aim was to rid Sicily of the powerful grasp of the Mafia in the 1920s. Gemma is excellent in the title role and carries the whole film, which remains sometimes too uninvolving. Cardinale plays a struggling housewife, who has her own complaints with Mori’s methods. Based on the novel by Arrigo Petacci. Score by Ennio Morricone. English title: THE IRON PREFECT.

Premature Burial, The (1962, USA) C-81m. Scope *** D: Roger Corman. Starring Ray Milland, Hazel Court, Richard Ney, Heather Angel, Alan Napier. Another Corman film based on an Edgar Allan Poe novel: Milland is afraid of being buried alive because his father died of Catalepsia, a disease that induces all symptoms of death. Atmospheric, eerie entry into the series has plot that becomes more complicated towards the end but camerawork and direction pull it off.

Préparez Vos Mouchoirs (1978, FRA/BEL) C-105m. *** D: Bertrand Blier. Starring Gérard Depardieu, Patrick Dewaere, Carole Laure, Riton, Michel Serrault, Eleonore Hirt. Unconventional comedy about man (Depardieu) who asks a total stranger (Dewaere) to make his wife happy. This leads to funny, if not always believable complications. Well-acted (especially by Serrault in a supporting role) but overall a slight choice for the Oscar as Best Foreign Film. English title: GET OUT YOUR HANDKERCHIEFS.

Prestige, The (2006, USA/GBR) C-130m. Scope *** D: Christopher Nolan. Starring Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Piper Perabo, Rebecca Hall, Scarlett Johansson, Samantha Mahurin, David Bowie, Andy Serkis, Chao Li Chi. Good-looking, original thriller about two magicians in turn-of-the-century London, whose friendship evolves into rivalry when Jackman’s wife dies because Bale fouled up a magic trick. From then on, each one is obsessed with outdoing the other, especially by finding out how the trick of The Transported Man works. Complex narrative, fine performances, film builds suspense well until climax, which seems exaggerated, unbelievable but still packs a punch. Scripted by director Nolan, based on a novel by Christopher Priest.

Prey, The (1980, USA) C-80m. *½ D: Edwin Brown. Starring Debbie Thuresen, Steve Bond, John Leslie, Lori Lethin, Robert Wald, Jackie Coogan. Some teenagers go camping in the woods and are stalked by a mutated giant that seeks revenge for a wildfire that killed his family some thirty years before. Not bad in some parts, and quite gory, but very slowly paced and ultimately dull. Only if you are a die-hard fan of early 80s horror. Effects by John Carl Buechler. Remained unreleased for four years.

Pride and Prejudice (1940, USA) 117m. *** D: Robert Z. Leonard. Starring Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier, Edward Ashley, Maureen O’Sullivan, Mary Boland, Edmund Gwenn. First adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel set in 19th century ‘Old’ England, where intelligent girl Garson and her four sisters are looking for husbands in order not to lose their inheritance. Posh upper-class gentleman Olivier might be the ideal match… Generally considered to be a classic, but to us this film version lacked spirit and it’s obvious that the book has much more wit to spare. Photographed by Karl Freund, cowritten by none other than Aldous Huxley.

Pride & Prejudice (2005, GBR/FRA) C-127m. Scope *** D: Joe Wright. Starring Keira Knightley, Simon Woods, Talulah Riley, Rosmund Pike, Jena Malone, Carey Mulligan, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn, Judi Dench, Alan Cumming. Well-made Jane Austen adaptation about headstrong lass Knightley, one of Sutherland’s four daughters, who falls in love with seemingly proud, condescending Woods. Beautifully shot, overall handsome romance is also remarkably well-paced. An alternative (happier) ending was shot for U.S. release.

Prima Notte, La (1959, ITA/FRA) C-80m. ** D: Alberto Cavalcanti. Starring Vittorio de Sica, Martine Carol, André Versini, Don Ziegler, Claudia Cardinale. Mild comedy about a rich Frenchwoman Carol, who travels to Venice and becomes romantically involved with Versini, who is posing as an Arabian prince. Colorful and harmless, but not at all funny or imaginative. A pity, with those talents involved. Based on Abel Hermant’s novel Les Noces Venitiènnes. Originally released in black-and-white.

