Kagemusha

  • Directors: Akira Kurosawa, Ishiro Honda
  • Producers: Francis Ford Coppola, Akira Kurosawa, George Lucas, Tomoyuki Tanaka
  • Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Masato Ide
  • Genres: Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Tatsuya Nakadai

The film opens with a shot of what appears to be three identical Shingens. One really is Shingen, the second is his brother, Nobukado. The third man is a thief whom Nobukado accidentally came across and spared from crucifixion, believing the thief’s uncanny resemblance to Shingen would prove useful. Shingen agrees that he would prove useful as a double and they decide to use the thief as a kagemusha.

Shingen’s army has besieged a castle of Tokugawa Ieyasu. When Shingen visits the battlefield to hear a mysterious nightly flute player, he is shot by a sniper. Mortally wounded, he orders his generals to keep his death a secret for three years. Shingen later dies while being carried over a mountain pass, with only a small group of witnesses.

Nobukado presents the thief to the generals and contrives a plan to have this kagemusha impersonate Shingen full-time. At first, even the thief is unaware of Shingen’s death, until he tries to break into a huge jar, believing it to contain treasure, and instead finds Shingen’s preserved corpse. After this act, the generals decide they cannot trust the thief and set him free.

The Takeda leaders secretly dump the jar with Shingen’s corpse into Lake Suwa. Spies working for Tokugawa and his ally, Oda Nobunaga witness the disposal of the jar, and suspect that Shingen has died and go to report the death. The thief, however, overhearing the spies, goes to offer his services hoping to be of some use to Shingen in death. The Takeda clan preserves the cover-up by saying they were making an offering of sake to the god of the lake.

In full control of the Takeda army, Katsuyori leads an ill-advised attack against Oda Nobunaga, who controls Kyoto, resulting in the Battle of Nagashino. Wave after wave of cavalry and infantry are cut down by volleys of matchlock fire, effectively wiping out the Takeda. During this scene, much of the battle is offscreen. Although the charge of the Takeda army and the volley of fire from Nobunaga’s soldiers is seen, the actual death of the Takeda men is not shown until the battle is over and the viewer sees a vast scene of carnage as more time is given to the aftermath. (In reality, the clan continued under Katsuyori’s leadership for years after the battle). The kagemusha, who has followed the Takeda army, witnesses the slaughter. In a final show of loyalty, he takes up a lance and makes a futile charge against Oda’s fortifications, ultimately dying for the Takeda clan. The final image is of the kagemusha’s bullet-riddled body being washed away down a river, next to the flag of the Takeda clan.

Mishima A Life in Four Chapters

  • Directors: Paul Schrader
  • Producers: Mataichiro Yamamoto, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Tom Luddy, Leonard Schrader, Mata Yamamoto
  • Writers: Leonard Schrader, Paul Schrader, Chieko Schrader, Yukio Mishima
  • Genres: Biography, Drama
  • Actors: Ken Ogata, Masayuki Shionoya, Junkichi Orimoto, Kenji Sawada

The film is drawn into four chapters: Beauty, Art, Action, and Harmony of Pen and Sword. Each chapter features black and white flashbacks from Mishima’s life, highly stylized, theatrical scenes from three Mishima novels (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House, and Runaway Horses), and a realistic docudrama-style story of Mishima’s final day (the soundtrack follows this by accompanying the black-and-white flashbacks with a string quartet, the theatrical scenes with a string orchestra and synthesizers, and the “docudrama” scenes with a full symphonic orchestra). In the end, the protagonists of all three novels are shown achieving their destructive and/or suicidal objectives as Mishima himself commits seppuku.

Dracula

  • Directors: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Producers: Francis Ford Coppola, Fred Fuchs, Charles Mulvehill
  • Writers: Novel, Bram Stoker, Screenplay, James V Hart
  • Genres: Horror, Romance
  • Actors: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Richard E Grant, Cary Elwes, Billy Campbell, Sadie Frost, Tom Waits

The film begins in a prologue, where Vlad III the Impaler (Oldman) fights for Romania as a knight in the Order of the Dragon. He defeats an overwhelming Turkish invasion in 1462. Upon returning home, he finds his beloved wife Elisabeta (Ryder) dead, having committed suicide upon hearing the false reports of his death in battle. Enraged at the notion of his wife being eternally damned as a suicide, of which he is informed by a priest (Hopkins), Dracula desecrates his chapel and renounces God, declaring that he will rise from the grave to avenge Elisabeta with all the powers of darkness.

