Mission accomplished

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Published: Jul 29 2014, 01:01:am

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


    "Well that provoked interesting reading," his email began. "I had not heard of the term Peplum (pepla p.) before."

    He was writing in response to my July 27 posting, a review of the 1983 feature Hercules. In my introduction to the review, I talked a bit about the singularly obscure film genre known as peplum.

    "But I had never heard the term used for a film genre, so googling found many examples, " he continued. "In English, the term seemed to be 'Sword and Sandals'."

    What made his note so satisfying to me was the fact that not only had my Reeling Back piece been read, it had "provoked interesting reading." And that's exactly the point and purpose of the exercise. If someone else gets that, and if together we share the joy of a new idea, then this work is well worth the bother. (If you'd like to comment on anything you read here, please click on CONTACT ME to reach the correspondence page.)

    To date there are 180 reviews on the site (among some 240 postings), each one intended as an interesting provocation. The ten most recent reviews were:

JAWS — Anticipating another Sharknado attack, Reeling Back identifies the man responsible for the onslaught of scary fish: David Brown, the producer who brought along a young director named Steven Spielberg and his 1975 superhit. (Posted July 28)

HERCULES — As 2014 has seen two new pepla celebrating the son of Zeus, it seemed only fair to look back at 1983's incarnation of the Graeco-Roman muscleman, the one that starred Lou Ferrigno in the title role. (Posted July 27)

LA FEMME NIKITA — In common with Joss Whedon, writer-director Luc Besson has shown a career-long interest in strong women, an appreciation he first demonstrated in the 1991 tale of France's most dangerous assassin. (Posted July 25)

ALIEN THUNDER — North Vancouver-born Chief Dan George, the only First Nations actor to win an Academy Award, starred opposite Donald Sutherland in this historical drama set in the Canadian West of the mid-1880s. (Posted July 24)

THE COWBOY WAY — Fresh from his TV bar-tending gig, activist-actor Woody Harrelson mounted up to make a modern-dress Western comedy, a 1994 tale of white hats, black hats and hat tricks. (Posted July 23)

ROLLERBALL — Toronto-born director Norman Jewison can count among his lasting triumphs this sci-fi classic, a dystopic tale made in 1975 that looks forward to a 2018 world in which corporations rule all, while the people are distracted by violent professional sports. (Posted July 21)

FERNGULLY: THE LAST RAINFOREST — Funnyman Robin Williams made his debut as a cartoon character in the 1992 animated feature that combines high-energy humour with a surprisingly strong ecological message. (Posted July 21)

SPEAKING PARTS — Perhaps the most successful director to emerge from the Toronto "New Wave" of the 1980s, Atom Egoyan gained fame on the film festival circuit. In this 1989 feature, he cooly charted a course between experimental and exploitation cinema. (Posted July 19)

ORDINARY PEOPLE — Canadian-born actor Donald Sutherland's solid performance was the rock at the centre of fellow actor Robert Redford's 1980 directorial debut feature. A low-key family drama, it established Redford as a serious cinema force. (Posted July 17)

BETHUNE: THE MAKING OF A HERO — For actor Donald Sutherland, it was personal. Playing the Canadian doctor Norman Bethune in director Philip Borsos's 1990 biographical drama gave him the opportunity to bring to the screen the historical figure he most admires. (Posted July 17)