Primary Colors (1998, USA) C-143m. Scope *** D: Mike Nichols. Starring John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Kathy Bates, Adrian Lester, Billy Bob Thornton, Maura Tierney, Larry Hagman, Diane Ladd, Rob Reiner. Young Lester 'boards' the Presidential election campaign of Bill Clintonesque Governor Travolta and finds himself in a swamp of false accusations and counter attacks. The aspiring President has a few skeletons in the closet, which make him viable to attacks by his opponents. His affairs with countess women may even break his neck in the campaign. Not very compelling portrait of an election campaign (with interesting links to Bill Clinton's own life), but well-acted and overall worthwhile. Bates is brilliant as one of Travolta's advisors and his conscience. Based on the novel by Anonymous (Joe Klein).

Prime (2005, USA) C-105m. ** D: Ben Younger. Starring Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman, Bryan Greenberg, Jon Abrahams. Slightly sub-standard romantic comedy about recently divorced 37-year-old Thurman and her infatuation with 23-year-old Greenberg. The hitch: He’s her therapist’s son! One-joke comedy tries to be authentic but fails because there are only occasional smiles instead of the laughs in this contrived story. Thurman and Streep are appealing, though. Written by the director.

Prince of Darkness (1987, USA) C-97m. Scope **½ D: John Carpenter. Starring Donald Pleasance, Jameson Parker, Victor Wong, Lisa Blount, Dennis Dun, Susan Blanchard, Alice Cooper. Typical Carpenter horror movie about a team of scientists, who research mysterious “living” cylinder in a church and must fear that Satan is about to emerge. Creepy, effective, well-scored (by Carpenter himself), good for horror fans, although this one takes itself much too seriously. Written by Carpenter (as Martin Quatermass). 102m. version inserts new footage and should be avoided.

Prince of Egypt, The (1998, USA) C-97m. **½ D: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, Simon Wells. Voices of Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Mel Brooks. Bombastically animated, supposedly crackerjack drama recreates the events described in the Exodus chapter of the Holy Bible. Moses, an abandoned baby, becomes brother to an Egyptian prince and leads the Hebrews into the Promised Land. Not really for children due to the lack of comic relief, and even adults will be confounded by the flawed story-telling. Too bad, a hit-and-miss production from Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Pictures.

Princess and the Frog, The (2009, USA) C-97m. *** D: Ron Clements, John Musker. Starring (the voices of) Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jennifer Cody, Jim Cummings, Oprah Winfey, Terrence Howard, John Goodman, Randy Newman. Good Disney movie takes its inspiration from the Frog Prince fairy tale and blends it into 1920s New Orleans, where underprivileged girl has a dream of opening her own restaurant. Meanwhile, a poor prince falls prey to a voodoo doctor and is turned into a frog. When he mistakes the chamber maid (our heroine) for a princess, she is turned into one as well, and together they have to stop the voodoo guy’s evil plans. Fairly well-made and told fantasy, with the colorful, bizarre villain sequences standing out. This was the first hand-drawn Disney movie since 2004. Score by Randy Newman.

Princess Bride, The (1987, USA) C-98m. **½ D: Rob Reiner. Starring Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant, Fred Savage, Robin Wright Penn, Peter Falk, Peter Cook, Mel Smith, Carol Kane, Billy Crystal. Quite popular fairy tale with a complicated story setup: Falk visits his grandson Savage and reads a story to him about princess Penn, who is in love with a servant. When he dies, she must become the wife of a prince, but kidnappers whisk her away to foreign lands. Nicely done fantasy, with some comic touches that unfortunately gain an overweight. Slightly fragmented script by William Goldman, based on his novel.