Over four centuries later in 1897, Jonathan Harker (Reeves), a law firm clerk, travels to Transylvania to arrange the transfer of Carfax Abbey in London, Count Dracula’s newest real estate acquisition. At the castle, full of bizarre, unnatural features and shadows that move by themselves, Harker meets Dracula, a wrinkled, pale old man in brilliant red robes. During the final signing of the real estate papers, the Count caresses a picture of Harker’s fiancée Mina Murray (Ryder), the reincarnation of his long dead wife, Elisabeta. Dracula then sets sail on the ship Demeter to England, leaving Harker captive by Dracula’s insatiable and bloodthirsty Brides (Monica Bellucci, Michaela Bercu and Florina Kendrick), who systematically drink his blood and have intercourse with him, leaving him too weak to escape.

In the castle, in the very chapel where he renounced God, Dracula lies dying. His body ravaged by age, he rebuffs Mina’s attempts to pull the knife from his heart. They share a last kiss, as the candles adorning the chapel miraculously light, and the desecrations he committed on the altar are repaired. As he asks Mina to give him peace, she shoves the knife through his heart and decapitates him. Mina then looks hopefully up at the vast ceiling, where a painting of Vlad and Elisabeta is shown of them rising, together, up to heaven.

Sleepy Hollow

  • Directors: Tim Burton
  • Producers: Scott Rudin, Adam Schroeder, Francis Ford Coppola, Larry J Franco
  • Writers: Washington Irving, Kevin Yagher, Andrew Kevin Walker, Tom Stoppard
  • Genres: Horror, Mystery
  • Actors: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Christopher Walken

In 1799, New York City police constable Ichabod Crane is dispatched by his superiors to the Hudson Highlands hamlet of Sleepy Hollow, to investigate a series of brutal slayings in which the victims have been found beheaded. A frequent user of new, though so far unproven investigative techniques such as finger-printing and autopsies, Crane arrives in Sleepy Hollow armed with his bag of scientific tools only to be informed by the town’s elders that the murderer is not of flesh and blood, rather a headless supernatural warrior from beyond the grave who rides at night on a massive black steed.

Crane does not believe them and begins his own investigation, until he comes face to “face” with the Headless Horseman. Boarding a room at the home of the town’s richest family, the Van Tassels, Crane develops an attraction to their daughter, the mysterious Katrina, even as he’s plagued by nightmares of his mother’s horrific torture when he was a child.

Delving further into the mystery with the aid of the orphaned Young Masbeth, whose father was a victim of the Horseman, Crane discovers within the Western Woods both the Horseman’s entry point between this world and the beyond, the gnarled Tree of the Dead, and his grave.

He finds the Horseman’s skull is missing though the murders continue until Crane uncovers a murky plot revolving around revenge and land rights with the Horseman controlled by Katrina’s stepmother, Lady Van Tassel, who sends the killer after her. Following a fight in the local windmill and a stagecoach chase through the woods, Crane eventually thwarts Lady Van Tassel by returning the skull to the Horseman, who regains his head and heads back to Hell along with her. His job in Sleepy Hollow completed, Crane returns to New York with Katrina and Young Masbeth in time for the new century.

American Graffiti

  • Directors: George Lucas
  • Producers: Francis Ford Coppola, Gary Kurtz
  • Writers: George Lucas, Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck
  • Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Candy Clark, Mackenzie Phillips, Cindy Williams, Wolfman Jack

The story is presented in a series of vignettes focused on the four main characters—Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss), Steve Bolander (Ron Howard), John Milner (Paul Le Mat), and Terry “The Toad” Fields (Charles Martin Smith). The four meet in the Mel’s Drive-In parking lot at sunset as a car radio plays a rock and roll station. Steve and Curt are preparing to leave town to attend college in the East, and this is the last night they will spend with their friends. Despite receiving a scholarship from the local Moose Lodge, Curt is reluctant to head off for the unknown, but Steve is eager to get out of Modesto. His girlfriend Laurie (Cindy Williams), Curt’s younger sister, is unsure of his leaving, to which he suggests they see other people while he is away to “strengthen” their relationship.

