National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

Weekly Video Picks

BY John Prizer

March 25-31, 2001 Issue | Posted 3/25/01 at 2:00 PM


The Leopard (1963)

The goal of most revolutions is the removal of a ruling class to achieve economic and social justice. But sometimes the result is merely the replacement of one elite by another. The Leopard, one of the Vatican's top 45 films, presents the revolutionary upheavals in Sicily of the 1860s through the eyes of Prince Fabrizio Falconieri (Burt Lancaster). Religious faith is established as one of the pillars on which the old order rests. Fabrizio's priest (Romallo Valli) is afraid the revolution will mean the expropriation of Church property and there will be no resources to care for the poor.

Fabrizio's family survives the turmoil through manipulation of personalities and social forces as his nephew, Tancredi (Alain Delon), joins Garibaldi's rebels. Director Luchino Visconti (The Damned) laments the sellout of the revolution, balancing this with a nostalgia for the old order, including the Church. Based on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel, the movie is a visual tone poem for a class which loses its power but preserves its mystique.

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horrors (1922)

Great horror films find ways to evoke an atmosphere of terror and menace without resorting to sex and violence; the difference between good and evil, once defined, is never blurred. Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horrors, one of the Vatican's top 45 films, is a silent, visual poem of beauty and grace. Hutter (Gustav Von Wangenheim), a happily married Bremen real estate agent, is sent to Transylvania to close a deal with Count Orlok (Max Schreck), who' s a secret vampire.

When the cadaverous-looking aristocrat moves to his new property, everyone around him dies from the plague. Hutter's wife (Greta Schroeder) learns that vampires expire in daylight and lures Orlok into her house. She keeps him there until dawn by allowing him to nibble on her neck, dying herself soon thereafter. German Director F.W. Murnau (Sunrise) creates a unique horror movie that dramatizes the power of sacrifice. A vampire's evil power is terminated by the selfless act of a woman described as “pure in heart.”

Ride the High Country (1962)

The best Westerns are morality tales. One of the finest is Ride the High Country, a complex character study about two former sheriffs who've outlived their time and find it difficult to adjust. It's the beginning of the 20th century, and elderly gunslinger Steve Judd (Joel McCrea) is hired to escort a gold shipment from a mining town to a nearby bank. He enlists the help of fellow former lawman Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott) and his much younger sidekick Heck (Ronald Starr) who conspire to rip off Judd and his employer. On the way they encounter a bad-tempered rancher (R.G. Armstrong) and his daughter (Mariette Hartley) who disrupt their plans.

Director Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch) fashions a subtle, ironic tribute to the values of the Old West in which few people behave as you would expect. The two aging gunmen are both motivated by a desire for self-respect, but their differing codes of honor lead to conflict.

John Prizer