Princess Caraboo (1994, USA/GBR) C-96m. *** D: Michael Austin. Starring Phoebe Cates, Jim Broadbent, Wendy Hughes, Kevin Kline, John Lithgow, Stephen Rea, Peter Eyre, Jacqueline Pearce. Good family film about a young woman, who is accepted into a 18th century British household, after she appears out of nowhere. She speaks a strange language, and soon the landlord and landlady begin to suspect she is a foreign princess. Fine cast handles material well. Photographed by Freddie Francis.

Princess Mononoke (1997, JAP) C-134m. ***½ D: Hayao Miyazaki. Starring the voices of Yôji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Yûko Tanaka, Tetsu Watanabe. Top-notch animated fantasy about a warrior, who is fatally wounded by a giant boar and goes on a journey to find out the reason for its attack. It turns out the spirits of the forests are in upheaval, as a ruthless ruler is about to destroy the woods for the sake of her iron production. The warrior teams up with mysterious Princess Mononoke, who lives with the wolves and is half-girl, half-spirit. Mythical, engrossing fantasy creates a similar kind of awe and wonder as Ridley Scott’s LEGEND (1985). Intelligent story, excellent score, a winner from start to finish. Original title: MONONOKE-HIME. English version features the voices of Gillian Anderson, Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Jada Pinkett Smith, Billy Bob Thornton, Lewis Arquette.

Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The (1970, USA/GBR) C-125m. Scope ***½ D: Billy Wilder. Starring Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Geneviève Page, Irene Handl, Stanley Holloway, Christopher Lee, Clive Revill. Exquisite film, superbly designed and photographed, about famous provate detective Sherlock Holmes (Stephens) and his companion Dr. Watson (Blakely), who in his memoirs discloses some very personal cases, which the sleuth tackled. In the main episode Holmes traces the husband of an amnesiac to the Scottish Loch Ness. Grand entertainment, perfectly realized by cowriter-producer-director Wilder. Originally devised as a three-and-a-half-hour film, a 12m. sequence was restored later. Filmed in England and Scotland.

Prix du Danger, Le (1982, FRA/YUG) C-97m. ** D: Yves Boisset. Starring Michel Piccoli, Gérard Lavin, Bruno Cremer, Andréa Ferréol, Jean-Claude Dreyfus. In a futuristic game show humans are hunted by armed assassins. If they survive for five hours they win a lot of money. Lavin is the victim that puts up more resistance than all those that preceded him. Film comes to life in the second half when Lavin is actually hunted, but overall Boisset has created a mild satire on the media, who will do anything to attract audiences. Muddled, underproduced and unconvincing. Piccoli is over-the-top as flamboyant host of the show. Adapted from a novel by Robert Sheckley, which was filmed before as LA DECIMA VITTIMA (THE TENTH VICTIM). This version at least had some style. English title: THE PRIZE OF PERIL.

Probabilità Zero (1968, ITA) C-93m. ** D: Maurizio Lucidi. Starring Henry Silva, Vittorio André, Luigi Casellato, Katia Christine, Renato De Carmine. Italian war adventure detailing the dangerous mission led by Silva to infiltrate a fortress, where the Nazis have brought stolen radar device. Story by Dario Argento has some interesting elements (most notably the Norwegian setting), but script is too pedestrian and fails to create any suspense. Score by Carlo Rustichelli. English title: PROBABILITY ZERO.

Professor Columbus (1968, GER/NED) C-93m. *** D: Rainer Erler. Starring Rudolf Platte, Ankie van Amstel, Jeroen Krabbé, Louise Martini. Charming piece of 60s nostalgia about university librarian Platte, who discovers his passion for ships. He all of a sudden quits his job and buys a run-down steamer, intending to live for his dream rather than keep pushing book carts. On board he meets a group of Hippies, who think the ship is theirs. Irresistible story, great performance by Platte. From the director of DIE DELEGATION (1970) and FLEISCH (1979).