Steve and Curt are off to the freshman Sock Hop, but John goes off to cruise the streets in his yellow deuce coupe. Steve lets Terry have his 1958 Chevy Impala for the evening and while he will be away at college. While cruising down 10th street, Curt sees a beautiful blonde girl (Suzanne Somers) in a white 1956 Ford Thunderbird. She mouths “I love you” before disappearing down the street. After leaving the hop, Curt is coerced into riding with a gang of greasers who call themselves “The Pharaohs.” He learns that disc jockey Wolfman Jack broadcasts from just outside of town (despite rumors to the contrary), and inside the dark, eerie radio station Curt encounters a bearded man he assumes to be the manager. Curt hands the manager a message for the “Blonde in T-Bird” to call him or meet him. As he walks away, Curt hears the voice of the Wolfman and realizes he had been speaking with him.

The next morning, the sound of a phone ringing in a telephone booth wakes Curt. He answers; it is the mysterious blonde girl. She tells him she might see him cruising tonight, but Curt replies that’s not possible, because he will be leaving town. At the airfield, Curt says goodbye to his parents, his sister, and his friends. While saying goodbye to Laurie, he asks Steve to join him. Steve tells him he is staying in town and enrolling in junior college instead. As the plane takes off, Curt gazes out of the window at the town and the life he is leaving behind. As he watches, he sees the white Ford Thunderbird, which belongs to the mysterious blonde. Curt smiles, and as the movie ends but prior to the closing credits, the fates of the main characters are depicted: John was killed by a drunk driver in December 1964; Steve became an insurance agent in Modesto, California; Terry “The Toad” was reported missing in action in December 1965 near An Loc, Vietnam; Curt was living in Canada as a writer.

Patton

  • Directors: Franklin J Schaffner
  • Producers: Frank Caffey, Frank McCarthy
  • Writers: Ladislas Farago, Omar N Bradley, Screenplay, Francis Ford Coppola, Edmund H North
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, War
  • Actors: George C Scott, Karl Malden, Michael Bates, Karl Michael Vogler

The film documents the story of General George S. Patton (George C. Scott) during World War II, beginning with his taking charge of demoralized American forces in North Africa after the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, leading them to victory at the Battle of El Guettar. He then participates in the invasion of Sicily and races against the equally egotistical British General Bernard Law Montgomery to capture the Sicilian port of Messina. Patton is shown as believing in reincarnation, while remaining a devout Christian. At one point in the movie, during the North Africa campaign, Patton takes his staff on an unexpected detour to the site of the ancient Battle of Zama. There he reminisces about the battle, insisting to Omar Bradley that he was there.

After he beats Montgomery into Messina, Patton is relieved of command for slapping a shell-shocked soldier (Tim Considine) in an Army hospital. This incident, along with his tendency to speak his mind to the press, gets the general in trouble and he is sidelined during the invasion of Europe, being placed in command of the fictional First United States Army Group in south-east England. Later, he begs his former subordinate, General Omar Bradley (Karl Malden), for a command before the war ends. He is given the U.S. Third Army and distinguishes himself by rapidly sweeping across France and later relieving the vital town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. Later, Patton smashes through the German “West Wall” and drives into Germany itself.

Just prior to victory in Europe, Patton remarks to a British crowd that America and Great Britain would dominate the post-war world, which the press finds insulting to the Russians. After the Germans capitulate, he insults a Russian officer at a celebration; fortunately, the Russian insults Patton right back, leading to mutual respect and defusing the situation. Later, Patton casually compares the defeated Nazis to American Republicans and Democrats, costing him his command.

The Conversation

  • Directors: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Producers: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Writers: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
  • Actors: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest

Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is a paranoid surveillance expert running his own company in San Francisco, and is highly respected by others in the profession. Caul is obsessed with his own privacy; his apartment is almost bare behind its triple-locked door, he uses pay phones to make calls and claims to have no home telephone, and his office is enclosed in wire mesh in a corner of a much larger warehouse. Caul is utterly professional at work, but he finds personal contact difficult. He is exquisitely uncomfortable in dense crowds and withdrawn and taciturn in more intimate situations; he is also reticent and secretive with work colleagues. He is nondescript in appearance, except for his habit of wearing a translucent plastic raincoat virtually everywhere he goes, even when it is not raining.

Despite his insistence that his professional code means that he is not responsible for worrying about the actual content of the conversations he records or the uses to which his clients put his surveillance activities, he is, in fact, wracked by guilt over a past wiretap job that left three persons dead. His sense of guilt is sharpened by his devout Catholicism. His one hobby is playing along with his favourite jazz records on a tenor saxophone in the privacy of his apartment.

