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(1948/1951) A museum docent, dealing with a customer's disgust at a Francis Bacon painting, might reply: "Museum's aren't all about displays of pretty pictures." Thus, a quick retrospective at the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto devoted to the films of the late Ronald Reagan. And at the prospect of a Ronald Reagan Film Festival, life once again copies Mad Magazine. His time as president aside, Reagan's career as an actor was persistent but minor. Only once, in his swan song, The Killers (1964), did he suggest depth, playing a bad guy escaping from the crumbling cocoon of a nice guy: Reagan's performances was like those two performances by which Fred MacMurray escaped artistic oblivion, in Double Indemnity and The Apartment. But The Killers isn't showing, and here's the most of him. First up is The Voice of the Turtle (Song of Solomon 2:10; it means "turtledove," not the drawling a-yup of the cartoon turtle Bugs Bunny raced). It's a romance of wartime: Reagan plays a soldier on leave who romances an actress (Eleanor Powell) who's in the middle of a rough time. Eve Arden plays her seen-it-all best friend. BILLED WITH Bedtime for Bonzo. The skeleton in Reagan's closet, a film withdrawn from TV when he was running for president and probably an affront to some of the Old Man's supporters on the grounds that it lends implicit support for evolution. Starring with a chimpanzee never helped an actor, not even Johnny Weismuller. Reagan is, in brief, a professor crazier than B.F. Skinner, who decides to raise an ape as if it were a human child to see what happens. The chimp is accused of robbing a jewelry store and goes on trial, but there's a happy ending; there was a sequel which Reagan boycotted on the grounds of unbelievability. (RvB)
Full text review.
(PG-13; 104 min.) The pleasant surprise isn't just that L.A. looks good under the volcano; it's that director Mick Jackson makes the town look worth saving. Jackson (who directed another salute to the city, L.A. Story) stages the spectacular destruction on the handsome Miracle Mile corridor. After a bad earthquake, a volcano rears up out of the muck of the La Brea Tar Pits. The film follows Tommy Lee Jones, head of the Office of Emergency Management, as he organizes a stand against the river of red-hot lava oozing down Wilshire Boulevard. Anna Heche, a pert actor of the school of Gloria Grahame, plays a seismologist who helps and instructs Jones. Dante's Peak had a leaden tone, as if it were a social protest against vulcanism. Volcano is often serious, but the harsher moments are done with a necessary awe; Volcano is a witty but not cynical picture. (RvB)
(1999) Nine days before the Yom Kippur War, an Israeli rock band enjoys its last days of fun at a bar called Vulcan Junction. Directed by Eran Riklis.