Profondo Rosso (1975, ITA) C-126m. Scope **** D: Dario Argento. Starring David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Méril, Eros Pagni, Clara Calamai, Nicoletta Elmi. Superbly stylish direction and brilliant photography in one of the best psycho horror thrillers ever made. American pianist Hemmings witnesses a murder during a stay in Rome and becomes obsessed with finding out the identity of the black-gloved killer. Gory murders backed by an insane, creepy rock-music score (by Goblin, no less) make for a frightening experience. Several scenes are bound to drive you up the wall! One of the few Argento films where the plot is actually good, this is arguably his best achievement. An artistic triumph, with one of the most astounding camerawork ever (by Luigi Kuveiller, assisted by Ubaldo Terzano). Written by Dario Argento and Bernardino Zapponi (a Fellini regular). Produced by Salvatore and Claudio Argento. Edited by Franco Fraticelli. Most prints run around 100m., you would do well to avoid them. English titles: DEEP RED, and THE HATCHET MURDERS.

Profundo Carmesì (1996, MEX/SPA/FRA) C-115m. **½ D: Arturo Ripstein. Starring Regina Orozco, Daniel Gimenez-Cacho, Marisa Paredes, Veronica Merchant, Julietta Egurolla, Patricia Reyes Spindola. True crime drama about a murderous couple is actually a remake of Leonard Kastle’s THE HONEYMOON KILLERS, which is based on the same case from 1940s Mexico. Orozco and Gimenez-Cacho fall in love and take it on the lam, killing rich widows on their way. Well-acted, nicely photographed thriller drama offers good production design and score, but might have been a little more compact and dramatic. Highly regarded by some. English title: DEEP CRIMSON.

Project A (1983, HGK) C-104m. Scope *** D: Jackie Chan. Starring Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Samo Hung, Dick Wei, Isabella Wong, Mars. Jackie Chan plays a sergeant for the coast guard who is assigned to stop pirates from raiding the seas around Hong Kong. After he is dismissed for improper conduct, he teams up with his friends Samo Hung and Yuen Biao to complete the mission called Project A. Funny action adventure takes some time to get going (primarily because of the standard plot) but is filled with great fights and stunts. Well-produced by Leonard Ho and Raymond Chow. Followed by a sequel.

Projected Man, The (1967, GBR) C-90m. Scope ** D: Ian Curteis. Starring Bryant Haliday, Mary Peach, Ronald Allen, Norman Wooland. Sci-fi horror film about a scientist who has developed a beaming device (à la Star Trek) and becomes its first victim, when he tries it on himself. The disfigured scientist goes on to take revenge on those who sabotaged the experiment. Poorly plotted contrivance has some stylish lighting and camerawork but remains dramatically pat. A curio, for B-movie fans. Some versions run 77m.

Prom Night (1980, CDN) C-92m. *½ D: Paul Lynch. Starring Leslie Nielsen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Stevens, Anne-Marie Martin, Antoinette Bower, Michael Tough, Robert A. Silverman, Jeff Wincott. Six years after the murder of a little girl, the kids involved have now grown up and are waiting for their Prom Night. Just then somebody starts hacking them up with an axe and glass shards. Who is the masked maniac? Poorly written thriller, obviously inspired by HALLOWEEN (1978), which also starred Curtis. It lacks a memorable main theme and a tighter and more dramatic plot. Even horror fans will be bored. Nevertheless spawned three sequels, starting with HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II (1987).

Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1989, CDN) C-97m. *½ D: Ron Oliver, Peter R. Simpson. Starring Tim Conlon, Cynthia Preston, David Stratton, Courtney Taylor, Dylan Neal. Second sequel to PROM NIGHT (1980) is stupid horror comedy, with the emphasis on comedy. Conlon plays an “average” teenager, whose life gets a dose of adrenaline, when demonic Mary Lou becomes his lover and kills all his enemies. Starts incredibly stupid, then improves, but still just a worthless horror film. Followed by PROM NIGHT IV: DELIVER US FROM EVIL (1992).