Caul’s appalled efforts to forestall tragedy ultimately fail — and, it turns out, the conversation might not mean what he thought it did, and the tragedy he anticipated isn’t the one that eventually happens. In the final scene, he discovers that his own apartment is bugged and goes on a frantic search for the listening device, tearing up the floorboards and destroying his apartment. He fails to find it. At the film’s end he is left sitting amidst the wreckage, calmly playing his saxophone.

Apocalypse Now

  • Directors: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Producers: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Writers: Novel, Joseph Conrad, Screenplay, John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola
  • Genres: Action, Drama, War
  • Actors: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne, Albert Hall, Harrison Ford

It is 1969 and the war is at its height. CPT Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) has returned to Saigon; a seasoned veteran, he is deeply troubled and apparently no longer adjusted to civilian life. Two intelligence officers, LTG Corman (G. D. Spradlin) and COL Lucas (Harrison Ford), as well as a government man (Jerry Ziesmer), approach him with a special mission: journey up the fictional Nung River into the remote Cambodian jungle to find COL Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a former member of the United States Army Special Forces.

They state that Kurtz, once considered a model officer and future general, has allegedly gone insane and is commanding a legion of his own Montagnard troops deep inside the forest in neutral Cambodia. Their claims are supported by very disturbing radio broadcasts and/or recordings made by Kurtz himself. Willard is ordered to undertake a mission to find Kurtz and terminate the Colonel’s command “with extreme prejudice.”

Willard studies the intelligence files during the boat ride to the river entrance and learns that Kurtz, isolated in his compound, has assumed the role of a warlord and is worshipped by the natives and his own loyal men. Willard learns much later that another officer, Colby (Scott Glenn), sent earlier to kill Kurtz, may have become one of his lieutenants.

While bound outside in the pouring rain, Willard is approached by Kurtz, who places the severed head of Chef in his lap. Coppola makes little explicit, but we come to believe that Willard and Kurtz develop an understanding nonetheless; Kurtz wishes to die at Willard’s hands, and Willard, having subsequently granted Kurtz his wish, is offered the chance to succeed him in his warlord-demigod role. Juxtaposed with a ceremonial slaughtering of a Water Buffalo, Willard enters Kurtz’s chamber during one of his message recordings, and kills him with a machete. This entire sequence is set to “The End” by The Doors, as is the sequence at the very beginning of the film. Lying bloody and dying on the ground, Kurtz whispers “The horror… the horror,” a line taken directly from Conrad’s novella. Willard drops his weapon as in turn the natives do in a symbolic act of laying down of arms,he walks through the now-silent crowd of natives and takes Johnson (who is now fully integrated into the native society) by the hand. He leads Johnson to the PBR, and floats away as Kurtz’s final words echo in the wind as the screen fades to black.

The Godfather: Part II

  • Directors: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Producers: Francis Ford Coppola
  • Writers: Novel, Mario Puzo, Screenplay, Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller
  • Actors: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Lee Strasberg

The Godfather Part II presents two parallel storylines. One involves Mafia chief Michael Corleone following the events of the first movie from 1958 to 1963; the other is a series of flashbacks following his father, Vito Corleone, from his childhood in Sicily (1901) to his founding of the criminal Corleone Family in New York City while still a young man (1917–1925).

In 1958, Michael Corleone, Godfather of the Corleone Family, deals with various business and family problems at his Lake Tahoe, Nevada compound during an elaborate party celebrating his son’s First Communion. He meets with Nevada Senator Pat Geary, who despises the Corleones, but has shown up with his wife to accept a large endowment to the state university. Senator Geary demands a grossly exaggerated price for a new gaming license and a monthly payment of 5% of the gross profits from all of the Corleone Family’s Nevada gaming interests, to which Michael responds with a counter-offer of “nothing … not even the fee for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.”

Michael also deals with his sister Connie, who, although recently divorced, is planning to marry a man with no obvious means of support, and of whom Michael disapproves. He also talks with Johnny Ola, the right hand man of Jewish gangster Hyman Roth, who is supporting Michael’s move into the gambling industry. Finally, Michael meets with Frank “Five Angels” Pentangeli, who took over Corleone caporegime Peter Clemenza’s territory after his death, and now has problems with the Rosato Brothers, who are backed by Roth. Michael refuses to allow Pentangeli to kill the Rosatos, due to his desire to prevent interruption of his business with Roth. Pentangeli leaves abruptly, after telling Michael “your father did business with Hyman Roth, your father respected Hyman Roth, but your father never trusted Hyman Roth.”

The film ends with a final flashback depicting Vito and a young Michael leaving Corleone by train, and Michael sitting in the Lake Tahoe compound, alone in silence.