Pronto ad Uccidere (1976, ITA) C-94m. Scope **½ D: Franco Prosperi. Starring Ray Lovelock, Martin Balsam, Elke Sommer, Heinz Domez, Peter Berling, Riccardo Cucciolla. Cop Lovelock goes undercover to infiltrate crime syndicate, flees a prison with gangster Balsam. Violent action thriller is fluidly filmed, contains lots of action (obviously modeled after Sam Peckinpah’s films), but plot is not very spectacular and some sequences go on too long. Also known as MEET HIM AND DIE and RISKING. Director Prosperi collaborated with Mario Bava in the early 1960s.

Proof of Life (2000, USA) C-135m. Scope ** D: Taylor Hackford. Starring Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, David Morse, Pamela Reed, David Caruso, Anthony Heald, Gottfried John. Flawed thriller about the kidnapping of American engineer Morse at work in South America. His wife Ryan eventually agrees to cooperate with top-notch hostage negotiator Crowe. Solid performances and nice cinematography are only assets of this film that is made much too long. Inspired by a book by Thomas Hargrove and an article by William Prochnau. Score by Danny Elfman.

Prophecy (1979, USA) C-102m. Scope **½ D: John Frankenheimer. Starring Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante, Richard A. Dysart, Victoria Rasimo, George Clutesi. Made back at the time when they thought horror films could be A-movies, this eco-horror thriller is interesting for buffs. Foxworth (stern as ever) plays a doctor with noble intentions, who is called to calm down native folks believing monsters to be roaming their woods. Is nature preparing to strike back at humans? Some vicious (though rather unconvincing) effects, but plot is silly. Photographed by Harry Stradling Jr. in Canada (the first U.S. production to use B.C. locales).

Prophecy, The (1995, USA) C-97m. *** D: Gregory Widen. Starring Christopher Walken, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen, Eric Stoltz, Viggo Mortensen, Amanda Plummer. The Angels are battling it out for a human soul in this ambitious horror film. A cop (Koteas) with a clerical past investigates several murders that may have something to do with the (non-existent) 23rd Bible chapter of the Revelations, which prophecizes a war of gargantuan proportions. Not exactly credible (and not for all tastes), but brilliantly cast (Walken is brilliant) and creatively directed by first-time director Widen, who also wrote the screenplay. Also known as GOD’S ARMY. Followed by two sequels.

Prophétie des Grenouilles, La (2003, FRA) C-91m. **½ D: Jacques-Remy Girerd. Starring (the voices of) Michel Piccoli, Anouk Grinberg, Annie Girardot, Michel Galabru, Kevin Hervé, Coline Girerd. Orphan Tom lives in the country with his foster parents, the old sailor Ferdinand (whom he calls grandfather) and his African wife. One day the owners of a nearby zoo go on a holiday to Africa (to catch some crocodiles), and just then a flood hits the country. The zoo animals find refuge in the sailor’s lighthouse, which is floating on a giant tractor wheel. Cute animation retains a refreshing picture book look, but the story (a Noah’s Ark variation).is uneven and has a jarring twist, which gives the bad guys the upper hand. English title: RAINING CATS AND FROGS.

Proposition, The (2005, AUS/GBR) C-104m. Scope *** D: John Hillcoat. Starring Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, John Hurt, David Wenham, Emily Watson, Noah Taylor, John Hurt. Stylish outback western set in 1880s Australia about tough law enforcer Winston, who has recently moved to the continent with his fragile wife Watson. He investigates a family massacre and forces suspect Pearce to catch his own brother Huston – the real mastermind behind the crime – or else his other brother will die in prison. Excellent photography, striking direction in stylized, tense mood piece from a screenplay by Nick Cave (who also contributed to the fine score). Often unrelenting, but recommended to cult film buffs.

Protector, The (1985, USA/HGK) C-94m. *½ D: James Glickenhaus. Starring Jackie Chan, Danny Aiello, Sandy Alexander, Roy Chiao, Bill Wallace. Very poorly plotted action film about two New York Cops (Chan and Aiello) who travel to Hong Kong and battle crime syndicate there. A few well-filmed action scenes, but nothing to brag about. Chan seems uneasy, Aiello is completely miscast.  

Providence (1977, FRA/GBR) C-107m. ** D: Alain Resnais. Starring Dirk Bogarde, John Gielgud, Ellen Burstyn, David Warner, Elaine Stritch. On his 78th birthday writer Gielgud drowns his sorrows in alcohol and imagines a story which stars his own children. Pseudo-intellectual drama, written by David Mercer, hardly makes sense, the surreal scenes don’t work, and result is a shapeless mess. Very profane, film’s cast provides only real interest. Score by Miklos Rosza.

Provincia Violenta (1978, ITA) C-79m. D: Robert Moore (=Mario Bianchi). Starring Calogero (Lino) Caruana, Alicia Leoni, Al Cliver, Richard Harrison, Antonella Dogan. Deservedly obscure action thriller about brutal, DIRTY HARRY-style police inspector Caruana, who quits his job, but returns with full force when his girlfriend is killed. Extremely poor acting, and direction that relies solely on staccato editing. Stelvio Cipriani’s score is much too good for this trash.

Prowler, The (1981, USA) C-88m. M D: Joseph Zito. Starring Vicky Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Lawrence Tierney, Farley Granger, Cindy Weintraub. Bottom-of-the-barrel horror film about a WW2 veteran running amok at a prom dance. Illogical, dumb, goes on forever. Only reason to watch it may be Tom Savini’s special effects. Aka ROSEMARY’S KILLER and THE GRADUATION.

Psychic Killer (1975, USA) C-89m. ** D: Ray Danton. Starring Paul Burke, Jim Hutton, Julie Adams, Aldo Ray, Nehemia Persoff, Neville Brand, Rod Cameron, Greydon Clark. Hutton, unjustly accused of murder, is finally rehabilitated and sets out to punish anyone that he hates with his newly found psychic powers (enabling him to kill without leaving his sofa). Admittedly stupid premise is aided by elaborate score and a good performance by Hutton, but interest wanes dangerously in the second half. Also known as THE KIRLIAN EFFECT or THE KIRLIAN FORCE.

Psycho (1960, USA) 109m. ***½ D: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam. Hitchcock’s masterpiece of terror has lost most of its edge over the years but still qualifies as one of the most intelligent and tensest horror thrillers of all-time. Classic plot about young woman who runs away with money that doesn’t belong to her and ends up in the Bates motel may have surprised cinema-goers in the 1960s, but the fact that the film has become a classic (and therefore served as a model for so many imitations) makes you experience it from a certain distance. Bernard Hermann’s score is nothing but excellent. Based on Robert Bloch's novel. A similar kind of terror was achieved only by Dario Argento’s horror films of the 1970s (which admittedly operated on a different level). Remade in 1998.

Psycho (1998, USA) C-103m. **½ D: Gus Van Sant. Starring Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, William H. Macy, Chad Everett, Philip Baker Hall, Anne Haney, Rance Howard, James LeGros, James Remar, Rita Wilson, Robert Forster, Flea. Any remake of an Alfred Hitchcock film is blasphemy, and refilming his 1960 classic PSYCHO scene by scene(!) seems like an especially idiotic idea. Director Van Sant tightens the pace a bit, which amounts to a difference of 6 minutes, but adds nothing new. The original plot, however, is as good as ever: Heche impersonates Marion Crane, the woman whose bad conscience about stealing money from her boss ($400,000 instead of the original's $40,000) almost makes her turn back, if it wasn't for motel owner Norman Bates (Vaughn). The color takes away some of the oppressive atmosphere and Vaughn is no match for the brilliant Anthony Perkins. Bernard Hermann's score is reused, with some modernizations by Danny Elfman. What's next? A remake of CASABLANCA, or GONE WITH THE WIND?

Psycho II (1983, USA) C-113m. *** D: Richard Franklin. Starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly, Robert Loggia, Dennis Franz, Tom Holland, Richard Franklin. Unexpectedly good sequel to the horror classic with Nornan Bates deemed sane by psychiatrist Loggia and released from prison. He returns to his motel and befriends drifter Tilly. Soon he starts hearing voices and strange messages begin to appear. Is his mother “back”? Good score (by Jerry Goldsmith), well-directed… how much you’ll like it may depend on your reception of the ending (it is a knock-out). Written by Tom Holland. Followed by PSYCHO III (1986) and PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING (1990).

Psycho Cop (1988, USA) C-87m. *½ D: Wallace Potts. Starring Robert R. Shafer, Jeff Qualle, Palmer Lee Todd, Dan Campbell. Rival to slightly better MANIAC COP (1988), has only a different setting, as some teens are hassled (and killed) by the title character. Direction is somewhat okay, plot a bore. Followed by PSYCHO COP RETURNS (1993). Also known as PSYCHOCOP.

Psychomania (1971, GBR) C-89m. ** D: Don Sharp. Starring Beryl Reid, George Sanders, Nicky Henson, Mary Larkin, Ann Michelle. Robert Hardy, Patrick Holt. Reid has made a pact with a devilish sect (who worship a bullfrog) and her son Henson is about to find out. He demands to be told the secret to life after death (how to return from the grave) and does so, along with his ruthless motorcycle gang(!). Odd combination of horror and biker action has a far too conventional direction and becomes boring after a while. Curiosity may keep you watching. Also shown at 95m. Alternative titles: THE DEATH WHEELERS, THE LIVING DEAD, THE FROG.

Pulp (1972, GBR) C-95m. **½ D: Mike Hodges. Starring Michael Caine, Mickey Rooney, Lionel Stander, Lizabeth Scott, Nadia Cassini, Dennis Price, Al Lettieri, Leopoldo Trieste, Janet Agren. Time-capsule from the early 70s has lost most of its charm. Pulp writer Caine travels to Malta, where he should pen a former Hollywood star’s memoirs. However, real murders complicate his mission. Not much in terms of plot, this satire is still witty and funny, especially Caine’s voice-overs. Written by director Hodges, who followed this with the interesting sci-fi thriller THE TERMINAL MAN. Edited by John Glen.

Pulp Fiction (1994, USA) C-154m. Scope ***½ D: Quentin Tarantino. Starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Karvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Maria de Medeiros, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Christopher Walken, Bruce Willis, Quentin Tarantino, Frank Whaley, Steve Buscemi, Alexis Arquette, Lawrence Bender. Tarantino’s follow-up to the surprise hit RESERVOIR DOGS is the cult film of the 1990s. His look at various dubious characters in the underworld of L.A. has become a modern classic. Basically this is divided into three interlinked stories: In the first, hitman Travolta must entertain his boss’s wife Thurman, which leads to some outrageous situations. In the second, boxer Willis cheats on Travolta’s boss and must run for his life (if it wasn’t for that gold watch…). In the third, concerning a messed-up car, everything is ingeniously linked. Endlessly quotable dialogue, really outrageous, no-holds-barred plot complications make this one of the most influential films of the 1990s. Oscar-winner for Best Screenplay (Tarantino and Roger Avary). Really cool 1970s soundtrack adds to the fun. Listing all the trivia would be nearly impossible. Go to the PULP FICTION page on the IMDb for interesting information.

Pulse (1988, USA) C-95m. *** D: Paul Golding. Starring Cliff De Young, Roxanne Hart, Joey Lawrence, Matthew Lawrence, Charles Tyner. Underrated horror thriller about boy Lawrence, who comes to visit his divorced Dad in his new suburban home (with new flame Hart) and goes to realize that the neighbor across the street may have been killed by an energy pulse, something that made his appliances evil. Will their house be next? Not very logical or gory (it’s rated PG-13), but special effects are terrific and direction showcases them appropriately. Hard to believe this was writer-director Golding’s only feature as he includes some intelligent references to key films.

Punch-Drunk Love (2002, USA) C-95m. Scope ** D: Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luís Guzmán. Terminally weird drama about the life of (terminally weird) Sandler, who runs a sort-of garage shop but cannot deal with certain normal situations in life. Sometimes he flies into a rage, sometimes he just breaks out in tears. Is there love waiting for him somewhere? Not easily accessible drama has a fine performance by Sandler but script is basically empty. We never really find out what’s wrong with the main character. A slight disappointment from the director of BOOGIE NIGHTS.

Puppet on a Chain (1970, GBR) C-103m. ** D: Geoffrey Reeve, Don Sharp. Starring Sven-Bertil Taube, Barbara Parkins, Alexander Knox, Patrick Allen, Vladek Sheybal, Ania Marson. Trivial but not uninteresting thriller about American agent Taube, who arrives in Amsterdam to investigate several killings and bust drug syndicate.  Some period flavor, interesting title gimmick in this low-grade James Bond clone (Sheybal had been the villain in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE). The speedboat race through Amsterdam, the action ‘highlight’, was directed by Don Sharp, who also cowrote the script, based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. Interestingly, Bond would also pay a visit to Amsterdam in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971).

Puppy (2007, USA) C-79m. *½ D: Sony Green, Jennifer Emsley. Starring Calico Cooper, Kay Vasilyeva, Greg Land, Sarah Rodebaugh, Brittany Accosta. Amateur splatter movie about a thousand-year-old killer puppy from the Vikings(!), who is washed ashore in modern-day America and after being taken in by some coeds starts killing and cannibalising everybody. Splatter horror comedy made on a shoe-string budget is pretty gross, but with a plot that tries to stay ‘straight’ and doesn’t completely succumb to its effects, it stays less offensive than others of its kind, although the acting and the direction are often inept.

Pura Formalità, Una (1994, ITA/FRA) C-111m. Scope **½ D: Giuseppe Tornatore. Starring Gérard Depardieu, Roman Polanski, Sergio Rubini, Nicola DiPinto, Paolo Lombardi. On a rainy night a soaked man (Depardieu) is picked up by the authorities and brought to an isolated police station. He claims to be a famous novelist, and commisario Polanski just happens to be a great admirer of his work. However, a murder has been committed and Depardieu may have something to do with it. Is he really the man he claims to be? Psycho drama is interesting to say the least and well-directed but not really satisfying due to an overbearing atmosphere and a conclusion which not everyone may accept. Well-worth a look, if only to see Polanski and Depardieu sharing screen time. Written and edited by the director. Score by Ennio Morricone. English title: A PURE FORMALITY.

Purple Rose of Cairo, The (1985, USA) C-82m. *** D: Woody Allen. Starring Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello, Dianne Wiest, Van Johnson, Michael Tucker. Well-paced fantasy comedy about waitress Farrow, who is unhappily married and frequently escapes reality by going to the local movie theatre. And then suddenly one day her favorite character (Daniels) steps off the screen and confesses his love for her! Intelligent script by director Allen goes to show how wonderful the world of the movies can be, despite being full of illusions.  

Pushing Tin (1999, USA/GER) C-124m. Scope ** D: Mike Newell. Starring John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, Jake Weber. Cusack plays a hot-shot air-traffic controller, whose life is at a crosroads. New colleague Thornton may not only steal the show but also his wife Blanchett. Drama is off-beat at first glance but reveals itself to be very ordinary. You know you’re in trouble when the opening sequence, designed to convey the excitement of air-traffic control, isn’t interesting at all. Good actors make this watchable.

Pyx, The (1973, CDN) C-111m. Scope *** D: Harvey Hart. Starring Karen Black, Christopher Plummer, Donald Pilon, Lee Broker, Yvette Brind’Amour. Highly unusual detective thriller about Plummer, who investigates the murder of Black and is drawn into a devil cult. Film shows some weaknesses in terms of plot but is highly intriguing in its use of different time levels. A small gem, not to be missed by cult movie fans. Some of the dialogue is in French. Aka THE HOOKER CULT MURDERS.